Fire Protection Legislation
The fire protection of buildings is controlled by legislation and its purpose is twofold:
- Protection of fire escape routes. The provision of escape routes is strictly controlled with each route being divided into shorter sections by means of fire doors. Such doors are single acting and open towards the nearest exit.
- Compartmentalisation and separation. Most commercial and institutional buildings have to be divided into smaller sections or compartments. This is to restrict the spread of fire on a given floor or from floor to floor, protecting occupants, containing the fire and making it more easily fought.
Compartments and escape routes must resist fire for specified periods of time. Any glazing in these areas must provide the same protection. The degree of protection required for new work is the responsibility of the architect in conjunction with the Local Authority.
Glass is fire resistant only as part of a complete glazing system. This includes the frame, beads, glass, intumescent materials and the glazing method. These comprise a complete system that has been tested to the relevant parts of BS EN 1364 or BS 476.
Fire performance is in two parts; firstly in terms of either “integrity only” or “integrity and insulation,” then secondly in terms of time, expressed as minutes i.e. 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes.
“Integrity only” refers to the ability of the system to resist collapse and prevent the escape of flames, smoke and poisonous gasses.
“Insulation” means that the glass, as well as the requirements for integrity, must also give protection from the heat of the fire. The temperature of the “safe side” of the glass must not exceed an average of 140o C above ambient.
The two principle types of frames are timber or steel.
Timber Frames – Usually made from hardwood, though softwood has been tested for certain applications. Care must be taken with the bead size and shape.
Steel frames – These are generally designed and manufactured by specialist companies.
Regardless of the frame being used care must be taken to replicate the details of the fire test/assessment summary that is being used to prove compliance with the regulations.
See our product pages to view our Certificates of Approval;
Passive Fire Protection
Every year in the UK there are;
- 325,000 fires resulting in over 400 deaths
- 75% of deaths are in Residential Accommodation
- 14,000 people are seriously injured
- 1500 fires in schools, costing over £80 million in insured damages.
- Property damage exceeding £3.5million a day
- 85% of businesses will be out of business within 12-18 months of a major fire.
One of the best ways to limit damage caused by fire is passive fire protection (PFP) which is built into the fabric of a building to protect it against fire. This involves breaking the space inside a building down into separate compartments, so that the building is constructed as a series of modules which contain fire to its point of origin. If fire can be contained then fire fighters can concentrate on extinguishing it before it spreads, saving life and property. Utilising fire separating components such as fire doors, fire-resistant glass, seals, partitions and ducting, the spread of smoke and flames can be limited. PFP allows the occupants to escape and fire fighters access to fight the fire and get out safely.
PFP also provides a platform for active measures such as sprinklers and smoke alarms. Active and passive protection can therefore work together in an integrated fire strategy. Schools can be particularly vulnerable to fire, often subject to arson when unattended at night, and with large open-plan areas it can make containment difficult. Given the risk to life, the scale of the disruption and the amount of money involved it is important to minimise the effects using PFP.
A Question of Ignorance?
The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, is a fundamental change in the legislation concerning fire safety. Whoever is in control of a building is now deemed to be responsible for conducting risk assessments for the fire precautions of the building and for those using it. Most responsible people will not be experts so they will be reliant on advice from external persons, whether as employees or consultants. In general terms this means that those involved with supplying a fire protection package will share in the liability for its performance. This liability will still be there in the event of a court case.
Whilst the architect will design the required fire protection for a building and Building Control will check those plans against the regulations, the architect is unlikely to check the installation on site nor is this the role of Building Control. This lies solely with the installer, who can be prosecuted.
Specifying “fire resistant” is not enough, all fire tests are carried out on complete systems to achieve a specific fire resistance in minutes in terms of integrity and or insulation. Care should then be taken to make sure the proposed products have been tested to achieve the level of performance required. Deviation away from these tests, such as changing the glazing materials, will invalidate the claimed fire performance. If using assessments care should be taken to make sure they reference the actual test on which they are based and that it is relevant for its intended application. Contractor’s fire certificates are unlikely to have any legal status.
Information on relevant best practice is generally available from published articles, industry guides and organisations such as the Association for Specialist Fire Protection. Manufacturers should also be able to offer guidance on the correct use of their products. Ignorance of our roles and responsibilities is not a defence.
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