Design for Life? Fire safety and building resilience

Online (option to join first session in-person) – 6 x Friday PM (2pm-5pm) – Returning soon – £500

Formally recognised by:

“The RIBA welcomes the LSA Design for Life programme that supports architects in developing their competence in fire and building safety, for regulatory compliance and beyond. The sessions will help architects prepare for the design risk management element of the RIBA health and life safety mandatory competence assessment.”


“The London School of Architecture’s Part 4 programme provides exactly the kind of support that the profession needs to respond to the most urgent issues facing our cities. I am delighted to see this innovative professional development programme focus on the issues that practitioners in London are grappling with including inclusion and social value, fire safety and community heritage. Ultimately upskilling the sector on these matters is going to lead to a built environment that better serves Londoners.”

Jules Pipe CBE, Deputy Mayor


Are you aware of the changes to building regulations in relation to fire, health and life safety? Can you demonstrate your individual competence and organisational capability?

In the wake of Grenfell, the Hackitt review and amendments to Building Regulations you must demonstrate competency in fire, health and life safety.

These competency requirements are not coming, they are here. Regulators mandate them; insurers value them; clients and the public demand them.

And your professional status – both as a registered architect and a chartered member – relies on cultivating that competence.

But we believe that competence is merely the foundation. Knowledge, skills, experience and behaviours are enabled by research, training, collaboration and sound ethical bases. In fact, they turn competence into excellence.

We want to work with course participants who share this commitment to excellence.





What participants say about this course

  • “Fantastic course, more people should attend…it helps you to question what you are designing as well as your competency. A valuable insight into the latest fire safety regulations, from a philosophical and historical context, to fire legislation, to current discussions with leading experts on topics heavily centred around Grenfell and the resulting Building Safety Act.”
    Rizwana Osman, Senior Architect, and Sean Bignold, Architectural Director, Ryder Architecture
  • “A good balance of broader contextual thinking and detailed, technical information.”
    Mark Broom, ACME
  • The course was extremely well curated and the sources extensive and very relevant.”
    Mark Iffland, Barr Gazetas



What will I get from this course?

  • Individual competence and organisational capability: This course will prepare you for the RIBA health and life safety test, providing practice questions in the same format as the formal assessment. Non-chartered members will be given access to the RIBA’s assessment portal. All learners will also be given advice on how to prepare a reflective statement for the ARB.
  • Excellence beyond competence: Through design exercises led by industry experts, you will learn international principles of fire safety and how these inform UK statute. You will also explore ways to work critically and creatively with building regulations. Together, you will workshop key challenges of life safety design, applying first principles to practical problems. It is a client’s duty to demand competence of their consultants. It is your duty as a designer, and now as a Principal Designer under BSA, to have confidence in your competence. This course will not only exceed competence, but give you the skills to market this excellence and respond to client demands.
  • Extending beyond statute: Participants will be introduced to the concept of a ‘resilience strategy’. You will be challenged to review design decisions from the perspective of an insurer, and be shown how to reduce building insurance premiums through design.
  • Commercial nouse: You will be offered expert guidance on how to fee for life safety design, how to minimise design liability for fire safety, and how to keep public indemnity insurance premiums to a minimum.



Course context

A direct response to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the Edinburgh Schools scandal, and a new regulatory landscape (including the introduction of ARB and RIBA’s core competencies for ‘Health and Life Safety’ and the passing of the Building Safety Act 2022), Design for Life? responds to the professional, moral and ethical imperative of all architects and practitioners in the building industry to equip themselves with the essential and latest fire, health and life safety knowledge, and to learn how to apply it in practice.

Design for Life? cover all topics included in the RIBA’s ‘Health and Life Safety’ Mandatory Core Competency – a requirement of Chartered Membership for 2024 renewals – and the ARB’s competence guidance on Fire and Life Safety, unpacking the implications of these documents for professional competency.

But more than this, the course will arm your teams with the latest design and technical knowledge alongside a confidence in selling professional service to clients, and an ethical framework to keep the public and our communities firmly at the centre of decision-making and accountability.

Course format and objectives

Design for Life? is a six-week course structured around the lifecycle of a building project, covering fire, health and life safety from Appointment to Concept Design, and Technical Design to Use. While addressing the gamut of health and life safety risks associated with building design, particular focus is given to the risk of fire, and related concerns of regulatory change, product certification, professional competence, the user’s voice, and design ethics.

The course is led by Dr Liam Ross (Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh; author, Pyrotechnic Cities: Architecture, Fire-Safety and Standardisation (Routledge, 2022)) and supported by an expert advisory panel including Paul Bussey (Senior Technical Consultant, AHMM), Jane Duncan OBE (Chair of the RIBA’s Expert Panel on Fire Safety and former president of the RIBA), Ian Abley (former Technical Consultant to RISCAuthority), Paul Hyett (RIBA Past President, Expert Witness to the Grenfell Inquiry and Partner at Vickery Hyett) and Arita Morris (CGL Architects and Chair of the NLA Expert Panel for Technical Competency).

Participants will leave with a toolkit of related documents and skills to integrate with their professional practice, confidence to sit the RIBA Health and Safety test, a prepared reflective statement as required by the ARB, a broader understanding of the ethical, legal and design consequences of their work and a greater confidence in offering fire, life safety and property resilience guidance in practice.

Week-by-week outline

  1. Rules
    What caused the Grenfell Tower fire? Was regulation to blame? How is the architect’s competence defined, and when are other forms of expertise required?
  2. Money
    What are the economic consequences of fire, health and life safety concerns? How does Insurance shape building design? What civil liabilities are architects exposed to? How can architects reduce insurance premiums by design?
  3. Design
    What is fire? What design principles should we employ to limit its spread? Are ambitions for enhanced fire-safety and sustainability incompatible?
  4. Materials
    How do materials respond to fire? How is that performance certified, and can certification be trusted? How can detail for fire-safety, and recognise unsafe details?
  5. Risk
    What are designer’s duties? How can architects navigate the role of the Principal Designer under CDM and BSA? What are the implications of the Principal Designer role in relation to fire safety? What are most significant risks in construction? What are the principles of design risk management? How can architects design out risk, and how can they limit their own risk exposure?
  6. The user
    Why were the safety concerns of Grenfell’s resident’s ignored? What can architects do to ensure the ‘user’s voice is heard? What is the ‘responsible person’ responsible for, and how can their insights improve design?

Course contributors and advisors

Led by:

Supported by:

  • Paul Bussey: Chartered Architect, RIBA Expert Advisory Fire Group member, Practicing Senior Technical Consultant , FIFireE, FASFP, FIIRSM, IMAPS, Chair HSE Coniac Keeping Pace with Change Working Group, Chair CIC Health and Safety Committee
  • Jane Duncan OBE: Chair of the RIBA’s Expert Panel on Fire Safety and former president of the RIBA
  • Peter Apps: Author, Show Me the Bodies: How We Let Grenfell Happen and Inside Housing editor
  • Arita Morris: CGL Architects and Chair of the NLA Expert Panel for Technical Competency
  • Giles Grover: Leading member of the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign
  • Nick Beech: Associate professor of modern architecture, University of Birmingham
  • Scott Sanderson: Partner, PRP, focused on technical design, design management and BIM
  • Andrea White: Independent fire engineer, fire risk assessor and chartered safety professional
  • Samantha Peat: Leading the Construction Leadership Council’s PI insurance group
  • Holly Smith: Academic researching high-rise architecture and community action in postwar Britain
  • Jose Torero: Head of Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, UCL
  • Nathaniel McBride: Writer, Dictating to the Estate (play about events leading to Grenfell Tower fire)

General information

  • The course runs for over six weekly three hour sessions in an online format, every Friday afternoon 2pm-5pm, with dates of the next course announced soon
  • Week 1 is hosted at our studio in Dalston (4 Beechwood Rd, Dalston, London E8 3DY) – attending in-person is optional but will provide an opportunity to meet the cohort, course leaders and contributors
  • To ensure high contact, we’re recruiting a small cohort of no more than 40 – spaces are limited
  • The course cost is £500 per participant



Get in touch about the course

Are you keen to learn more about Design for Life and the Part 4 programme, or would you like to schedule a call with the Part 4 team before making a booking?

Please share your details below and we’ll be in touch (we aim to respond within 48 hours Monday to Friday). You can also reach out to us by email on

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