Interior Designers Should Be Familiar With Fire Codes

Interior Designers Should Be Familiar With Fire Codes

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Interior design has been a difficult profession to define precisely as to the scope of its services or the desired education for its practitioners.

The services provided by an interior designer may range from color and furniture selection in a small residence to the planning of the spaces, circulation, lighting, acoustical and equipment requirements for an International Corporation.

The range of educational programs to prepare an interior designer for professional practice is as varied as the services rendered by the designer. This can include correspondence courses, trade schools, art schools, community colleges, extension courses and four-year university programs. Even in university programs, the offerings can vary considerably, ranging from curriculums in art, or architecture to home economics departments. Consequently, there is little uniformity of course content or curriculum structure, although some attempts are being made to provide minimum standards or to develop an accreditation procedure. Licensing requirements for interior designers is a debated issue as yet.

Desirable knowledge

Unquestionably, the interior designer should be familiar with fire code requirements. He also should have a knowledge of fire protection that includes occupancy restrictions, building classification, egress flammability tests, flamespread rating and fire protection systems. The designer should be aware of the drawbacks of fire codes so he can support code improvements. This is not to suggest that the designer should be a fire expert, but he does need to be aware of basic requirements to know where to find the necessary information.

The question is how this fire protection awareness can be effectively provided in the designers’ educational processs, particularly at the undergraduate level. This is not to minimize the importance of inservice training of practicing professionals (which is virtually nonexistent), but the emphasis should be on providing adequate fire protection information early in the designer’s education.

Proposed actions

There are several steps that could be undertaken to provide the desired fire protection background:

  1. A joint American Society of Interior Designers and National Fire Protection committee could be formed to study the Fire protection education issue. The committee could also set up performance criteria for course content covering fire protection. How this is transmitted to the students would be the concern of the educators. Having representatives from the Interior Designers Educational Council, as well as student representatives, on the committee would be desirable to provide the educational viewpoint. A linkage between these groups to facilitate communication and to make each other aware of the professional requirements is overdue.
  2. Interior design instructors should be urged to contact local fire marshals or NFPA members to conduct informal seminars on fire protection requirements with the students. The NFPA could provide schools with a list of its members who would be interested in participating.
  3. An instructional package, including slides and brochures, that addresses fire protection in a clear, visual language could be developed. Again, this could be a joint ASID and NFPA undertaking.
  4. Fire code requirements that are of particular concern to interior designers could be summarized in a language that is less ambiguous. These could cover the various flammability and flamespread requirements that might affect designers’ decisions.

There may be other worthwhile suggestions which could be recommended by a joint ASID-NFPA group or other interested parties. It is clear that a need exists for the designer to be aware of fire protection requirements, but design educators need the help of the fire protection profession. Ultimately, the primary beneficiaries will be the building occupants.

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