Based in the south of Sweden, Pantektor AB is a construction consultancy company with more than 50 years of global experience. It offers a wide range of services including fire science and risk assessment, architecture, building inspections, civil engineering, project management and environmental services. The company focuses on building projects across a variety of sectors: commercial (e.g. offices, hotels, storage warehouses, shopping malls and industrial developments), public (e.g. hospitals, educational facilities and public spaces) and residential. Pantektor also specializes in risk analysis associated with fire, the handling of flammables, explosives and chemicals, and dust explosions. Pantektor’s clients include Alfa Laval, AstraZeneca, DHL, FedEx, Procordia Food, Sonyericsson R&D, Tetra Pak and Volvo Car Corporation, as well as major oil and construction companies.
Managing Fire Safety of Buildings and Facilities
As part of its consultancy process, Pantektor advises on fire hazards and the prevention of fire, and designs and builds structures that are safe-guarded against fire as far as is possible. As well as fulfilling the specific needs of each client, these incorporate the necessary fire safety specifications and meet the requirements in the mandatory national building code of the country in which they are located.
Fire safety management is an essential element in averting disaster in the event of a fire. Although the majority of premises will never have a serious fire, the consequences of such an event are so severe that it is critical that fire safety procedures are rigorously planned for every building and facility. Managing fire safety begins with the initial design of a building, which is intended to reduce the risk of a blaze. However it must also ensure that, should fire break out, appropriate safety systems are in place for the fire to be controlled quickly in order that its consequences are minimized.
In recognition that loss of life is the biggest threat, the crucial element to fire safety is ensuring that buildings enable the safe evacuation of the maximum number of people they are designed to accommodate.
This process is assisted by incorporating various strategies to keep a building ‘safe’ for as long as possible once a fire has started. Many of these stem from the actual building process. For example, the properties of the surface lining materials must be adequate to prevent fire spreading rapidly at the start. The load-bearing capacity of structural elements must be sufficient (i.e. the beams and pillars must be able to withstand fire so that the building does not collapse for a pre-specified period of time). Walls and ceilings must have fire ratings that can resist fire in line with this time period. In addition, once a structure is completed factors such as whether there are fire alarms and water sprinklers fitted will significantly affect the rate at which a fire can spread.
The use of the premises will also influence its fire risks. Specifications for industrial facilities will need to include information such as the type of machinery that will be operated in the building, the number of people that will occupy each area, the electrical power that will be required, the materials that will be stored (e.g. flammable substances), and how much heat the work process to be carried out will generate.
@RISK Analysis to Reduce Fire Risk
Overall, the fire risk of a building is calculated from probability (the likelihood of fire occurring) and consequence (the impact of fire on a building or facility). Pantektor determines this using @RISK risk analysis software from Palisade. @RISK adds-in directly to Microsoft Excel, and uses Monte Carlo analysis to show all potential scenarios, as well as the likelihood that each will occur, thereby providing the decision-maker with the most complete picture possible.
The fire management variables such as those outlined above are input into the Excel spreadsheet model using @RISK, along with factors that affect how likely it is that a fire will happen. Although historical information about the frequency of fires and what starts them is often poor, it is possible to outline typical ‘fire starters’ and their rate ofoccurrence. For example, a fire is more likely to break out in a kitchen than a bathroom. An additional point is that facilities managers are often less interested in the probability of a fire occurring. It is more important for them to know that procedures have been undertaken to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place and that, should fire break out, measures are in place to keep its consequences to a minimum.
Data is supplemented with judgement based on experience and expertise. The resulting in-depth analysis from @RISK enables Pantektor to define the best and most cost-effective fire protection strategy for every structure or facility that it is involved in designing, advising on, or providing risk analysis for. This process is assisted by @RISK’s sensitivity analysis capacity, which identifies the variables that have the greatest impact if they are changed.
@RISK Regenerates Existing Structures
As well as ensuring that the fire risk of new buildings meets safety standards, Pantektor is involved in assessing existing structures and facilities. Generally, an improved knowledge of hazardous situations and substances has resulted in increasingly stringent national regulations that often need new mitigation strategies to make existing facilities safe. In addition, there are a growing number of environmental restrictions that must be accounted for. This is reinforced by the acknowledgement by many companies that risk management gives them competitive advantage.
Analysis with @RISK determines the initial fire risk, and enables Pantektor to advise on suitable measures (for example fitting fire alarms or sprinklers) that will bring the building up to the required regulatory standard and ensure it meets the specific need of the organization.
@RISK Builds in Uncertainty for More Accurate End Result
As with all technology, the better the data (both statistical and judgemental) input into @RISK, the more accurate the results. However, while input data must be as exact as possible, it must be acknowledged that 100 percent precise figures are often not realistic.
Pierre Palmberg, fire protection engineer and senior consultant at Pantektor explains: “It is human nature to want to reduce risk to zero, but life is built around uncertainty and risk analysis tools must be flexible enough to allow for this. One of @RISK’s key strengths is that it measures probabilities in terms of variables rather than fixed numbers – so the probability of X event occurring is expressed as a distribution function. If uncertainty is not factored in from the start of a project, the eventual result can be hugely inaccurate - and therefore potentially fatal. For example the danger in measuring the probability of fire occurrence as once in 1000 years, when the actual probability is once in 100-200 years, is clear.”Palmberg concludes: “@RISK’s power and flexibility, though not completely removing the risk of fire, help us with the critical task of managing that risk in a cost-effective way.”