FIRE PROTECTION+GREEN: Summary Workshop Vienna

 

Is green, are plants on a facade dangerous in case of fire ? This was the question discussed in Vienna on 24/10/2014 on a workshop, organized by the Foundation Biotope City and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna. A high attention that was given to this workshop - it really seems to be a risk. But a risk against we can protect ourselves. The speakers came from different countries in Europe, the specific experts of fire protection were from the city of Vienna. But the regulation system for fire prevention is not local - it is European, although in each country the regulations have different names.  
Link to the summary in German

From the statements of the speakers, the discussion and individual interviews the following conclusions can be drawn:

►The fact that greening has an effective mitigative influence on climate change is widely recognized in Europe
►Greening of buildings could play an role as a substitute measure for building activities, which harm the ecological functionality, in the sense of compensation
►Willingness is given to do something for more green in general and specially for facade greening  in Vienna
► The strong attention and presence from all relevant municipal departments indicates a political will to stimulate greening and to work on a regulation to make it possible in a safe way, avoiding enlarged danger of fire in the city
►Vitale plants do not burn
►Burning and thus flashover may occur only on dead wood, as a result of neglected care; Obligation to care is therefore a 'must' for a good regulation
►We need an urgent transfer of knowledge to relevant departments of the City of Vienna, since facade greening plants often can not be distinguished or are confused with other plants. (This applies  certainly to other cities too).
► The Green Facade Guide of the City of Vienna (“Leitfaden”) has to be expanded with a chapter about fire protection. The department MA22 (Environment) is already engaged in working this out.
► For the vast majority of applications of greening one is and will be working with simple and robust technologies (Ground-based climbing plants or those climbing plants in troughs); 
►The work of ordening of the different kinds of climbing plants by types (typology of plants) and of necessary regulations (maintenance, watering) should start by these ground/trought-bound plants.
By the way: The Green Facade Guide (Leitfaden) has already delivered a big part of this work.
► Plants themselves are not building materials
►Only components of greening systems (trough materials, climbing aids, wall-bound systems and all their components etc.) should be related to Euro codes or should be certified accordingly to them (preferably with the help of existing knowledge)
►facade bound systems can be kept out of the discussion about Euro codes, as they are regularily irrigated by automatic irigation systems and almost always wet.
►Eventualy an additional irrigation system, just for fire protection, could be used, as in Paris is stipulated by law/order.
►Permission: Green facades are to be granted on the basis of the properties of its components, but excluding the plant itself - if certain general design principles are adhered to, as it is generally asked for fire protection  (f.i. free escape routes)
► The preservation of the vitality of the plants (by care) is the responsibility of the owner. On the one hand he is committed to safety, f.i. in the same sense as with road safety (such as done with trees already), and on the other hand he should be obliged to the same provisions as the fire protection demands for buildings in general (such as the possibility of free escape routes).
►Costs for maintenance of façade greening is mostly overestimated, a realistic estimation is, depending on the system,  between 10 and 40 € / m2.a (comparison with lawn: lawn costs betwee € 5-87m2.a).
►The water content of climbing plants can be tested quickly when necessary.
►Fire load of climbing plants can also be tested if necessary.
►The liability for subsequent mounting of climbing aids is not clear – this is up to EIFS. (Certainly sealing the sleeve against penetration will be necessary – this needs research by the industry.
At the end of the workshop, it was offered by a representative of the direction of the departments (Magistratsdirektion), to initiate a meeting between the players and to accommodate this, in order to continue. So the discussion will go on, as we hope with as a result a simplification of permissions for greening buildings...

 

Links to the contributions in full length:

Imgard Eder: Brandschutz in Wien
Thorwald Brandwein: Statistisches über Brände mit Kletterpflanzen und Strategien zu ihrer Vermeidung
Harrie van Helmond: Erfahrungen mit Gr¨¨nbewuchs bei Neubauten in den Niederlanden
Lucie Le Chaudelec: Green in Paris
Dustsy Gedge: Erfahrungen aus London
Georg Pommer: Vorschriften zum Begrünen von Gebäuden
Maarten de Groot: Fire safety engineering
Bernhard Scharf: Urbanes Grün aus meteorologischer Perspektive