Fire Safety

View of dense high-rise apartment buildings in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Single-Staircase Buildings: A Design Solution to a Political Problem?

One writer argues that single-staircase buildings solve an architectural problem and make buildings more interesting, but the political problem of the U.S. housing crisis goes much deeper.

April 3, 2023 - The Nation


Washington Could Legalize Single-Staircase Buildings

Supporters of ‘point access blocks,’ which are common in Europe and other parts of the world, say the design maximizes living space and lowers the cost of construction.

February 8, 2023 - The Urbanist

Close-up of fence covered with flowers, flyers, and other memorial items at site of deadly Twin Parks building fire

U.S. Fire Administration to Investigate Building Fires

New legislation gives the federal agency power to identify the causes of deadly fires and recommend improvements.

January 11, 2023 - The New York Times

View looking down a multi-story apartment building staircase

How a Staircase Requirement Can Impact Housing Affordability

Critics of the double-staircase mandate for multi-story buildings argue that it does little to improve fire safety while raising the costs of housing construction and limiting community interaction.

May 9, 2022 - The Virginia Mercury

Apartment staircase, Washington, D.C.

In Praise of Single-Staircase Construction

U.S. building codes mandate two staircases in multi-story buildings, but some argue this requirement reduces affordability and encourages wasteful, uninspired design.

January 2, 2022 - Slate

Butte County, California

California Town Looks to Rebuild After Wildfire, but No Clear Path Forward

Paradise, California, burned to the ground last year, and the town’s recovery has begun. But questions remain about the measures that should be put into place to prevent another disaster.

November 15, 2019 - Los Angeles Times

Paradise, California

LA Times: Poor Planning Sealed Paradise's Fate

The planning history of Paradise, California is blamed for the destruction of the city in the Camp Fire. Can planners find new models for both limiting carbon emissions and preparing for the effects of climate change?

January 3, 2019 - Los Angeles Times

Glen Ellen, California

Designing Houses to Survive Wildfires

Houses that aren't vulnerable to embers blowing in the wind, could save the government and homeowners millions.

August 6, 2018 - 99 Percent Invisible


After Another Catastrophic Fire, Reexamining Fire Safety in Philadelphia

"Why does Old City keep burning?" That's the question posed by Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron.

February 24, 2018 - The Philadelphia Inquirer

London High-Rise Fire

Unfortunate Lessons for City Planners From the Grenfell Tower Fire

The Grenfell Tower Fire in London took the lives of 71 people, and investigators are still searching for lessons from the tragedy. American planners shouldn't neglect these lessons, either.

November 29, 2017 - Kayla Matthews

New York MTA

Report: MTA Shortcut Safety to Deliver the Second Ave Subway on Cuomo's Schedule

The New York Times has a potential damning report about shortcuts taken by the New York MTA, under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, to deliver the Second Avenue Subway on its scheduled opening date at the beginning of the year.

September 22, 2017 - The New York Times

Building Code

Audit Finds Houston's Life Safety Bureau Lacking

A city controller's audit finds lots of room for improvement at the Houston Fire Department's Life Safety Bureau.

June 16, 2017 - The Houston Chronicle

London Fire

How Building Standards Failed London's Grenfell Tower

Fire safety experts are rushing to explain the horrific scene in London's Kensington neighborhood last night—after a fire destroyed a residential high rise. The building was recently retrofitted to meet efficiency standards.

June 14, 2017 - The Guardian

New Orleans Fire Truck

Why So Big? Rethinking Fire Truck Design

When they're not extinguishing actual flames, fire trucks can seem comically over-sized on city streets. Replacing portions of the fleet with smaller response vehicles might save money without sacrificing capability.

February 7, 2016 - CityLab

Flat Tops No Longer Required for Los Angeles Skyscrapers

Emily Alpert Reyes reports that Los Angeles has overturned a long-standing requirement for its skyscrapers to have flat roofs to accommodate the fire department's helicopters in the event of an emergency.

October 1, 2014 - Los Angeles Times

The 'Negligible' Building Safety Benefit of Helipads

In the second part of a series looking at codes in L.A. that require tall buildings to have flat roofs for helicopter landing, Curbed LA discusses a new building that has been exempted from the code and whether more are likely to follow.

October 27, 2010 - Curbed LA

The Fire Department Code That Flat-Tops L.A.'s Skyline

All buildings in Los Angeles taller than 75 feet are required to have a flat surface on the roof where helicopters can land, according to a fire department-mandated code. Now leaders are thinking about updating that code -- and the city's skyline.

October 26, 2010 - Curbed LA

Builders Vs. Firefighters in National Battle Over Sprinklers

A fierce battle is brewing over new requirements for sprinklers in homes. Firefighters say the sprinklers are needed, but builders say the Sprinkler Code Coalition is having undue influence on code development.

July 28, 2009 - The Center for Public Integrity

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