‘Fire safety needs to be properly sorted as part of the design process’, says Jasper Nieuwenhuizen, System Security and Fire Safety consultant at Zuidasdok. Together with Environmental Services, the fire brigade and stakeholders such as NS and ProRail, GVB/Metro and the City Council, he drew up a plan for the station’s fire safety. ‘We’re using what’s known as the ‘bowtie’ model. It involves working with scenarios – for example, a fire in a specific place – and you take all kinds of measures in that place in order to ensure the fire remains manageable. For example, you test the materials for combustibility. There are European classifications for that. We only used materials from the non-combustible class or those that have only limited combustibility.’ The floor in the passageways is made from natural stone. ‘That’s a class-A non-combustible material that can’t go up in flames. The ceiling materials are not non-combustible, but have only limited combustibility, and are in class B. The ceilings are also very high, so the chance of a fire starting there is very small.’ In these passageways, passengers will find very little furnishing, except for an information desk or vending machine. ‘They also have very low combustibility and could only cause a small fire at worst.’
However, there will be shops and technical rooms in the station passageways. Nieuwenhuizen: ‘Actually, they’re the only places in the station where something could happen because of combustible materials in them. That’s why we’ve taken additional measures there. There’ll be a fire alarm system and a sprinkler system. The sprinkler system has showerheads that spring into action when exposed to heat, extinguishing a fire or keeping it small. With the sprinkler and fire alarm systems, we’ve installed two effective safety mechanisms.’ A fire in one of the shops in the two passageways in the new Amsterdam Zuid station could cause smoke. This must not be allowed to affect any evacuation. ‘Because the passageways are so large and smoke and heat can quickly escape via the platform entrances, any danger will be limited. Even if the sprinkler system failed, the time available to evacuate in the event of a fire is many times longer than necessary. That makes the passageways very safe.’
The human factor
‘Of course, another possibility involves a fire breaking out on a platform. A train fire, for example. This has also been considered. The platform roofs are 6 m tall. They not only protect passengers from rain, but in the event of a fire, smoke and heat can easily flow away under them. That means there will also be virtually unlimited time to leave the platform in the event of a fire.’ Using advanced heat-flow models and an additional margin for human behaviour in the event of a fire, safe evacuation has been tested. ‘That’s because people are the biggest uncertainty in major incidents’, says Nieuwenhuizen. ‘We have a tendency to stay and watch. Modelling has shown that the new Amsterdam Zuid station has been designed to have such fire safety standards that there’s still sufficient space and opportunity to escape safely even in the event of this kind of behaviour.’
Text: Hilde Postma
This is the sixth in a series about the work behind-the-scenes on the renovation of Amsterdam Zuid station. Amsterdam Zuid station will become the Netherlands’ fifth largest station, after Amsterdam Central, Utrecht Central, Rotterdam Central and Schiphol Airport. How do you turn a mainly local station into a true public transportation hub? The first article was about the design of pedestrian routes. The second was on the subject of the platform access design. The third was about the tiling. The fourth was about the almost energy-neutral station. The fifth was on the subject of maintenance.