Re: drivable emergency access. was RE: "Cohousing Overlay"asZoning Regulation
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 01:53:32 -0700 (PDT)
Sounds imminently sensible:  Why should planners and designers make safety
compromises a burden for our noble firefighters?  But let¹s think:  What,
exactly, is the ³hook², and what does it mean to be ³on² or ³off² it?

I bargain with fire chiefs on almost every project I do.  For health care /
hospital work ? which accommodates live-in patients often incapable of
self-preservation ? the ideal standard is that a fire truck never backs up,
but always can complete a full loop circuit around a building, access every
building face, and then drive out forwards.  Fine by me.  But the truth is
that in many high density situations, and in pre-existing urban complexes
and lots, this ain¹t gonna happen.  So you work some sort of compromise.

For ³normal² residential occupancies of urban density ? where the vast
majority of occupants can make their own escape if necessary ? the full
circuit loop is not expected or requested.  The fire department generally
knows and accepts (a) its trucks can penetrate the property only so far; (b)
some parts of the property will have to be serviced by firefighters
hand-carrying ladders and hoses; and (c) at departure, the trucks will back
out as best they can.

You might be very disappointed if your cohousing community had been designed
to fully accommodate fire trucks and their 80-ft turning radii.  If you want
to make your community construction really, REALLY safe, you fit it with a
sprinkler system, which costs no more, and probably less, than a site plan
designed for big trucks.

One final point:  The World Trade Center catastrophe offered dramatic
illustration of the fact that above the sixth floor, fires in high-rise
construction are somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to
fight.  As much as we all value foresight, safety, and professional
competence, I confess that I missed the meeting where we decided to build no
more high-rises in America.

Don¹t get me started on the American highway system.

Philip Dowds AIA
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

PS:  I love Utah and have been there many times.  I maintain my SUWA

On 3/16/11 4:22 PM, "Kay Argyle" <Kay.Argyle [at]> wrote:

> I have strong views about externalizing costs. The fact that firefighters
> will do their job regardless, doesn't let the architect, builder, home
> owner, etc., off the hook. Quite the contrary.
>> >From a more self-interested standpoint, consider that, if a firefighter goes
> on disability or a fire truck gets damaged, your tax dollars pay for it.
> Moving the planting location of a tree a couple of feet away from the
> emergency access is far cheaper than a new windshield for a fire truck.
> Taken into account from the beginning of a design process, safety features
> don't need to cost a fortune, cause inconvenience, or be ugly.

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