Enhancing Fire Safety In Hostel Designs
Housing is one of the basic human needs, apart from food and clothing. The increasing number of postgraduate students in tertiary institutions, Nnamdi Azikiwe University in particular, has raised accommodation problems. Establishment of off-campus private hostels was initially perceived as a solution but property owners have taken advantage of the high demand to increase rents. Students and parents are reeling under this financial burden. This has equally become a University management concern.
Subsequently, the current trend of fire in hostel buildings has become a concern in our society today. There has been a lot of incidence of fire in hostels, where student has lost their lives and valuable properties. These issues need to be reconciled with the building codes, fire safety design and cost constraints of the project.
Consequently, this dissertation tends to identify the problems and attitudes associated with fire in hostel buildings and proffer solution through design approach that will help to prevent ignition of fire, limit spread, minimize damage and maximize life safety of the occupants and for the firefighters.
1.1 Background Of Study.
Housing is one of the most fundamental needs of man. The provision of quality accommodation has been of great interest to humanity right from the Paleolithic Age. Afolayan (1981) opines that, a good accommodation should serve the purposes of providing physical shelter, useable living space, and self-fulfillment.
It follows that the provision of a good accommodation implies the provision of adequate shelter, space and facilities for the general well-being of the inhabitant. Furthermore, accommodation conditions have been identified as having appreciable effects on the quality of health, work efficiency, social behavior, satisfaction and general welfare of any community (Onibokun, 1985). This situation applies not only to urban and rural housing areas, but also to accommodation facilities within institutions.
According to Schmerts (1972), tertiary institutions should be designed to accommodate students in hostels within the school environment for effective and optimal of academic activities. These hostels should be comfortable and could be in the form of rooms, halls or apartments. Facilities like toilets, laundry, lounge, etc, are also provided for the convenience of students. The provision of these facilities is usually guided by set standards as well as the number of students expected to reside in the hostels (Ernst and Neufert, 1993).
20 The little attention paid by Nigerian government and authorities of institutions to housing has led to gross inadequacy in hostel facilities, resulting to overcrowding, over-utilization, deterioration of facilities and higher fire risks. It has increased the number of off-campus students who cannot find spaces in the available hostels. The effect of this situation on academic performance, health and social behavior of students is negative and cannot be over emphasized (Onwuka, 1990).
The current trend of frequent fire outbreak in hostels has become a major concern for all. There have been a lot of incidences of fire in hostels, where students lost their lives and properties. The Daily champion Newspaper of June 15, 2011, reported an incident of fire that destroyed one of the students’ hostels in Government Girls Secondary School, Rogogo, Katsina state. The inferno, according to it, was caused by an electrical fault. Vanguard Newspaper, April 4, 2011, reported another fire outbreak in a students’ hostel at Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi which claimed three lives. Another incident occurred in a hostel at Jos; Plateau State, Nigeria, and killed twenty three students as a result of obstruction from escape by burglary proofs. (Olaitan and Dairo, 2009)
Daily independent, August 26, 2010, reported a fire incident that gutted about eight rooms of the G-block of a male hostel at Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto. Christianity Today Magazine, March 12, 2004, again reported the case of a hostel fire that destroyed twenty six lives in Nigeria, because there was only one entrance and exit to the building.
21 Fire in buildings pose serious challenges to fire fighters. The potential combinations of a large number of occupants, numerous ignition sources, high fuel loads and sleeping occupants create several issues that can be difficult to resolve. These issues need to be reconciled with the building codes, fire safety design and cost constraints of the project. (Shao-Hoong, 2001)
Fire safety practices have suffered serious neglect among designers and users of buildings. This may be due to indifference and ignorance on the part of the building owner, the designer and/or the users. Flexibility of design of buildings provides greater opportunity to realize efficiencies and effectiveness in fire safety.
It is necessary to think of how to avoid the problem than coping with it. This dissertation intends to identify the problems and attitudes associated with fires in buildings with the view to proffering solution.
1.2 Statement Of Architectural Problem
Fire requires specific conditions to occur through a source of ignition. These conditions are inadvertently present in all buildings, as the by-product of design choices (Patterson, 1993). Hence fire can start at any time in a building depending on what caused it.
A careful study of hostels, private and public, has revealed that not much has been done in the articulation of fire safety in the design of buildings. Most hostels have only one entrance and exit in them, while due to security reasons; the burglary proofs in some constitute impediments in cases of fire outbreaks. Compartmentation in the design of buildings was not employed, to help in the containment of fire spread. Also the number of storeys of some hostels makes evacuation of people difficult during fire incidents. In addition, building materials used in the construction of most of the hostels studied, are not fire resistant, rather will aid cases of fire.
1.3 Aim Of The Study
According to James Patterson (1993), building fire safety in its most simplified form is based on three general strategies; first is to prevent ignition; if it occurs, to prevent spread; and if spread occurs, to minimize damages to the lives and properties occupants and fire-fighters.
The aim of this research is to identify and proffer an architectural design approach, that can prevent ignition and spread of fire, and minimize damages in hostels in cases of fire outbreak.
1.4 Objectives Of The Study
In achieving this aim the following objectives will be pursued:
- Identification of causes of fire in hostels
- Identification of best construction techniques proper for checking fire incidents.
- Identification of fire resistant materials.
- Integration of indoor/outdoor relationship of functional spaces.
- Conduct of case studies on existing buildings to ascertain their fire safety/prevention strategies.
Provision of accommodation for students, taking into consideration their health, rest, education and safety.
1.5 Significance Of Study
The need for fire safety in hostel buildings cannot be overemphasized since it is sometimes, a matter of life and death. The significance is that the study will help plans in resolving problems of fire outbreaks in students’ hostels.
Hence, the study provides standards, requirements and pre-requisites for the design of postgraduate hostels that would enhance fire safety. The product of the research will give policy makers, university administrators and private developers an opportunity to compare available options for rehabilitation and amendments, for future development of postgraduate hostels in universities and other tertiary institutions.
Housing has been a very vital tool for enhancing students’ productivity. The current trend of fire outbreaks in students’ hostel has become a major concern to the society. There have been incidents where students have lost their lives and valuable properties. This is because Fire safety considerations have suffered neglect among designers and users of buildings
Again most universities lack sufficient accommodation. For instance, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka currently has only twelve rooms in its postgraduate hostel. Each room is occupied by three students, amounting to a total of forty two students being accommodated in the small hostel. These students, by nature of the design, share a common kitchen and laundry. The facility is just not enough for the number of students both on the grounds of health and fire safety because overcrowding can enhance fire outbreaks.
Based on the fact that the University has mapped out land for a better Facility, this research proposes a postgraduate students’ hostel that will accommodate a good number of students taking into consideration their health, rest, education and fire safety.
1.7 Scope Of The Project
According to the statistics of Academic Planning Unit of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, 1,321 students are currently running their postgraduate studies in the institution. The National University Commission Guide and Physical Development Manual for the University System in Nigeria (2004), stipulates that 33.5% of the student’s population should be housed on the campus. Based on these facts, the proposed postgraduate hostel is expected to accommodate a minimum of 450 students. The design project will provide facilities that are necessary in a postgraduate hostel with more emphasis on passive means of fire safety. The outdoor spaces as much as the indoor spaces will receive attention. Therefore, the landscape will integrate the hostel with the terrain.
The research design is intended for postgraduate students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. It will accommodate both male and female students.
1.8 Research Methodology
The major research method here is the Descriptive Survey Method, otherwise known as Case Studies. This will form a key aspect of this research because it will help in gaining a wider knowledge of Hostels and the fire safety strategies involved in the design.
Other methods are:
The library visits and internet services will help a great deal in sourcing and assessing literature needed for this study.
Formal and informal discussions are relevant in obtaining information from different perspectives, from students, porters, fire service staff e.t.c.
1.9 Limitation Of Study
Funding of the project research and the project itself has been a surmountable task which God has intervened in its management.
The unwillingness of certain people in some of the institutions visited to release information necessary for this project, which some voiced out as security conscious act really gave rise to many difficulty encountered with regards to the collation and arrangement of data.
3. Research Materials:
There have not been enough local sources of information and getting the proper architectural plans required for assessment during case studies was not very easy.
5.0 Design Synthesis.
5.1 Concept Formulation
The concept of the design is that of a molecule. The molecular structure hypothesis states that a molecule is a collection of atoms linked by a network of bonds (Wikipedia Encyclopedia). The research perceived the proposed postgraduate hostel in the same way different atoms are linked together to form a molecule. As collection of students coming together to live in same hostel, as well as having hostel blocks being linked together to create one facility. In terms of fire safety, the different compartment, likened to different atoms, represent different fire compartments linked together to form a building unit. The bond or link is the social interactions of the students which will be achieved through circulation, function and form.
5.1.1 Evolution of concept
Fig 5.1 Evolution of concept.
Communal activity helps to define concept. In this case, people from all walks of life come together to interact within a space.
The mid-point represents a point of interaction between people from different ethnic groups coming together in one fold. It symbolizes a place of rest – a visually “non-moving” space.
The building units are wrapped around the communal spaces
The communal space represents a point of interaction and community.
The bond between the building units and communal spaces create a feeling of intimacy, protection and security as well as defining the residential territorial boundaries.
The entire composition reinforces UNITY by strong social interaction.
5.1.2 Concept evolution of form and massing.
Architectural massing is the act of composing and manipulating three-dimensional forms into a unified, coherent architectural configuration (Omer et al, 2003). During this process, the relations among massing elements are studied; this includes the relations of the building with its surrounding context and of the building with its sub-parts. Massing comprises all decisions affecting external architectural form.
The idea of the designer is not to see the form of the building in its totality as a sculptural piece; instead the form of the building will be derived from the functional relationship and area requirements of the various spaces which will be dictated by
195 the conditions of the proposed site. In this design, there are two major determinants, namely;
- General form
- Hostel form
The use of simple structure/form that the students will adapt easily to be able to relate with something as close to home as possible.
They are mainly simple plan clearly zoned and arranged around open courtyards. Walkways linked to one another; accessible to outdoor activity spaces, and encourages the blending of the landscape.
5.1.3 Concept evolution and Layout plan
In planning the layout, comfort will be achieved by providing each unit with a communal space and relating the building forms to each other through the use of courtyards. Basically, the functionality of the whole scheme determines the whole concept of the layout.
- The Nigerian University Commission (NUC) should as a matter of need incorporate into its guidelines policies that would encourage the design of fire safety in hostels. This is to safe guard the life and property of Nigerian students. It will also enhance the continuity of the building in question.
- University authorities should set up committees comprising of representative of students, academic and non-academic staff as well as the physical planning unit. Through this medium they can communicate ways of enhancing fire safety and other problems encountered before design of hostels are initiated. This is called user participation.
In responding to the inherent problems associated with fire in hostel buildings, this thesis synthesized the analysis carried out during the process of the research. In trying to have a compound analysis and solution alike, case studies were critically analyzed with all the positive attributes employed to the advantage of the research.
Without mincing words, this project when erected will provide an effective fire safety, in the sense that the problems and attitudes associated with fire in hostels has been taken care of through design approach that helps prevent ignition of fire, alert occupants about its outbreak, provide means of escape, limit spread of fire through proper use of material and construction methods. This enhances the safety of both occupants and firefighters.
All users of this structure were considered even when priority consideration was given to pedestrians. The necessity and viability of erecting a fire safe postgraduate hostel in Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, definitely justifies the project.
Enhancing Fire Safety In Hostel Designs
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