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.
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