Technical Director - Structural and Fire Engineering
The £97m iconic Titanic Belfast building provides seven upper storeys of accommodation covering an area of 14,000m2 along with a two-storey basement providing 520 car-parking spaces.
The main feature of the building is the five-storey galleries arranged around a central atrium which is a focal point for those arriving at and moving around within the building. These galleries explore aspects of the design, construction, sinking and legacy of the Titanic. The two uppermost storeys of the building comprise extensive conference and banqueting facilities. RPS was commissioned to provide fire engineering advice on the project and to liaise with the statutory authorities to gain regulatory approval for the work.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
The building presented a number of significant challenges in terms of fire safety and its innovative architectural design meant that the application of standard fire safety guidance could not be applied or allow for cost effective design solutions. We prepared a detailed fire strategy report for the development and engaged with the design team and the approving authorities throughout the design development stages of the project.
Challenges faced included maintaining stair sizes to a minimum to allow the lettable floor area for exhibits and retail outlets to me maximised. In addition the central atrium space is a focal point in the building and acts as a primary circulation space on the journey through the building. The atrium space is heavily occupied and forms part of the escape route from the building. Standard fire safety approaches would not have permitted the atrium in its originally proposed form and as such fire engineering was used to justify its inclusion in the design of the building.
Advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modelling was undertaken to demonstrate that the visitors in the building would remain safe in the event of a fire, particularly those within the central atrium space. Given the complex geometry of the building, CFD modelling offered the only realistic technical approach to assessing in detail the development and growth of fire and the spread of smoke throughout the space. Using the CFD model we were able to assess tenability conditions that occupants in the atrium may be exposed to based on a range of agreed fire scenarios and to determine that they would remain safe during an emergency evacuation of the building. The outcome was an award-winning building that retains the architect’s aspirations for a vibrant atrium space.
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