The Performance-based Fire and Gas Systems Engineering Handbook; co-authored by Austin M. Bryan, Elizabeth Smith, and Kevin J. Mitchell (all senior staff members at Kenexis Consulting Corporation); was recently published by ISA. In this Q&A feature, Bryan provides important insights on the book’s value and significance.

Note: Brief biographies of all three authors are included at the bottom of this page.  

Austin M. Bryan
Q. What is, from your point of view, the core value of your book?

A. The handbook is designed to be a practical guide, giving users the understanding and tools they need to implement a performance-based Fire and Gas System (FGS) design as described in the ISA-TR84.00.07 technical report. 

Q. OK, let’s start with the ISA-TR84.00.07 technical report. Could you explain its importance and purpose? 

A. The ISA-TR84.00.07 technical report provides the basis of performance-based FGS design. Before the report’s development, FGS have largely been designed through prescriptive standards, such as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 72.  Prescriptive standards lay out precise requirements in terms of equipment requirements, location of equipment, alarms, etc. While these work well and have been in use for decades for fire protection of occupied buildings, they are less useful in an industrial processing setting.  Industrial processes may have many additional concerns, such as combustible or toxic gas, with often several exterior locations.  There has been scant guidance on how to design a detection system for these areas beyond a few basic heuristics and rules of thumb.

The industry desired a means of designing an FGS with greater engineering justification than these heuristics could provide.  ISA-TR84.00.07 takes the basic concepts used in performance-based SIS design and shows how they could be applied to design of an FGS.

Q. What exactly is performance-based design in relationship to a Fire and Gas System?

A. Performance-based design is the design of a system around achieving a specified level of performance.  With the more traditional prescriptive-based design, systems tend to be designed to a “one-size-fits-all” basis.  This is less flexible and can lead to over- or under-designed systems if the risk associated with the protected equipment is lower or higher than was originally assumed in the prescriptive design. Performance-based design requires the designer to perform a risk assessment to determine the level of performance required, then design the system to meet that performance.  This allows for a greater level of flexibility in design options.

Q. So, your book, the Performance-based Fire and Gas Systems Engineering Handbook, focuses on the practical steps required to implement this type of performance-design?

A. Yes, our book provides guidance on how the concepts presented in ISA-TR84.00.07 can be practically implemented.  While the technical report describes how the concepts of performance-based design can be applied to FGS design and special considerations that must be made to do so, it does not provide any explanation on how to actually develop such a design.  How does one analyze the risk of a process?  What level of performance should be required? 

A sound understanding these concepts is required to complete a performance-based FGS design, but there is scant guidance in the technical report on how to implement them.  The handbook presents the FGS lifecycle and associated workflow with guidance to allow designers of FGS for industrial systems to understand the performance-based design concepts underlying the technical report and practical guidance on how these concepts may be implemented in FGS design.


Obtain your copy of the Performance-based Fire and Gas Systems Engineering Handbook today.

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