In the past few years, PLC Fire Safety Engineering (PLC) has been involved in numerous fire and life safety studies for historical structures in Atlantic Canada. Most of these historical buildings are government or municipality owned, where the history of the buildings is important to the culture of Atlantic Canadians. When renovations are planned for these buildings, it is very important to stakeholders that the historical aesthetics be maintained as much as possible.
When historical buildings are open to the public and treated as an assembly occupancy, this can raise legitimate concerns from the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). If renovations are planned, this can also trigger several fire and life safety requirements when applying current building codes. Such requirements include non-combustible construction, automatic sprinkler protection, rated floor assemblies, etc. The question that comes is is: How do you deal with 150-year-old combustible buildings that are required to be non-combustible by a current building code?
While working on such projects, PLC have successfully collaborated with the building Owners and the local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) to understand the intended use of the buildings, the historical importance and the key building features to be maintained. This involved meetings, site inspections and multiple conversations. Using fire protection engineering principles, fire and life safety designs tailored for historical buildings were developed that met both the Owners’ and the AHJs’ expectations. These designs were documented as alternative solutions to the National Building Code of Canada. The alternative solutions clearly demonstrated that the proposed design and intended use for the historic buildings will provide the necessary level of fire and life safety performance for the building occupants and for the emergency responders.
At PLC, we are well versed in the building codes and fire protection engineering principles. Our knowledge through advanced education and training in developing alternative solutions and performance-based-designs has allowed us to be successful in developing economic solutions for these historical buildings.