Holistic Treatment for Budget Squeeze

In this the first of a series of newsletter articles focusing on specific sectors, we examine how fire engineering can help drive down the costs of health sector projects…

Making best use of the available budget has always been a key priority in public sector healthcare projects and fire design has an important role to play in value engineering.  Post election, the squeeze on public sector spending has brought this into sharper focus than ever before and the specialist expertise we have at FDS Consult UK can deliver significant cost savings to help address the pressure on budgets.The starting point for designing the fire engineering strategy is to understand the actual end usage of the building, to enable a more flexible approach.  Too often, a building designated as a hospital sticks rigidly to HGN guidelines but if it doesn’t contain a surgical unit it may not need to meet the full specification outlined in the guidelines in order to gain approval.

“A good example of this is the Wellington Hospital refurbishment project where FDS was brought in to replace the original consultants with a brief to minimise the amount of work required,” explains fire engineer, Ben Whitaker. “Because the hospital had no surgical department we were able to base the fire design on a hybrid of the HGN guidelines and current regulations to gain approval. As a result, we were able to take the sprinklers, smoke venting and fire fighting lifts out of the specification and downgrade the compartmentation required, which provided both time and cost savings on the build programme.”

A value engineering approach to fire design is equally achievable for new build projects and, ideally, the fire engineering experts should be involved with the design process as early as possible.

“Working with the client and the architect helps to ensure an approach that works holistically with the design and the end use of the hospital, rather than imposing a fire design upon it,” Ben continues. “For example a design feature such as an atrium reception/waiting area might actually be useful for ventilation and escape routes, saving the addition of fire design measures elsewhere.”

Hospitals are complex buildings and the difficulties of evacuating when patients may not be mobile or even conscious means that they are subject to particularly stringent fire approvals.  However, there is still space for lateral thinking and targeted value engineering in the sector: it just takes an expert to prescribe the best treatment.


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