Performance-based design

The Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach (FE-PBA) is a methodology for design, evaluation and assessment of fire safety in buildings.

It identifies an engineering approach to building fire safety and gives guidance on the application of scientific and engineering principles, to the protection of people and property from unwanted fire. Additionally, it outlines a structured approach, to assess total building fire safety system effectiveness, and to the achievement of pre-identified design objectives.

The methodology facilitates performance-based design that meets the fire safety objectives of Building Codes. Many factors, including a building’s form of construction, means of escape, occupancy factors, smoke management, detection, alarm and fire suppression facilities, contribute to the achievement of fire-safety objectives. The guidelines of Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach are based on the premise that all these measures, form part of an integrated fire safety system for the building, which must respond to any fire developing within that building.

The basic principles of the Approach may be applied to specific types of buildings and their uses. However, the principles and the guidelines developed do NOT cover buildings which are used for bulk storage or processing of flammable liquids, industrial chemicals or explosive materials. The intrinsic risks associated with such buildings will necessitate special consideration and is beyond the scope of this chapter.

The Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach concept is intended for application at the conceptual phase of building fire safety system design, prior to the detail design, specification and documentation phase of selected fire-safety sub systems (or elements). Fire Engineering procedures require early consultation and co-operation between the project manager, architects and other members of the design team, together with the Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia (FRDM). The detailed design and specification of fire-safety sub-systems (which will follow agreement of the conceptual design) may not be specific during this stage. But it is imperative that when executed, they must strictly adhere to the decisions and agreements reached during the conceptual phase.

DESIGN REQUIREMENTS – Codes and Standards

  • Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) 2005, International Fire Engineering Guidelines, 2005 edn, Australian Building Codes Board, Canberra, Australia.
  • Fire Safety Engineering Guideline published by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB).
  • BS 7974 : Application of Fire Safety Engineering Principle to the Design of Building- Code of Practice.


The application of FE-PBA shall be restricted as follows:

  1. Normal Building Category (refer to UBBL Amendment 2012 Tenth Schedule) – Shall follow UBBL Amendment 2012 requirements, e.g. schools, shop houses, factories.
  2. High Rise Building Category
    • Shall follow UBBL Amendment 2012 requirements
    • FE-BPA shall be applied only to specific area/spaces not covered by UBBL Amendment 2012 e.g. Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Menara Kuala Lumpur.
  3. Mega Project and Special Use – FE-BPA may be applied, e.g. Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Fire Engineering is a developing discipline and some of the judgement needed may be subjective. Therefore, the Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia must be consulted for prior approval of the overall concept before final parameters and assumptions are laid down for the Fire Engineering design using Performance Based Approach.

(A Fire Engineering Brief should be prepared by the FSE after consulted FRDM. This Fire Engineering Brief shall outline the acceptance criteria, fire scenarios, design fire size and other design parameters that will be adopted in the subsequent fire engineering analysis of FEPB Reports. The Fire Engineering Brief needs to be agreed and approved by FRDM prior to preparing the FEPB Report.)

Fire Engineering design should begins with Qualitative Design Review, to define the scope and objectives of the fire safety design, to establish the acceptance criteria and to propose one or more potential design solutions. Quantitative Analysis shall apply the fundamental fire science and engineering methodology to evaluate the potential solution proposed in the Qualitative Design Review. The Quantitative Analysis shall include the following criteria:

  • Fire initiation and development within the enclosure
  • Smoke Development and Management within and beyond the enclosure
  • Fire spread and management beyond the enclosure of fire origin
  • Fire detection suppression
  • Occupant avoidance
  • Communication and response by Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia criteria identified during the Qualitative Design Review
  • Fire and Smoke Modelling shall be carried out to demonstrate the fire spread and smoke travel patterns could potentially be developed on the fire affected floor.
  • Evacuation Modelling (i.e. evacuation time calculation software / 2D modelling software for simple building layout and 3D modelling for complex building) to demonstrate the Required Safe Evacuation Time (RSET) vs. Available Safe Evacuation Time (ASET) analysis.

Three types of approaches may be considered:

  • Deterministic
  • Probabilistic
  • Comparative

The FEPB Reports shall be certified by a FSE for presentation to the Director General of the Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia.


A FEPB Report shall be supported by a Peer Review Report confirming its findings. The Peer Reviewer shall be independent and shall not be engaged by the same Fire Safety Engineer who conducts the FE-PBA or by the project management team or by the owner of the said project or anyone who is related to the same project.

The Fire Safety Engineer preparing the Peer Review Report shall be appointed by the Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia, and the cost incurred shall be borne by the owner. The Peer Review Report shall be submitted independently to the Director General of Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia as a basis of comparison of the assumptions and criteria set forth by the FEPB Report.

The requirements of a Peer Reviewer shall be as follows:

  • in accordance with the requirements
  • shall have at least 15 years of relevant working experience
  • shall be currently involved in or has access to research and development activities in the fire engineering field
  • shall be an approved Professional Engineer or Professional Architect

The Decision of the Director General of Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia shall be final in accordance to UBBL Amendment 2012, By-law 245.


The application of Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach is a complex  exercise that involves public safety. Hence, the qualified, competent and experienced professional adopting Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach shall be responsible and accountable should the design deviate from the UBBL and subsequently fail during a fire. For the professional who practices Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach, notice shall be taken whereby:

  • “Judicial notice” under the Evidence Act 1950 is not accorded to the responsible submitting Architect and/or Engineer.
  • Under the Law of Negligence, generally if there is professional negligence, pursuant to the Evidence Act 1950, the burden of proving negligence is on the party who wants judgement from the court and the standard of proof is generally of balance of probabilities.
  • Should the professional adopting the Fire Engineering – Performance Based Approach, whereby the engineering design is within the knowledge of the designer, then the doctrine of res ipsa lquidor will apply whereby the burden of proving negligence asserted by the plaintiff will be shifted to the professional to prove that he is not negligent.
  • In normal negligence suit, the legal burden is on the plaintiff to prove the existence of negligence on the part of the professional.
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