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Australia has achieved a very good fire safety record. However, concern has been expressed at the possible excessive costs which may be incurred in achieving this fire safety record, and the need to identify cost-effective design solutions. In response, pressures have developed to introduce a performance-based approach to enable more flexible and rational engineering methods to be applied for fire safety and protection system design. A brief description is given of a performance-based approach to design using risk assessment models. Given also is an outline of the previous research, and the current research which is either in progress, or which is required to be undertaken, to produce reliable estimates of risk-to-life safety. Results from the risk assessment model are used to identify cost-effective fire safety system designs for buildings.