The deployment of effective methods for the evacuation of high-rise buildings is an issue of increasing concern for both the developers and denizens of Australia’s urban environments – particularly given projected population gains and attendant increases in the density and building heights of city centres.

The importance of evacuation measures for high rise buildings was drawn into the spotlight by the fire which broke out at an apartment complex in Melbourne’s inner-city Docklands district last year, zipping vertically up the building to the 21st storey in a matter of minutes.

According to Dr. Weng Poh, Associate Director at Umow Lai and National President of the Society of Fire Safety, Engineers Australia, the problem of high-rise evacuation is one which the developers of the country’s building codes are still struggling to address.

“We build buildings taller and taller, and I don’t know how many people are sitting down and asking themselves, how do we evacuate these tall buildings – it’s a problem,” said Weng. “If you turn back the clock, I don’t think any of us imagined a building which would be a hundred storeys high or something like that. For the BCA, 25 metres is considered be a tall building.

“Now we have many buildings that are many times taller, and the codes are still trying to catch up with technology.”

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