‘reaction to fire’ and ‘fire resistance’. However, a huge 92% of UK architects were unable to define them.

One in three architects were unable to correctly define the concept of active fire protection, while more than half couldn’t give an accurate definition of passive fire protection. A similar number were unable to explain ‘reaction to fire’ protection, and almost three-quarters were unable to define ‘fire resistance’.

None of the architects interviewed said they had had comprehensive fire protection training; 8% said they’ve had no training whatsoever.

Our findings come as an industry-wide shock. Architects are responsible for designing reliable, robust buildings and there’s clearly a lack of understanding when it comes to fire basics – which is worrying to say the least. Architects, their employers and the professional bodies need to invest in ensuring this vital knowledge is fully distributed, absorbed and practised.

The traditional approach needs to change Construction projects are incredibly complex involving a myriad of decisions. Each choice has a knock-on effect and there can be unforeseen results when a systematic approach to fire protection isn’t adopted.

While architects know that a methodical way is best, there’s clearly some scepticism as to how achievable this is. There is still more to be done by manufacturers and

Description Active fire protection

Systems requiring human/computer- based action or motion to trigger a response protecting structures and people

Passive fire protection

This contains fires or slows the spread through use of fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors (among other examples). Protection is designed-in

Reaction to fire

Describes the fire protection methods to help occupants of a space, like a hotel room, an office, or a room in a home, to escape from the fire (it’s generally related to the early stages of a fire)

Fire resistance

Products and technologies that prevent fire spreading to other parts of the structure Examples

Sprinklers, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, or the attendance of the fire service

Fire doors, compartmentation, fire-retardant treated materials

architectural bodies to ensure that best practice is fully established and followed.

There’s also an evident lack of understanding as to the fire basics which is worrying to say the least. Architects, their employers and the professional bodies need to invest in ensuring this knowledge is bedded in. Beyond this, the construction industry needs to learn from other industries, such as automotive and aviation, which focus on a checklist approach to reduce harm to patients and passengers. If people rely on memory, mistakes happen and the simple action of checking off points can stop fire planning elements being missed.

With a third of architects saying their current employer doesn’t spend enough on fire protection training, there’s clearly an opportunity for the construction, development and manufacturing sector, perhaps we can step into the breach helping fund such training.

Beyond this, we need to look to the latest in communications theory and understanding decision making to ensure that fire communications are presented in a way that sticks, and use nudge theory to ensure that it’s easier to do the right thing.

Only when fire protection is taken with the extreme seriousness it deserves can we start looking at new approaches to construction that reinforce a building’s primary role: keeping people safe and secure.

Able to use/describe term correctly


Unable to use/define term correctly




Products that aid evacuation by slowing the growth of the fire; for example, fire-rated timber, FR OSB, etc.



Fire doors and firewalls




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