In an attempt to evaluate and reduce the different level of risk in heritage building, in Scotland, a unique approach under the project title of the Scottish Historic Buildings National Fire Database (SHBNFD) was developed. The database provided a different kind of insight and approach to historic buildings at risk.
The SHBNFD project is an ongoing partnership between Historic Scotland and the eight Scottish Fire and Rescue Services. Initially covering the 3,500 Category A Listed Buildings across the country, the project’s overall aims are:
• to improve the effectiveness of fire-fighting operations in historic buildings by making available relevant information in a format suitable for use by fire crews attending an incident at these properties;
• to facilitate the improved reporting and gathering of statistics on fires in Scottish historic buildings
• to inform Historic Scotland’s Technical Conservation, Research and Education Group’s future research programme from the feedback material
The database has been developed as a ‘living document and provides an exchange of information between Historic Scotland (who hold reference details on listed buildings), the National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS) –located with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (who hold a survey, drawing and photographic archive of sites and buildings) – and the eight Scottish Fire and Rescue Services (who hold fire inspection information on buildings). Combining all of this material for each of the listed sites provides a unique insight into the location, quality and relevance for fire fighting crews.
Because historic structures vary by condition, extent of surviving historic fabric, past and proposed use and other factors, no universal means exists to evaluate inherent fire safety or the impact of potential improvements. Further, buildings have different roles in the ongoing operations of their institutions, ranging from organisations where exhibition of the building is a primary purpose, to those where the primary value is associated with the ability to house the functions required of that organization, eg schools or commercial ventures. Decisions regarding physical interventions should be appropriate to recognised hazards, which may be identified by a building survey or by review of relevant statistics.
Higher risk hazard occupancies such as residential uses, or higher hazard operations such as those using flammable materials, warrant higher levels of intervention than occupancies presenting minimal risk. Each building warrants an assessment of its unique hazards, as identified.
Fire risk assessments are tools for analysing site-specific hazards, and ultimately selecting fire safety interventions that will satisfy an organisationÕs established objectives. For historic buildings, fire risk assessments consider the hazards in the context of the ability to undertake architectural improvements, or to install technological systems in a manner that has an acceptable physical and visual impact, and the approaches established by building regulations or permitted alternatives.
The Minute of Agreement between Historic Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services for the development of The Scottish Historic Buildings National Fire Database (SHBNFD) continues to provide the structure to enable Scotland to remain a world leader in the protection of the built heritage from the devastating effects of fire.
Mike Coull of Grampian Fire and Rescue Service continues to serve in the role of Heritage Co- ordinator for the Scottish Fire Services. This post is considered crucial in not only delivering the key objectives set out in the Minute of Agreement, but also to enable further research developing strategies with the Fire S ervice that will contribute to the protection of the built heritage.
The current Minute of Agreement was signed in October 2007 and sets out a wider set of outcomes to reflect the fact that the SHBNFD is much more than a database, it is a project setting out objectives driving forward the protection of the built heritage. To meet those objectives it was vital to ensure effective partnership working, through this it has been possible to establish protocols with each of the eight Scottish fire and rescue services for the exchange of information on Category B-listed buildings.
This Annual Summary Report aims to demonstrate that significant progress has been made in many of the outcomes identified within the Minute of Agreement over the past twelve months. In addition to the agreed outcomes, two significant tasks have been undertaken; a major International conference on ‘Fire Protection of the Built Heritage’ was held at Elphinstone Hall, Aberdeen on 5th May 2009 and a research project involving a series of fire tests on historic doors. Further details of these two initiatives are included within this report.