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INTRODUCTION

Buildings house a variety of human activities, and must do so with a high degree of safety and security. Many of the criteria used in facility design and the standard practices adopted in construction are intended to deal with threats to safety and economic losses posed by such hazards as fire, wind, earthquake, toxic materials, criminal activity, or potential misuse of facilities. Some of these design criteria and construction practices are formally stated in building codes or guidelines used by facility professionals. Others are imposed by law, instilled through professional education, and enforced by the practices of professional organizations and building trades unions.

The influence of these criteria and practices on safety is presumed on the basis of past experience, scientific analysis, and reasoned discussion by those concerned with protecting the public-at-large and the interests of property owners. This concern is frequently shared by the members of professional organizations, trade groups, government bodies, and public interest groups. These groups also share two key problems: a) limited resources, knowledge, and information that reduce their ability to make effective judgments about what should be done to ensure that the nation's facilities are adequately safe, and b) choices that must be made when improvements to safety require increased cost or reduce achievement of other desirable characteristics of the building. Judgements about facility safety must be made within a complex context of the many costs, benefits, goals and objectives of a facility. [See box.]



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Uses of Risk Analysis to Achieve Balanced Safety in Building Design and Operations 1 INTRODUCTION Buildings house a variety of human activities, and must do so with a high degree of safety and security. Many of the criteria used in facility design and the standard practices adopted in construction are intended to deal with threats to safety and economic losses posed by such hazards as fire, wind, earthquake, toxic materials, criminal activity, or potential misuse of facilities. Some of these design criteria and construction practices are formally stated in building codes or guidelines used by facility professionals. Others are imposed by law, instilled through professional education, and enforced by the practices of professional organizations and building trades unions. The influence of these criteria and practices on safety is presumed on the basis of past experience, scientific analysis, and reasoned discussion by those concerned with protecting the public-at-large and the interests of property owners. This concern is frequently shared by the members of professional organizations, trade groups, government bodies, and public interest groups. These groups also share two key problems: a) limited resources, knowledge, and information that reduce their ability to make effective judgments about what should be done to ensure that the nation's facilities are adequately safe, and b) choices that must be made when improvements to safety require increased cost or reduce achievement of other desirable characteristics of the building. Judgements about facility safety must be made within a complex context of the many costs, benefits, goals and objectives of a facility. [See box.]

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Uses of Risk Analysis to Achieve Balanced Safety in Building Design and Operations IS FIRE RISK SERIOUS? The headlines are invariably bold. Manhattan, 1911, the Triangle Shirt Waist Company: ''141 MEN AND GIRLS DIE IN WAIST FACTORY FIRE.'' Boston, 1942, the Coconut Grove Nightclub: "300 KILLED BY FIRE, SMOKE AND PANIC IN BOSTON CLUB." The Bronx, 1990, Happy Landing Social Club: "87 DIE IN BLAZE AT ILLEGAL CLUB." Such horrible disasters attract national attention and motivate intense reviews of local building code regulations, enforcement procedures, and building design and products characteristics. The 1974 report of the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control assessed the nation's fire problem as major: 12,000 lives lost, 300,000 people injured, at least $11.4 billion in direct property losses annually. The United States was found to be the leader by far among industrialized nations in per capita deaths and property loss from fires. Other studies estimated the total fire-related economic burden in the United States to be as much as $36 to $45 billion annually, up to 1.4 percent of our gross national product (GNP). Yet the Commission noted, "The striking aspect of the Nation's fire problem is the indifference with which Americans confront the subject." Fire experts termed the U.S. residential fire problem "shameful." Today, U.S. fire deaths have been decreasing for more than two decades, both in total and per capita, and current reports place the number at about 5,000 to 6,000 annually, primarily children and elderly victims. The numbers of multiple fatality fires (with three or more deaths, accounting for about 16 percent of fatalities in 1984) have been decreasing as well, but not their severity. In the litigious climate of the 1980s, claims raised in such noted hotel fires as the MGM Grand and the Dupont Plaza reach into billions of dollars. Debate continues on such questions as installation of sprinklers and alarms in hotels. How serious is fire risk? Do we need to work harder to reduce fire risks? There is no easy answer. References: National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control. 1974. America Burning. Washington, D.C. Journal of Code Enforcement. Volume II, Number 2, April, 1990; Committee on Fire Toxicology, National Research Council. 1986. Fire and Smoke—Understanding the Hazards. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.; J. Snell. 1989. Quantitative Evaluation of Building Fire Safety. Center for Fire Research, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland. The need to make informed judgments about safety and liability is hardly unique to facilities. Concerns about the safety of new drugs and other medical technologies, food additives, pesticides and other materials that may pose threats to the environment, and nuclear-powered electric power generating plants or other facilities that could fail with possibly catastrophic human,

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Uses of Risk Analysis to Achieve Balanced Safety in Building Design and Operations environmental, and economic consequences have, in recent years, motivated development of the principles and practices of risk analysis.1 Risk analysis is a set of tools and procedures used to characterize—either qualitatively or, more typically, in a quantitative manner—the threats posed by specific hazards. The procedures—focused on identifying potential, hazards and the sequences of events that can lead to losses and the magnitude of possible losses—are typically based on principles of probability theory and statistical analysis, and may involve complex judgements about health, productive work, and the value of human life and property. While these judgements often invite controversy, risk analysis is selectively but increasingly being used in government policy development and regulatory decision making, in the nuclear industry, in food and drug regulation, and in the management of environmental hazards that pose threats to human life and health and property.2 Risk analysis is being applied in a limited way to facilities, and these applications have been a subject of debate.3 Critics argue that risk analysis is too uncertain to be useful for facilities design and management. They also argue that, in any case, using risk analysis implies tolerance for risk and acceptance of lower levels of safety than many people expect in facilities. Proponents, noting that life is uncertain and risk is unavoidable, suggest that risk analysis is a valid and valuable aid to decision-makers seeking to use limited resources to enhance the overall safety and efficiency of facilities. The potential for greater use of risk analysis—to enhance the overall safety of buildings—motivates this study. More specifically, the question was asked whether federal government agencies should make broader use of risk analysis in developing their facilities design criteria. 1   The terms risk assessment, risk analysis, and risk appraisal are found in the literature of this still young and rapidly evolving field. In this report, these terms are meant to convey similar meaning and intent. "Risk analysis" was selected as the generally preferred term for use in this study. Risk management is a broader term that signifies the active effort to control and reduce the risks faced by an organization or enterprise. 2   Issues related to this use have been the topic of other NRC committee studies (NRC, 1983 and 1989). 3   See, for example, Rowe (June, 1987). Nearly a decade ago, a study by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) recommended that steps be taken to assist the building community to understand, accept, and use risk analysis techniques. (NIBS, 1982)

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Uses of Risk Analysis to Achieve Balanced Safety in Building Design and Operations SOURCE AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY The sponsors of the Federal Construction Council (FCC)4 requested the Building Research Board (BRB) to assess the merits and costs—relative to current practices—of broader application of risk analysis in federal facility design. The Committee on Risk Appraisal in the Development of Facilities Design Criteria was appointed to make this assessment and to recommend whether risk analysis techniques can foster efficient risk reduction in facilities.5 The committee and its individual members reviewed available information, considered presentations made by government officials and professional organizations, and met several times to conduct their assessment. This document reports the committee's conclusions. The committee focused considerable attention on the extent to which current risk analysis techniques can contribute effectively and at reasonable cost to reducing risks in and around buildings. Having concluded that the potential for such contribution is substantial, the committee then undertook to identify opportunities for applying risk analysis techniques so that they can make greater contributions to balanced safety in the future. The committee posed questions in three principal areas: What is the nature of "risk" in constructed facilities? Under what conditions does this risk warrant special treatment, not only in design but in operations and maintenance as well? How may recognition be given to the role of human error in subverting the effectiveness of design safeguards? What should be the scope of risk analysis for buildings and other constructed facilities? To what extent should analysis include risk management strategies, as distinct from simply the technical appraisal of levels of risk? In view of the study's sponsorship and anticipated audience, and of the extensive literature and range of current professional activity related to various 4   Sixteen federal government agencies with broad interests in building and facilities research, design, construction, operations, and maintenance sponsor the FCC. These agencies control a major share of the nation's public fixed assets, and have a combined annual construction budget exceeding $7 billion. Some of these agencies already make extensive use of risk analysis, most notably the Department of Energy, which is responsible for a number of high-hazard facilities. 5   Biographical descriptions of the committee's membership are presented in Appendix A.

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Uses of Risk Analysis to Achieve Balanced Safety in Building Design and Operations aspects of risk analysis, how can the committee's work be most useful to the sponsors and to the facilities design and management professions? In working to answer such questions, the committee noted the current tendency to try to use legislation and regulation to avoid all risks. Such risk avoidance, in part at least a reaction to perceived inadequacies in public policy, may unnecessarily discourage new technology and lead to actions that have uncertain or poorly understood consequences, and has been cited as a cause of perceived declines in the rate of technological innovation in the U.S. building industry (NRC, 1988). When legislative, regulatory, and judicial decisions have high public visibility, they unavoidably are made within a political context, and turn on public opinion that often is not well informed by technical analysis. Such analysis frequently can help to reduce the level of uncertainty in this decision-making. The public depends on facility design and management professionals and on government officials to ensure facility safety, and tends to take it for granted that safety is indeed assured. A fire in a high-rise building or collapse of a roof can spur questioning of current safety standards, and lead to precipitous introduction of new building regulations. Some people argue that broad and explicit acknowledgement of risk in buildings might unintentionally call into question the current system of building safety assurance and could lead to loss of public confidence.6 However, experience in other fields demonstrates that effective communication and active involvement of the public in identifying risks and determining what risks are acceptable are keys to effective use of risk analysis in public sector decision-making. The committee concluded that its charge necessitated some attention to risk communication. FOCUS AND STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT This report is addressed to everyone concerned with facility safety, and especially to those designers and constructors, facilities managers, and others responsible for setting policy that influences efforts to achieve greater safety in and around buildings. The committee concluded that risk analysis should be more extensively applied, in the private as well as public sectors, to help improve the cost-effective use of limited resources to enhance overall safety and protect human, environmental, and economic values. This report 6   In some extreme cases in other fields, such a loss of confidence has been reflected in public outrage and consequent distortions of sound and well-reasoned public policy. (Sandman, 1988)

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Uses of Risk Analysis to Achieve Balanced Safety in Building Design and Operations describes the factors which support this conclusion and presents the committee's recommendations for broader use of risk analysis. Risk analysis is a technically complex topic and a rapidly evolving technical discipline. This report is neither a thorough review of the state of the art nor a summary of principles and practices of risk analysis.7 Rather, it is a consideration of major trends, meant to point the way for those who may undertake or use risk analyses. Chapter 2 discusses the sources of risk in and around buildings, how risks may be managed to achieve safety and security, and why the committee concludes that greater safety and security can be achieved through broader application of risk analysis. Chapter 3 describes a number of barriers to this broader application and to achieving more effective risk management through use of risk analysis. Chapter 4 presents the committee's conclusions and recommendations for overcoming these barriers and enhancing achievable safety and security. Chapter 5 presents the committee's recommendations for broader use of risk analysis, including immediate actions to foster this use. Appendices provide background on principles and procedures of risk analysis and how risk analysis is being used by some government agencies. Throughout their deliberations, the committee members were mindful that enhancing facility safety and security—within a complex framework of social, economic, and political forces—is a major challenge. Ultimately, safety and security are influenced by a complex of factors: how people perceive risks, how they act on their perceptions, the costs and difficulties of actions to improve safety, and the possible consequences of taking or failing to take action. Facilities designers and owners, and the government agencies and professional organizations that seek to ensure safety and security, all must make decisions that influence specific facilities. These decisions often strike a balance among sometimes differing points of view on risk and safety. By making assumptions about risk factors more explicit and commonly understandable, broader application of the principles and practices of risk analysis can aid these decision-makers. The committee hopes its work will encourage broader use of risk analysis, and thereby enhance safety and security throughout the built environment. 7   Appendix B reviews briefly some of the major principles and practices of risk analysis, developed and used in a variety of technical applications.