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Fire safety aspects in cultural heritage – a case study in historical Delft

Maria Öhlin Lostetter and Arnoud Breunese
TNO, Centre for Fire Research, Delft, the Netherlands

Fire is an important threat to cultural heritage. Therefore 12 fire laboratories and consultants across the EU have joined together for the European Thematic-Network Fire Risk Evaluation to European Cultural Heritage (Fire-Tech). The final goal of this thematic network was to develop a decision making process in order to choose the most cost-effective fire safety measures when upgrading an object. This article presents the results of one of the case studies done in Fire-Tech. This case study consists of testing the decision making process on a building in the Netherlands. The building that was chosen is the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft, which consists of three parts, the main church, the tower and a small shop. The total decision model involves seven steps, each will be presented in the article: Analysis of goal and budget; Analysis of the present level of fire safety; Risk Analysis; Possible fire safety actions; Decision model; Decision making; Results and comparison with existing practice. Emphasis will be laid on the risk analysis and on the decision making model. In the risk analysis an event tree approach was used combined with modelling of the fire spread, smoke spread and evacuation calculations. This showed that in the current configuration if there was a fire in the building there was a probability of 35% that people would be stuck in the tower and could only be rescued with a fire ladder and that there was a probability of 20% that the entire church would be destroyed. In the decision making step a number of measures were compared in order to find the most cost-effective solutions for an improvement of the fire safety of the church. This was done using an “Analytical Hierarchy Process” (AHP). In the AHP a number of measures can be compared in order to see which one has the most influence on a top goal (in this study defined as “Fire Safety”). In the AHP “grades of implementation” can be defined for existing fire safety measures as well as planned measures. With these values and the costs of each measure, the most cost-effective solutions to upgrade the fire safety of the building can be realized. This study showed that a number of the top measures, identified through the AHP, are organisational measures and are consequently easy and cheap to apply. This study is to be seen as an example, meaning a number of assumptions concerning the building itself and the acceptance criteria should be validated.

Key words: Cultural heritage, fire safety, risk analysis, decision model