May 11, 2020
Dave Stacy is a fire protection engineer and a member of the fire service. He has a bachelor's of science in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland. In this episode, of Fire Code Tech, we talk about how performance-based design differs from perscriptive design. Dave shares his insight from being a firefighter and discusses how his background impacts his decisions as a fire protection engineer. We talk about when it's appropriate to use performance-based design and what kind of modeling software is needed to meet the criteria of the code. I hope you enjoy the episode with Dave. Learn more about his work here: Performance Based Fire Protection Engineering, PLLC
Tell me about your background and how you got into fire
Do you think that having a background in the fire service has a impact have a positive effect
What is performance based design and what is that an alternative to?
What is the most common system utilized in performance based design?
Will you speak a little bit more on the fire protection modeling software?
How hard is it to utilize fire dynamics simulator or another PBD modeling software?
How much of a role does the authority having jurisdiction play in utilizing performance based design?
Do you have an example of a project in which you utilized performance based design?
Can you tell me about any hurdles or lessons learned as a fire protection professional?
What kind of emerging trends do you see in performance based design?
Where does the US rank in performance based design and what other coutries have a big use of PBD?
Tell me about what it means to be a professional engineer and how you attained the designation?
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
It's episode three of fire code tech. Today, we have David Stacey. Dave is a licensed fire protection engineer with formal education and fire protection engineering from the university of Maryland. Dave has a unique perspective on engineering design and fire protection for the built environment, because he has experience as a firefighter and has actually had the hands on experience of being at structure fires and live fire.
One of the reasons why I was interested in talking with Dave is he specializes in performance based design and has his own consulting practice. In episode three of fire code tech, we expand on the differences between prescriptive design and performance based design. And Dave takes us through the process of.
Performance based design from start to finish. We had a little bit of trouble with Dave's audio, but I hope you'll stick through the whole interview because Dave has a lot of great takeaways. Don't forget to follow us on social media and subscribe to fire code text. So you never miss an episode. Let's dive in.
We'll welcome, Dave. Hey, thanks for coming on the podcast. Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me today. Can I get a little bit about your background and, uh, how you got into fire protection? Yeah, so I've been in the fire protection engineering field specifically for about 10 years and, and really my, my overall background has mainly been based around the fire service.
So growing up, I was always interested, you know, becoming a firefighter. I had family members that were in the fire service and that was really. You know what I saw myself doing in life. And, and I continued that I, I, I joined the, the local volunteer department when I was in high school, got into the fire service side out of it.
And then of course, um, through college went, went on and got my education in fire protection engineering and, uh, you know, went into that road as well. So my background in the, the fire protection field is kind of both sides, both the, um, operations and suppression side, active in the fire department, as well as the background on the engineering and life safety side as an.
So you said that you grew up knowing people who were firefighters. And, you know, that is something that interested you from an early age or you were just exposed to that very young. Yeah, absolutely. My, um, my father in particular, he was, um, he retired as a captain from the city of new Haven, um, Connecticut fire department.
Um, and that's, and that's where I grew up and really got started with my, with my career in the, in the Connecticut area. So yeah, I was always around the fire service now, the engineering side, I really didn't. Pick up on until many years later, I really didn't even know that this, you know, field and industry really existed to the extent that it does.
So, yeah, that's, that was my overall start in, in this field. That's, that's interesting because my grandfather was a firefighter and I think I always had some interest because of that, but, uh, he's a firefighter, so it's, it's interesting. That's a common theme with fire protection professionals is they get a taste of.
Uh, the industry or what fire protection is, and then you either do go into design or, you know, you just stick to firefighting or plan review or there's, there's so many avenues. So always find it interesting to, uh, talk about people's origins and, uh, how they got into it. So, yeah. So you see, you said it took you a while to get into the design sort of mindset or think about design as a career.
I find it interesting. I think of professionals, as you know, there's almost, I almost separate the two firefighters and like designers in my head because I, I just think there's such a different mentality in between the physical act of fighting a fire and then like the very. Office space, um, you know, uh, removed from the task design process, which is all, you know, books and computer programs and most engineering designers don't ever see, you know, a real structure fire, you know, even though they spend, they might spend their whole life designing for one, you know, so I guess my question is.
Do you think that, uh, firefighting gives you a unique perspective on, you know, the engineering design process and yeah. What are your thoughts on that? Yeah, for sure. Um, I think it does, uh, I think it's a huge benefit, especially in my career development on both sides, but I'm not saying you have to be involved in one or the other to be good in the other profession, but for sure, um, it's, it's opened my eyes, you know, several specifics.
Working within the fire department, like you said, responding to structure fires, responding to these buildings, seeing how these systems, um, integrate together and work and actually provide life safety and fire protect. Under real scenarios has been an eye opener and it's assisted me in the engineering side, even as simple task locating FDC, you know, fire department connection for, okay.
We're, you know, we're doing the sprinkler and layout for this building. You know, we're working in the civil engineer, where's the best place for the FDC, you know, where's it gonna, you know, look good, knock in the way, but also be functional for the fire department, um, and work with our hydraulic outs and.
You know, that's, that's a very small part of design, but, um, even as simple as that has a huge impact to the fire department, there there's buildings we respond to and I'll hear, you know, other firefighters say, you know, why, why, why would they put the FTC here? This makes no sense. How are we gonna get to it?
Or. You know, it's gonna be so difficult for us to have fire department access here and stretch 200 feet of, of line over there to hit the connection. So simple things like that. And then the more technical, more advanced from, you know, which is one of my specialty smoke control systems. The fire department historically is scared of those more technical and, um, You know, active systems we're there's requirements in the code, such as the firefighter smoke control panel.
That of course that the building code requires these four fire departments, but the training and background to teach them and know how to operate them or even what they do. And what they're there for really is lagging behind in my eyes. So being able to be in both positions, I could both provide training and insight to specifically the guys I work with day to day at the fire.
I think that, uh, people like you who are, you know, more knowledgeable in the engineering systems, but also, you know, in the weeds with the, the actual firefighting or needed really liked what you said about the functional aspects of, you know, design. I think that people who only know. 3d modeling or CAD or BIM, you know, and then they go to layout a system and they do something like you said, place the FDC and a location.
That's gonna be a nightmare to get to during a fire. Or another thing I wanted to ask is like, you know, there has to be, that's just one example. There has to be a ton of examples like that. Like I'm thinking about, you know, clearance in a fire protection room is always a struggle. You know, there's always limited space and fire protection is usually, you know, one of the after thoughts for a building, you know, thinking about.
How you're gonna get into a room and, you know, with turnout gear, what does that look like? And providing clearance and you know, where you place these things that seems like it would also be a big deal. Yeah. I don't know. I just wanted to circle back on that topic. Cause I, I think that that's really valuable.
No a hundred percent, you know, another example like referencing in regards to the, the space that the fire department will take to operate two things come to mind, um, you know, high, high rise buildings where we're gonna operate. And when I say we in reference to the fire department, um, off the system, you know, there's.
It's gone back and forth in the codes and as well as local jurisdictions as to whether, you know, those host connections are on intermediate landings or on the main landings. And that actually has a huge impact on fire department operations. For instance, my department that I still operate in, we really lean towards the intermediate landings, cuz it opens up some space on the main landing, um, to operate in a, and have people egress in and off that floor.
So, you know, certain aspects such as that again, with the high rise route. The, the fire command center, you know, a lot of times when we were consulting with architects, they're like, well, is that is the size of this really required to be that large? Why is that to be so big? I could use that space for other other reasons.
And again, having the, if you don't have the fire department knowledge, you could probably say, yeah, I would think just one or two guys need to be in there. Um, you know, they hang out and they talk on the. The the headsets and can communicate to the guys and see what the, the status of the fire alarm system is and the sprinkler system.
But in reality, you're probably gonna have a whole crew in there initially going there to get some information about the fire event and look at the panel, get a game plan together. Um, and high rise, billings, fire operations really slow down. It's not like we're pulling up to a single family house fire, and we go rolling in there and put the fire out as quick as possible.
Obviously there's a lot more risk in high rises. The operations are, are slowed down and very detailed and laid out so that everyone, you know, operates safely high rises seems to be, you know, significantly more complex in every. I'm sure. That's why building owners try to stay away from it as much as they can, if they can.
It's cool to hear things like that. And I wouldn't know that just from, you know, when I talk to architects and they're dev they're designing a fire command center for a high rise building, you know, they're just trying to hit the minimum square footage that's required in the fire code or the building code.
They're not, you. They're not going through all the functional aspects of, you know, in the event of a fire, what does the operation of this room, or what does the programming of this room need to be? So I think that as a fire protection professional, um, people need to be more aware of these kind of things.
So that's really interesting. I like that. So another thing that you spoke about earlier that I thought was great. Was your talk about how, you know, In general, sometimes that firefighters can be aversed to these more technical systems, like the smoke control systems, or, you know, you get, uh, other more complex systems and it can be a problem, or just like the knowledge base for those things can be.
A problem. Yeah. I don't know how I wanted to shape my question around that, but I that's something in my experience, you know, if I'm talking with firefighters before, you know, unless people have, you know, specific training courses on more elaborate system. Sure. You're run of the mill wet pipe system. But I mean, as soon as you get into these more, you know, maybe smoke control, or maybe you got a pre action system or, you know, you get into stuff that's a little bit more in the weeds.
I find. Not just for firefighters, but for fire protection designers or engineers in general, sometimes that knowledge on these systems can be very lacking. So I, I like that point that you made about that and that people need more education and more resources for that sort of thing. So, yeah, I just wanted to circle back and touch on that.
So you are a part of a company now that specializes in performance based design, and I noticed. When we start talking, um, you, you know, are readily available with great information. High rise and you know, this, which seems like a common place where performance based design would be, um, involved. Um, what, what is performance based design and, you know, is, uh, what is that an alternative to?
Sure. So, uh, the main basis we have performance based design is to achieve, um, or exceed the intent of, of, of the code of the billing code and fire code. So of course our fire codes set up prescriptive requirements such as, um, you. You need to provide a wet pipe sprinkler system to this area. You know, this hazard classification, you know, that's very baseline now, again, more complicated things going.
Sort of the smoke control or tenability systems where the code may be a little bit more, um, performance written, not really performance based design, but it's written a performance written narrative in which you have to provide smoke control system that maintains a smoke layer, six feet above occupants walkable.
Height. So, you know, that's section 9 0 9 of the building code specific to an atrium for, for example. Um, so a performance based approach is really when the design team, the architectural team is limited and they cannot meet the intent of the code word for word. Um, so there may be an existing. Condition that's present, um, or something very unique that just doesn't fit within the code structure.
Like the networks of these codes, you know, when they're written versus where we are in design. Now, obviously the buildings we see going up, the modern built environment, um, architects and design teams and developers are, are pushing their, their concepts to the limit. Right. And, and a lot of things just don't fit into the code.
Um, so as a fire protection engineer, We have the capabilities, the tools, and the resources to evaluate these conditions and say, yes, this meets the intent for, for fire. Excuse me, fire and life safety for this specific building. So performance based design, isn't a blanket statement. It's not that oh, for every building we could provide X and be okay.
Um, it's looking at a specific building, a specific project and concern and evaluating holistically against fire and life safety conditions. So for instance, if an architect wants to do something very specific, It's a little bit different from the prescriptive nature of the code. We really have to evaluate everything holistically.
We have to look at egress. Um, we have to look at fire protection. We have to look at smoke controls. We have to consider everything, um, cohesively in order to determine if that's an appropriate solution. That's a great point about, uh, fire protection in general is a holistic approach. Uh, I think that.
Escapes a lot of people. And, and I mean, even when I worked as a fire suppression designer and, um, you know, just knew that part of the business, I didn't realize that either. I think only as you get into the role of, uh, the engineer and you start to, uh, approach the building as an entire system, do you realize that you.
There may be a section in the code that says whether you need a sprinkler system or not, but you know, what else does that trigger that affects egress that affects building height that affects, you know, like your allowable area for certain occupancies. So I like that point about, um, approaching performance based design, um, as a holistic approach to a design process for fire protection engineering.
And, uh, that's really interesting. I like that. Yeah, performance based design is an alternative to prescriptive design, which is the conventional method for design. I think it's very interesting people designing for the new built environment. And I just took a. I tripped to Vegas recently. And, um, yeah, I never thought about performance based design more than when I was walking through these buildings that are, you know, uh, several magnitudes larger than anything I've ever walked in before.
And you know, that I just had the thought that there's no way that these buildings fit into the normal footprint of the building code or the fire code. There's just no way. This is not what people were thinking of when they just started developing these standards. So I think that's really interesting.
You're talking about, you know, the future of the built environment and how performance based design is only gonna be more, um, applicable just due to the, um, fact that building owners and architects. By the very nature gonna be pushing the limits of, uh, of that sort of thing. So I know you touched on some of the types of systems for that could be considered for performance based design.
Um, what's the, what would you say is the most common type of system that is used for performance based design or is it always approached as holistically? Like you said before. And where if you're thinking and performance based design, the whole building is to be considered. Yeah. So it, it typically is always that holistic approach, but specific to a system, um, I would have to say smoke control systems in particular.
Um, now of course, again, with the verbiage of the, of the building codes, it typically says, you know, you need to provide a smoke layer. You know, X feet above the highest walkable floor. So that in its sense, it's kind of a combination of prescriptive and a performance requirement. Um, they're telling you what you have to do.
They're not telling you what that capacity needs to be for that system. So a lot of the, I kind of group performance based design and then the actual fire mowing together. Um, again, even though when we do the fire mowing side for a smoke control system, It, it could potentially be directly allowable by the code.
Um, but smoke control systems themselves are where we utilize some of the tools and approaches of, of performance based design, such as the, the computational fire modeling, biodynamic simulator FDS, which is. The most common utilize one in the states, um, is what you're gonna see. And those are the, uh, analysis and approaches.
I'm not sure if you're software familiar with it, but you'll see floating around the internet and some articles about, you know, smoke control systems or fire modeling, looking at expected temperatures in a compartment or smoke movement throughout a space. So those, those are typically where you'll see, um, the highest.
Utilization rate performance based design. Um, other aspects are, um, and the more common approaches are looking at, um, performance of, um, non-rated structural steel. So perhaps, um, the, the most common in textbook approach would be, uh, like an elevated walking platform and a gymnasium. Uh, again, based on the prescriptiveness of the code, most likely you would need to sprinter protect under that.
Balcony as well as have the structure itself be fire, um, have spray applied fireproofing to match a construction type for the building. But when you consider the overall hazard in those spaces and the potential for a fire event, um, uh, a common approach utilizing a lot of those in universities and other gymnasiums is to do a fire modeling analysis based on again, expected fuel load in that.
Um, which could vary. You could have a small recipient fire, but you could have a large, um, expo, you know, going on in that space. So we could look at those design fires and look at the thermal impact, the thermal insult to that elevated platform and determine would any additional fireproofing be beneficial.
Should the sprinkler protection remain under it? Most likely yes. Um, or would the ceiling protect it? Only sprinkler system be, be appropriate. So those are a couple, um, you know, of the more common ones that jump to the top of my head off the bat. That that's good stuff. I, you know, smoke control would be the one that would come to my mind.
Um, first, since it seems like atria are, uh, very tricky and can kick you over into where a situation where performance based design would be, uh, beneficial very quickly. But I wouldn't think of, um, structural rating for steel columns, um, as something that would be performance based design. So that's really interesting to hear you say.
Yeah, just to talk a little bit, I liked when you started talking about the different kind of, um, programs and, uh, modeling software. Um, so I heard you talk about, uh, FDS and, uh, Pathfinder. Was that the one that you were speaking of? Right. So, yeah, Pathfinder is one of the egress tools. So there there's, there's numerous, you know, validated and verified models that, that we could utilize.
Um, me, myself and, and my. We lean towards FDS and, and Pathfinder. So FDS would evaluate the actual fire conditions and the smoke movement. And then if we need to, we would pair that with the egress analysis, uh, Pathfinder. So again, keeping on that smoke control route, when we're looking at an atrium again, keeping that smoke layer six feet above the highest walkable floor.
Well in a performance based approach, we're allowed to descend that right from the sixth floor to the fifth floor, to the fourth floor. As long as we're showing that tenable conditions are provided long enough for egressing occupants. So say you have a six story atrium, but you only have 500 square feet of walkable space on that highest floor.
And we have a occupant load of X people. As long as we show that X people can safely egress with a lot of conservativeness and safety factors, you know, pre movement, time, time to detection, time to notification, and, uh, a delay in their movement. Speed. As long as we show those people get off that floor.
Why can't we let the smoke layer descend past it? So now instead of, uh, 300,000 CFM exhaust, we could start decreasing it based on. Far down to atrium the elevation of that smoke layer we could descend. Um, so again, that that's the perfect example. And in the prescriptiveness of the code word for word, you have to maintain that smoke layer, um, for a minimum 20 minutes or one and a half times, the egress time, whichever is greater.
So if we had a egress time of 30 minutes, we would need to maintain that smoke layer above the level six for 30 minutes, or if we're able to show that everyone gets off of that floor. And the subsequent floors in five minutes with a ton of safety factors. Um, you know, so we're very comfortable with the approach.
We may be able to reduce that capacity by 50%, if not more, that's the big deal because you know, working with, um, H V a C engineers, those systems are very costly. And those units usually for, um, those H V C systems are large. And so man, I, I bet that people are interested in somebody who can provide solutions like that.
Who can, you know, downsize units and, you know, provide a effective life safety measure. So it sounds like an all around win to me as far as, uh, you. Providing the intent of the code, which is, you know, the code is there for life safety. You know, if you're meeting that, then I see no reason why that we can't be more specific.
You know, other engineering disciplines are, are more specific in their application of their equipment and systems. So I don't see, I feel like that is the future of the fire protection industry is, is more prescriptive methods in order to be, um, design. More to a specific set of parameters instead of the very broad set of.
Code that we are designing it now. Um, yeah. So my other thought on, uh, FDS and Pathfinder is, is how, how hard are these programs? It seems like FDS is, seems like a very difficult program to be able to set up and, and, you know, define all these parameters. Uh, how hard are these programs to learn and to use?
They, they seem like they have a pretty high barrier to entry or a learning curve. Right, right. No, that's, that's a really interesting question and I'm probably gonna surprise you with my response. Um, and my response is that they're relatively easy. Um, In the sense that there's there's new tools that allow it to be easy um, in terms of setting up a model.
Um, so there's graphical interfaces available now. Um, one, uh, again, Pathfinders is a specific graphical interface made by Thunderhead engineering. Thunderhead engineering is a software development company for, for a wide range of engineering disciplines, but they definitely are specific to fire protection.
They have a graphical interface called P. Um, allows you to build geometry, build spaces, import, um, data to, to construct your model and run FDS as the actual simulation software in the background. That being said. Um, you know, you could go ahead and you could download Risin for, they do free trials and you could play around with it.
You could build walls, you could build a room, you could put a burner in there and you could hit run. The difficult portion comes into understanding how FDS works. It's limita, it's limitations. It's how it's verified and validated what I've seen. Um, it's. It's both good and bad. There's a lot of people getting into fire and ERs modeling in the field, um, over the past, you know, five to 10 years because of these tools prior to these tools, uh, what you're referencing is exactly right.
And the background behind it is still correct. Um, the input code for FDS model is basically a text file and it can be tens of thousands of lines or hundreds of thousands of lines of input code. So what does. Basically, you know, you're drawing walls, just like you would in CAD, you're making it three dimensional and it's making that code for you in terms of the geometry mm-hmm.
So, you know, I, I feel very comfortable that most people within a couple days could build a simple room. Again, the background behind it of actually, how do you define the fire characteristics, how you define your fuel properties, how large of a fire you're modeling and all the parameters that go into it, your atmospheric.
Um, you know, your ambient temperature conditions, your boundary conditions, how you're defining your obstructions. Um, you know, there's different ways we quantify 'em. Are we gonna use the actual material properties such as drywall or steel insulation within that cavity? Or are we gonna assume there ADIO or inert surfaces where no heat transfer or limited heat transfer has taken place for the model?
So there's a lot of technical aspects, which is where. The education and, you know, experience comes into play. So again, someone could easily download these programs and start playing around with it and messing with. Um, but the background and the understanding of, of the software is the important part and where you could get into trouble.
That's really great info. You, it sounds like in the only parallel that I could draw to that is you. Uh, when a designer goes to design a sprinkler system and they wanna do a hydraulic model, it doesn't take that long to learn how to put the nodes in the program and, you know, input the data. But I like what you said about, you know, it's all these other factors and parameters that come with time and experience, you know, that you're inputting that, uh, could trip you up and.
Yeah, I like that. What you said that it's not hard in the, in the, uh, thought of the formal aspect of operating the program, the difficult part is, um, where you have to have the engineering knowledge and background to know when to use what parameters and when to use what inputs. So I think, I think, I guess that makes sense, intuitively that makes sense.
That, um, it's, it's not as CRA, you know, technology is just keeps getting easier and easier to use. So as long as you know, uh, what kind of inputs you need, um, that it's not. Extremely difficult. Yeah. I guess I just have seen those text files for FDS and, you know, just thinking like, so I have to learn a coding language to be able to do, uh, fluid dynamic simulations, you know, I'm like, wow, I don't, I would love to, you know, get in and start tinkering around with FDS.
And, you know, I've seen that you can there's versions of it that you can get for free or there's no huge, uh, Licensing, uh, cost for these. So I've had a lot of thought about, yeah, I'd like to get a hold of one of these and mess around, but I'm like, this looks heavy. I don't know if I can just pick this up and start to learn about it, but I, yeah, I really find that interesting in the vein of talking about performance based design, how much does the authority having jurisdiction have to do with performance based design, being an eye option?
Sure. Yeah, the AJ is really. One of the big, um, uh, I'll use the phrase elephant in the room in regards to performance based design. There's certain jurisdictions that are board they've utilized it in the past. They've seen the, um, impact that it has on the projects. Um, and the benefit that it provides while maintaining or exceeding life safety.
So certain HJS are educated on it. They're all about it. Other ones, you know, More the old school mindset of, you know, no, this is the code, this is what we need to do. I wanna see this done. Um, it's really an education thing. So a big part of myself and my firm's, um, task right now is, is education getting out to cities and AJS.
Um, regardless, you know, in addition to architectural firms and engineering firms to, to display, you know, this option, but the actual age chase themselves who are gonna be seeing these come across their desk to say, Hey, you. The our current code systems do allow for this. Historically, it's been a little back and behind, you know, other specifically other countries that have utilized performance based design almost entirely in their code system.
So the, the United States is a little bit behind, but there is room for it. As an alternate means of methods within our code system. So providing that background and that education, and to essentially make them feel comfortable with how we go about these approaches, you know, all the thought process and, um, justifications that go into these are, are what they wanna see and understand.
So for instance, we like to, if a design team is implementing a performance based design, we like to engage the AJ as early as. You don't wanna spend all the time and effort and, and money on this analysis for it to get to the city. And they say, no, we, we never said we were entertained this approach. We don't agree with this approach.
We're not accepting it. So regardless if I've gotten in front of them to do some education, um, independent of a project, if a project does come up in municipality, one of the very first steps is I reach out to them. I say, Hey, this is what we're prosing to do one. Are you gonna. If not, let me have a discussion with you.
We'll we'll, we'll have, um, a good conversation on where this approach applies and how, how it's gonna be performed the next step after that is to actually give 'em a formal document. So for example, for specific to a fire modeling analysis or egress analysis, we call it the design brief. And the design brief goes overall again, the overall intent, why we're doing the, why we're doing this analysis and all the justifications.
So our parameters, and as we discussed earlier, are inputs that we're gonna use for the model. So again, if we're doing an atrium, we're gonna lay out all our design fire scenarios. We're gonna say we're examining this fire because of this reason. We're also looking at a fire over here because of this reason and oh yeah, we're gonna do a fire, um, at this exit location to O.
Exit, you know, location from, from this scenario to make it more demanding. And at that point we wanted to get their buy in and they say, okay, yeah, we're good with this approach. Um, and then we'll go ahead and do the analysis. There's still some AJS, which again, and they're not expected to, right. The AJ isn't expected to, um, know and understand everything in the, in the engineering and construction industry.
They may not be comfortable with fire modeling. They may not have experience with it. So they would have the right within their building code structure. To request a third party reviewer, which really is the common approach. And the, the society of fire protection engineers has a document for guidelines on performance based design, and they explicitly state that you should have a third party review done on any performance based approach.
So that is another. Resource that the AJ has to understand and approve a design. I think that approaching an AJ and, you know, having dialogue with, uh, authority, having jurisdiction and talking through the process of a design solution for any project is one of the most difficult things that we do as a fire protection engineer.
It sounds like, um, with performance based design, it's something that is not only. Unavoidable, but it's the process can't even go through its, uh, full cycle without, you know, the buy in and the intimate working with the authorities. So that's, that's really interesting. I, I think that that's, uh, great to know about.
Yeah. I just think that it's, it's one of the most difficult things to, you know, get buy in on your design, even when your design is. Conventional or maybe just outside what they're used to seeing. So I can imagine that people would, uh, apprehension or just like, you know, not used to seeing these types of models.
So that's really interesting. A hundred percent. Yep. So, uh, the process, you have a, it sounds like you have the process down for. Speaking with the authorities having jurisdiction and, you know, just fleshing out this design process, you went through the steps, you know, have establish a dialogue with the aha.
You know, see if they'll even entertain the idea. You know, if they won't schedule a meeting with them to have a conversation about what performance based design is and what they, what their thoughts on it are, you know, giving them the design brief and sounds like the design brief kind of goes back to.
For, like for smoke control where the code required design fires are and what those parameters are. And then, yeah, I wouldn't have thought about it makes a lot of sense for an aha to have a third party reviewer. I, uh, I mean, yeah, even as somebody who's, you know, working on being a fire protection engineer, I wouldn't know how to review.
Smoke control or, uh, FDS simulation. So, yeah, I can't imagine somebody who was a aha to have the, all the, especially one with not very much experience with performance space design to have all the resources they needed to review, uh, simulation like that. So this is all very interesting stuff. Do you have a specific example of a project that you've done?
Uh, in your career, that was, uh, interesting, that involved performance based design I'm sure you do. Yeah, for sure. Um, new, numerous examples. Um, you know, one of my most prominent ones was, was a major arena, which was employing a smoke control system due to smoke protected seating. Um, so they were reducing the aisle widths a little bit, which triggered the spoke, protected seeding provisions of the building code.
Um, so again, The mechanical engineering team, would've been able to do hand calculations and they did perform those. And the exhaust capacity for that arena bowl was 1.2 million, um, CFM of exhaust. Wow. Now, first, when you have it exhaust that high, like you reference the demand on the mechanical systems that has huge architectural.
Um, impact as well, because when you're exhausting that smoke, you need to make it up somehow, right. Or almost entirely make it up. Typically at least 80% of it needs to be coming somewhere. Um, and they're remaining from building leakage. So if you don't want large shafts, more shafts going through your building and more mechanical systems, you need to provide natural makeup there either through doors on openers or large roll up doors.
Or louvered, um, areas to the exterior. So when the design team was first looking at that, they were like, oh my gosh, like, this is, this is ridiculous. How are we gonna achieve this? You know, this completely messes up our architectural desire. If we have. You know, thousands of square feet of makeup air. So we, we proposed the fire model approach doing a, um, fire model and paired with a egress analysis.
And we, again, in, in this specific example, we were able to reduce it by about 50%. Um, and the final exhaust capacity justified in the, the final rational analysis was, was 600,000 CFM of exhaust. That's a big win for everybody. Not only are you affecting architecture, you're affecting structural because the units are bigger.
You're affecting electrical because units that are that big need more power to feed 'em and you know, that might kick up your feeder size or, you know, it's, it affects all the disciplines to, to be able to provide these, uh, life safety solutions. So that's great. It's awesome that, uh, you're adding value to projects in that.
And, um, I think that that's really neat. Absolutely. Thanks. Yeah. I know that we talked about a little bit before how, you know, it took you a while to get into the mindset of, uh, you know, designer engineering, um, as a young designer slash engineer myself, you know, I I've had, uh, Struggles with, you know, getting into the field and learning and fire protection is, feels like such a very young, um, discipline.
And there still aren't a lot of, you know, amazing, uh, resources or materials, but, uh, can you tell me about a time where you, um, maybe, or what was difficult for you when you first started out in engineering? Or can you remember any hurdles like getting into the design process? I would say for me personally, it's, um, the communication aspect.
part of our field and what a fire protection engineer can, can provide, um, really communication with the design. From the architect to the MEP team, to, to the project stakeholders, um, learning how to communicate, um, you know, explain. What you're doing, why you're doing it and, and having that open dialogue, uh, I feel like sometimes when you're early in your career, you may not feel like it's your place to speak up or, or ask certain questions such as, Hey, even simple ones.
Where are we putting the file alarm panel? These are simple questions that you need to coordinate with the design team. And yeah, as I, when I was a young engineer, again, I've been, I've been in this for about 10 years now. So I think it was harder for me. To do that. And, and what I've learned over the years and, and to the point where I'm at now is like you're saying, because fire protection is relatively new, you know, maybe other professions were, were handling it previously, post a fire protection engineer specifically, um, is we need to be vocal, you know, in kickoff meetings, we have to say, Hey, you need to give me X for the fire command center.
Hey, you guys, I haven't done the analysis yet, but I would expect somewhere around a hundred to 200,000 CFM exhaust for this atrium. Or again, a, a Highrise building with stairwell pressurization. You know, they may not know that early in the design that that's required by the code. So having that communication, not being afraid to speak up, you know, you are the design professional in your industry and it's your responsibility to, to make sure people are on board as early as possible.
Likewise, my, my second. I guess difficulty that I learned is when you make mistakes, you know, we're all, we're all human, right? No, one's expected to be perfect. Well, they, they may want you to be perfect, but you're gonna make little mistakes. You may, you know, notice a small error, maybe used the wrong C factor in your hydraulic Cal, and it didn't fill off, you know, your, your go, no, go on the need for a fire pump or your main sizing.
But that was a small mistake that wasn't represented. Correct. And again, ethically you have the responsibility to bring that up and say, Hey, you know what? Those, those calculations I sent over on Friday were, were incorrect. I, I had a brain fart and I realized over the weekend that I, that I made a mistake.
And please, please see the attach update, um, rather than hiding it and maybe trying to slip it in, in the next submission where it could have a larger impact was really tie into communication. But the overall communication with, you know, your, your intent of, of your role and your scope in the project, as well as.
You know, making mistakes or, or noticing someone else makes some mistakes and, and having that communication. Those are great points, you know, starting out. I think that you think that fire protection is gonna be the most difficult part of your job. It turns out that at the end of the day, fire protection is the easier part of your job and that actually coordinating with other disciplines and working as a team and, you know, being involved.
The, you know, getting stakeholders in a project to work together and communicate is that's the real difficult part. So I like what you said about, uh, coordination and communication and just being in involved with the project team. I think that's all great info. Yeah. I, I definitely could feel that too, knowing in a coordination meeting.
Oh, you know, we need you to move this, um, diffuser because we have to be in this spacing or, oh, you know, we, we need our panel here or we need X amount of space for our fire pump or, you know, all these things require you to speak up and, you know, be the design professional in the situation. So yeah, I definitely.
See what you're saying about that. And I, and I feel that struggle too, even still now. Um, so yeah, that's awesome. And, and, uh, you know, with mistakes and, and calculations and communicating and being ethical, I think that that's, that's a great message. I think that people can learn from. Um, being straightforward and honest about, you know, hydraulic, uh, calculations or, you know, just knowing that it's a life safety system and you have to, you know, for any, for any system, you, you wanna do the ethical thing, but yeah.
Especially in fire protection where we have such a, an onus to be as accurate as possible. Absolutely. Yep. What do you see as a. Do you see any emerg emerging trends in our industry or, or with performance based designs? Or is there anything that you. Yeah, C is developing really, uh, just the overall approach.
Um, so I'm involved with, with several task groups and committees, as part of societies are really again, which, which has my direct interest in educating the AJS, but really working on driving and developing the use of performance based design. Um, so, so for me that that's the trend that sticks out because I'm so intimate with it and, and is my, my go to work type and the work type I enjoy doing the.
Um, of course we are in the design side too, but that performance based approach, again, historically in the us, it it's, it's lacked behind. Um, some other areas SP specifically geographic areas, um, you know, Australia, New Zealand. These are, these are countries that have leaned on performance based design for, for many years.
And they're code systems are pretty much entirely written to support it. Um, What's interesting. This one, this one committee I'm on this one task group is, is comprised of engineers from essentially all over the world. So we have engineers here in the states, um, New Zealand, Australia, um, Europe that are part of this group and hearing how everyone utilizes it a little bit different, the different requirements, um, the stringency of how they do do performance based design.
It varies geographically. And yeah, to be honest, in, in the states, we're probably a little bit behind. Because we're a part of this process and we're working with them. We're. Coherently and, and everyone comprehensively developing essentially a standard. And, and it's the goal is to get it approved as actual standard where people could reference across the globe, Hey, this is how you do performance based design.
This is the overall approach that's approved, um, that everyone should be following. So trend wise, um, yeah, would be a little biased toward, towards that performance based route. But, but that's where I see. Going, especially here in the states. That's great stuff. Of course, you, uh, are familiar with, you know, what you are involved with on a day to day basis.
That only makes sense. That's interesting. I meant to bring that point up earlier when you, uh, had talked about internationally where the us stands with performance based design and you mentioned a couple countries, and that's what I meant to ask earlier is, you know, Other countries are more, uh, forward with performance based design or, you know, over in Europe.
Do they, is it more common? It seems like, uh, I just spoke with somebody recently who does, um, research and sort of performance based design slash egress design, and he's in New Zealand. So that's, that's funny that you mention, mention New Zealand, but. Yeah. So what other countries are, you know, really progressive in as far as performance based design?
Yeah, those are really the big ones. Um, you know, Sweden, um, Australia, New Zealand, um, Canada is, is probably similar to us. They're, they're dabbling with it and it's becoming more mainstream. Japan has done a, a good amount of research and development of it. So really, I think you you'll find, you'll find it being utilized, you know, in, in some extent, across across many, um, Many countries and, and I'm not in no way saying the United States is behind these countries.
It's just, you know, we have the tools and the approaches available to us. It's just not as common in our day to day design process. It's not like we're behind in the regard that, you know, we couldn't do it. It's just not as ingrained in our codes and standards is kind of what you're referring to. Correct.
Um, so I see that, uh, I was looking at your LinkedIn and I see that. A PE can you, can you talk a little bit about, um, what it is to be a PE and how you got your PE? Yeah, sure. So, um, I do have that other disclaimer, they have been changing some of the requirements specifically over the past couple years, but, um, when I was pursuing it, um, and, and still to this day, the first thing is an ABET accredited engineering degree.
Um, without, without that ABET accredited engineering degree, you have to show, you know, pretty extensive, um, years of service, um, in your field in order to sit for the PE exam. So. Starting back from, from my education, I went to university of Maryland, um, and got my bachelors science in fire protection engineering.
Um, so plug for Maryland, they're, they're one of the only undergraduate programs in fire protection engineering. That that is a, the accredited, um, and you know, we talked a lot of people in the, in the architectural engineering field. They didn't even know fire protection is a degree. Um, but it's a, it's a.
You know, recognized and accredited degree program, you know, your, your major programs are Maryland. Um, Oklahoma state, of course, Worcester Polytech, um, has a master's program, um, E EKU. University of new Haven has fire science. I don't believe they're, they're accredited in engineering, but they're more the arson investigation side.
So these schools are available. Um, here in North Carolina, you have UNC Charlotte, they have a fire science technology program, um, actually fire engineering technology. So these programs are out there. So yeah, I got my, got my bachelors science from Maryland. I then, you know, transitioned both into the, again, the fire service.
I became a career firefighter and also was working, um, as a consulting. Um, to start gaining my, my experience. So once you, once you have your degree again, this is where the change happened at the time in North Carolina. You had to show four years of progressive engineering experience before sitting for the exam.
So what that means is you're working under a licensed engineer and you're, you're going through development of a young engineer. So from, you know, people giving you simple task, um, from, you know, design work or co consulting, you know, Working your way through the code system to over those four years, the, the engineering board, um, wants to see you progress.
So you may start some project management. You may be bringing in your own clients and projects, and essentially they, they most likely wanna see you taking a project from conception to delivery. So obtaining the client right in a proposal, doing the most of the work besides the review, and then submitting that as the final deliverable.
So that's what they wanna see as progressive engineering experience. So once I hit that four year mark, um, I was then eligible to sit for the exam and, uh, without, until I was studying for about five or six months, pretty diligently to make sure I passed on the first time. Um, I will say Marilyn prepared me.
For that exam, but really a lot of the, a lot of the stuff you will learn in your actual career. So actually being in the field, doing the work is where you pick up a lot of that stuff. And what's good about fire protection is, you know, it wasn't like, uh, studying for, uh, um, dynamics exam in college. You, you enjoyed getting into the codes and, and the fire protection handbook.
From the SAP and the NFPA going through those and, and picking up things, being like, oh, that that's interesting. You know, I, I, I forgot about that or I never heard about this approach or this calculation. So it was actually fun studying, studying, working through problem over that time period and, uh, passing the, um, today.
Um, you know, so that was. Three or four years ago to today, I believe you could actually sit for your PE exam whenever you feel ready. So as soon as you get your degree, it's accredited. I believe now you're approved to take the exam, but they won't license you. They won't give you that certificate until you show that experience.
I, I believe that's how most engineering boards are, are handling that now. Um, And fire protection, I think was one of the last disciplines, but they just are going to computer based, uh, this year in 2020. So it's gonna be a computer based exam, which me personally, I, I don't know how I would've performed on that, whether it been better or worse, but I was on the old paper system, the eight hour exam.
Um, and I guess I, I missed a key step, which would be your, your FY, your fundamentals of engineer. Um, it's the first test you need to take before being eligible for your PE. So your fundamentals of engineering is more of a overview of the overall engineering curriculum. So although me, myself and others studied specifically fire protection, it, it was pretty much a mechanical engineering path where.
Of course retainer, statics, dynamics, chemistry, physics, one physics, two, um, differential equations, all those fun classes, uh, that some of them I had to take twice but that's what fundamentals of engineering test is. Once you pass that, there wasn't a time. You, you could take your. Um, you know, in the spring and then take your PE that fall as long as you met your years of experience, but those were the two, the two requirements that you had, the two tests that you had to pass.
I looked out recently, I got to take the last paper exam for the PE and I, uh, I passed my PE this last October. So I was pretty excited that I don't have to, uh, Study for it again, and try to learn what they changed in the, uh, between the computer based and the paper based exams. Um, I, I imagine it would be harder to take the computer based because you're not allowed to bring in any references, you know, for the paper based.
Everybody brings in crates full of books that they've highlighted and tapped and that's right. So I imagine that's gonna be a, a much different experience for people taking the computer based.
that's right. Yeah. So I think it's interesting. Yeah. About the decoupled. Um, they they've, in some states they've decoupled the, uh, experience requirement from the, uh, um, being able to take the PE. So yeah, like in Oklahoma they have decoupled the, you know, you don't have to have your four or six years of experience.
In order to take the PE. So even though I still need, you know, uh, four months, three months to get the experience all needed for the PE, I was still able to take the PE. So that's really nice. Yeah. I think that. There's like 15 to 20 states that have that, the experience decoupling now. So that's pretty neat.
Yeah. Okay. It's different. Uh, there's so many differences at each state board. You know, I spend a lot of time researching state boards for, you know, what, what requirements I meet and, you know, being, uh, I know that. Maryland is a, a ABET accredited engineering degree, which is different than, uh, okay. State or Oklahoma state university is a, uh, ABET accredited engineering technology degree, which, um, some states see.
In different lights. Um, they credit you for more experience for the engineering degree over the technology degree. So, yeah, it's interesting. I only knew of even being in a fire protection program, I only really knew of Maryland's program and Oklahoma state's program. And since I've been outta school, I've looked at, you know, you named a couple of master's degree programs like the Cal Polytech.
And the, uh, the WPI and, um, some of those other schools. So yeah, it's, it's very tight knit, um, for education and for everything else, really for fire protection. So, Dave, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I appreciate your time and for sharing your great information about performance based design and your career in fire protection.
I just wanna thank you. And, um, say I really enjoyed having you. Yeah, absolutely. Um, I enjoyed it as well. And, um, thanks for opportunity to share my experience and insight. And, uh, yeah, I look forward to the, the future of the career and, and, um, And the success of your podcast as well. So I'm excited for the other episodes.
Thanks for listening, everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes end standards interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional.
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