In 2008, the Port Authority of Marseille in Fos-sur-Mer (France) was colored yellow and blue. This is due to the fact that IKEA started building its third and largest distribution center in France here. The site’s surface measures 132,000 m². The facility will consist of eight standard units with a storage surface of 8,800 m² and a height of 13.50 m and two silo units with a storage surface of 14,600 m² and a height of 35.50m.

These numbers exceed the maximum allowed surfaces as laid down in French regulations for such warehouses. For building projects, a fire safety engineering study should be given to the authorities to prove the design’s safety level for occupants, firefighters and the neighborhood. This is exactly what Efectis has done. During the project, Efectis carried out a combination of experimental and numerical assessments. These were used to evaluate the heat flux from large fires, fire and smoke propagation, thermal transfer to structural elements, roof or partition, structural behavior of concrete and steel at high temperatures and egress conditions. On the basis of these experiments, Efectis developed a structural design and a compartmentalized design for walls, roofs and equipment. An overall design for the building’s neighborhood was also created.

The requested fire safety level was discussed and agreed upon with several competent authorities.

Experiments at the laboratory of Maizières-Lès-Metz (France) were carried out to assess the thermal behavior of the roof and façade under non-standard thermal impact.

A fire lasting more than six hours was performed to assess quasi steady state conditions of a long lasting storage fire.

The fire safety engineering study investigated the functioning of several combined safety features: active measures (sprinklers), adapted structural design, high performance compartment walls and the effectiveness of specifically designed equipment like vents and doors.

This was not all: Emergency response capabilities were also taken into account. These include the proximity of the fire department, availability of water, accessibility of the premises.

This complete approach has led to a design for a one of a kind storage facility, providing a satisfactory fire safety level. The protective and preventive means are all adapted to the objectives defined beforehand. Thanks to this, the project can serve as a case study in France. This goes for the methodology that was developed along with the designs of the building components.