Combating Fire Disaster Through Architectural Design Techniques

Peter O. Adewale,Tajudeen O.Ajayi & Olasunmbo O.Adhuze

Department of Architectural Technology, Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria


The intensity and frequency of fire disaster worldwide has assumed alarming proportion in recent times. The phenomenon wrecks great havoc to the nations and individuals any time it occurs, leaving behind irreparable loss of lives and properties with unforgettable experiences in the minds of the victims.Aside from poor specifications and use of substandard materials, these fire incidences areexacerbated by new technologies in term of the appliances and materials being introduced into the market faster than ever before.This in no doubt requires the building professionals to update their knowledge to be able to catch up with the new developments. As a prelude to amplifying the role of architects in the prevention and mitigation of fire disasters through various architectural design techniques,this paper examines fire hazards in building, situating them within the theoretical framework of fire safety. Data were sourced from literature and direct observation. The paper contends that, although planning and building design play a limited role in reducing the incidence of fire, they have a considerable influence on its spread, the occupants’ ability to escape from the fire and the capability of fire service men to fight the fire.  It then highlights some of the ways by which these could be achieved. It closes by advocating the propagation of these techniques to the design professionals.

Keywords: Architect;Architectural Design Techniques; Fire Disaster; Materials; Technology.


Building, whether used for living or working or entertainment or other purposes, is constructedprimarily to sustain the health, psychological well-being, physiological comfort, productivity andsafety of its occupants. It also provides spiritual and emotional satisfaction for its users.This inevitable man-made object has, however, been described as a potentially high-risk environment that is laden with various forms of fire hazards. Apart from the natural factors and weather elements that aid the widespread of fire, its fabric and contents provide fuel and ignition source of fire outbreak.With the increasing urbanisation in most countries of the world, the threat of structure fires grows due to city densification.

Right from the history of humankind, the risk of fire has been one of the greatest threats to health and safety, property and the delivery ofessential services in any community.The phenomenon does wreck great havoc to the nations and individuals any time it occurs, leaving behind irreparable loss of lives and properties with unforgettable experiences in the minds of the victims(Obi, 2015; Iyayi, et al, 2016). This has become one of the major challenges facing the world and especially the building industryin contemporary times (Campbell, 2017). Perhaps, more worrisome is itsfrequency and intensity which are on the increase in recent times. The case is very rampant in Nigeria.In 2011 alone, over 990 lives were lost in 7,129 fire incidents and property worth over N53 billion were destroyed. Year2012 did not fare any better as more than 588 fire incidents were recorded across the country. A total number of 9,771 persons were rescued from death and property valued at over N2 billion were destroyed. No fewer than 1,220lives were lost with the Federal Fire Service recording the highest fatality rate of 288 deaths followed by Kano with 268 persons (National Fire Statistics of Nigeria, 2015).

Table 1: Reported Fire Outbreaks in Nigeria

Types of Fire 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Domestic/Private 250 260 100 375 400
Factory/Industry 12 12 12 100 60
Others 125 38 75 5 10
Total 387 310 187 480 470

Source: National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria (2015)


Table 2: Loss Measures for Residential Buildings for Electrical Fires in Lagos State (2012-2014)

Loss Measure Residential  Building Electrical Fires All Nonelectrical  Residential Building  Fire Causes
Amount loss per fire N 10, 504,672 N 4,331,276
Injuries per fire 120 98
Death per 500 fires 128 73

Source:Adekunle, et al (2016).

As indicated in Tables 1 and 2, most of the fire outbreak occurred in residential buildings, public buildings, warehouses, sawmills and fuel tankers. The causes of these fires range from candlelight, electrical faults, storage of fuel wrongly to fireworks and other human carelessness (Adekunle, et al, 2016; Obi, 2015).These events can also cause the release of hazardous materials as well as disconnect utility lines. The trend gets worse with the technological advances in all fronts which not only multiply the factor of susceptibility, but the complexity of fires, explosions and the hazards which these buildings are exposed to, have also increased astronomically. These hazards have been found to be instrumental to losses in lives and property throwing up fresh challenges to architects and other urban professionals.The aim of this paper is to examine these challenges with the view to amplifying the role of architects in evolving better improved methods of design and fire protection in order to mitigate such losses.

Download Full PDF