With this effort we hope to encourage and facilitate the use of performance-based fire safety engineering in the preservation of historic structures. The heritage building poses unique problems for fire protection.
Unlike most public and commercial buildings, an historic structure exists as an artifact or visual record of architectural or historical significance. If the building is destroyed, this function ceases to exist. Creative solutions must be developed that meet fire and life safety objectives without compromising the historic or architectural significance of the heritage building.
Performance-based evaluation offers a logical and systematic approach to assessment of fire safety in historic properties. Restrictions such as the need for preserving the character of heritage buildings with sensitivity, awareness, and appreciation of significant features must be quantitatively formulated. Appropriate objectives and performance criteria are key to performance-based evaluation.
Some objectives of heritage properties are consistent with other types of buildings. Yet additional assumptions, variables, and constraints often prevail. Certain architectural features cannot be altered without destruction of the essence of the structure’s meaning. Usual objectives of life safety, property protection, and mission continuity take on different proportions when preservation of the building in its original form is a transcending goal.
While performance criteria are formulated to identity measurable levels of success in achieving fire safety objectives, historic significance is an immeasurable value. No upper endpoint on the scale of cultural worth exists to quantify terms such as “priceless” and “irreplaceable”. Yet, mechanisms and techniques for developing quantitative performance criteria do exist and are being used.
This research was made possible through Grant MT-2255-6-NC-12 from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).