The Importance of Fire Safety Design in Buildings

Kigali city is rapidly developing as new buildings continuously emerge along the ever changing skyline representing the city’s economic development and growth. As the city continues to grow, so too will the risk and frequency of fire outbreak.

For example, in the USA, fires resulted in 3,005 civilian fire fatalities, 17,500 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $11,659,000,000 in direct property loss.” (National Fire Protection Association, 2012)

With all new developments comes an obligation of safety especially in the area of fire prevention and fire safety. The outbreaks of fire in the city of Kigali have become more frequent in recent years and this article explains the importance of fire safety design. Accidental fires and explosions have the potential to cause tragic loss of life, loss of business and expensive damage to property.

Fire prevention and fire safety is possible through innovative architectural design using international fire safety codes and should be implemented during the design process prior to construction and operation. None of us want the human loss of a loved one in the event of a preventable disaster such as the fire outbreak of the Nakumatt fire tragedy in Nairobi, Kenya where over forty people perished in 2009.

Fire safety design is paramount to a building’s design and function, fire safety design features can help to evacuate a building in a safe manner to preserve life.

Fire safety design can help to reduce fire spread and contain smoke damage and property damage. It also means safer buildings for all end users. Poor quality design in the 1950’s contributed to six deaths’ in the 2009 Camberwell flats fire in London, UK. Developers should future proof their developments and financial investments by ensuring all proposed buildings meet international safety design standards.

Safer buildings will stand the test of time and shall not require expensive remedial works to meet future building regulations. Safer buildings will become the norm in Rwanda and will help to attract future tenants. Safer buildings will protect human life and tenant property along with tenant investments. In addition, future tenants will have a preference to move to a safe building ensuring higher occupancy levels and higher rental yields for the developer. Safer buildings help to reduce insurance premium costs and provide a superior environment for the occupants.

Before submitting a design application to the Planning Authority, it is good practice to have your design proposal reviewed in relation to fire safety design. Most lending institutions will insist on fire safety design in the future to protect their loan investment in your project. It is wise to note that remedial works to rectify poor standards in architectural design are extremely costly in terms of capital costs and loss of income.

The investment in high quality architectural design ensuring fire safety in buildings is the best solution for new building projects in order to protect human life and financial investment.

Dermot Kehoe

The writer is a project management consultant with PM East Africa and A&A services in Kigali.

Contact email: dmkehoe[at]