Passive fire protection is an integral part of the fabric of a building. It is the primary preventative measure taken to protect against the spread of fire, heat and smoke, and to ensure structural stability and a safe means of escape.
The key elements of passive fire protection, which should be considered throughout the design and construction of a building, and within the building products themselves, are fire resistance, reaction to fire, and smoke leakage. Incorporating materials, systems and assemblies that adhere to these passive fire protection principles and of course, to the corresponding regulations, will support the containment of fire, and therefore protect life. These measures also act to maintain the integrity of the building structure, minimizing damage and costs, and supporting faster recovery.
The application of passive fire protection measures is required by law, though these regulations vary by region and in many cases, are newly adopted. These newer requirements may be unfamiliar to builders and contractors, or the extent to which they should be implemented within the design may be unknown. Other builders and contractors may still feel that previous regulations were adequate and could be motivated to disregard current obligations.
Regardless of legal implications, the fundamental point in passive fire protection measures is that they save lives, money and reputation. Proper investment in appropriate protection at the design and build phase could lead to enormous savings over the lifetime of the building. To gain a full appreciation of this, third party consultants can provide support in creating and/or validating a compliant fire protection strategy that achieves design objectives while aligning with build plans and budgets.
It can be beneficial to bring in consultants at an early stage as the implementation of passive fire protection measures can be divided into three categories within a building’s lifetime prior to the occupation phase: fire strategy; product testing and certification; and site application, site-based destructive and non-destructive testing, and inspection. Application of appropriate measures at any stage is important to support the mitigation of damage and the protection of life. It is worth examining each category in more detail to understand how consultancy can support each stage.
Passive fire protection measures are intended to protect and improve the fire resistance of a building’s structure by minimizing the likelihood of collapse or distortion, and by limiting the spread of both flame and smoke. The most efficient and cost effective method of implementing these measures is at the initial design phase through development of a fire strategy.
The fire strategy provides an overview of all scenarios in which fire can affect a building and its users. A good strategy ensures compliance with local legislation; achieves business and property protection objectives; and fulfils any requirements outlined for insurance purposes.
Broadly, a fire strategy outlines means of warning and escape, the potential for internal and external fire spread, ease of access and facilities for use by the fire service, and the ongoing fire safety management requirements of the building.
Product testing and certification
When it comes to fire testing and certification of materials, products and systems, many contractors focus on key areas of legislation while avoiding the finer points, which might be worth considering. Commonly, certification affects the installation of products which should not only be certified accordingly themselves, but which also require correct installation to ensure they perform effectively during a fire.
Certification assures that the fire performance result of the product that was tested, is repeatable if installed in the exact same way as the tested and certified sampled. The factory is subjected to production control audits to review the quality manual, to check the procedures of the manufacturer, to monitor the production of the product, and to periodically take samples for retesting.
Many contractors misunderstand that properly certified products are enough to satisfy compliance with the building codes, without appreciating the need for the correct installation in accordance with the certification listing. Poor installation of passive fire materials, products and systems may deem the product or system’s fire performance entirely ineffective, which could contribute to considerable damage if a fire occurs.
The installation of certified products should be validated in the field by a recognized inspector who is technically competent in scrutinizing the product or material against its product or material certification. An incorrectly installed product will not conform with the certification listing and is therefore not assured by the certification body. The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) approves products based on certification listings and if it is not installed in accordance with the listing then the product or material is technically not AHJ-approved.
Testing and Certification, in the Middle East, are typically tested to the various recognised British, American or European standards and norms of the various AHJ’s in accordance with each jurisdiction’s building codes, and can cover a variety of structural fireproofing elements and passive fire protection products, including structural steel protection and coatings; compartmentation (including floor, ceiling and wall partition systems); CMU block wall systems; firestop, fire blocking and cavity barrier systems; fire door systems and ironmongery/hardware; glazing and glazed partition systems; fire rated skylight systems and glass curtain wall systems; fire rated ducting and fire/smoke damper systems, fire rated cables; laundry linen and garbage shoot doors; and fire rated access hatch and roller shutters.
Site application, site-based destructive and non-destructive testing, and inspection
While it is advisable to implement passive fire protection measures from the outset of a build programme, there are additional site-based applications that should take place regardless of whether protection measures were employed from the beginning.
Third party site-based destructive and non-destructive testing, which should also be witnessed by a third party inspector, ensures compliance across all areas. The third party should be accredited to ISO 17020, an internationally recognized standard for the competence of inspection bodies, which provides a guarantee to clients that the inspection body has demonstrated competency, suitably qualified and experienced personnel to inspect the installation of passive fire protection measures and confirms whether or not they meet performance requirements in the event of a fire.
Site inspection can be done in existing premises or on construction sites in one day, over the course of several days, or on an ongoing basis, depending on what is required.
The code identifies some required methods for validating the correct installation of firestop systems, including ASTM E 2393 and ASTM E 2174.
The ASTM E 2393 is for the “Standard Practice for On-Site Inspection of Installed Fire Resistive Joint System and Perimeter Fire Barriers”. This method covers all types of joint systems including perimeter firestopping; slab termination firestopping; linear fire seals and head of wall; wall to wall; bottom of wall; and expansion joints and construction joints firestopping systems. ASTM E 2393 mandates the inspections shall be based on destructive testing a minimum of 1 sample of each type of system every 152.4 linear meters (500 linear feet).
The ASTM E 2174 is for the “Standard Practice for On-Site Inspection of Installed Fire Stops” and covers all types of mechanical, electrical and plumbing services through and membrane penetrations and blank openings through a fire rated compartment for the walls, floors and ceilings. This method gives two alternative inspection regime options that a project can choose to inspect to:
- Inspect a minimum of 10% of each type of installed firestop system during construction stage per 929 m2 (10,000 ft2) of floor area per level.
- Undertake destructive testing of 2% of each type of installed firestop system per 929m² (10,000ft²) of floor area per level.
The NFPA 80 covers the “Inspection and Testing” and “Acceptance Testing” for fire door systems. This method provides guidance for the onsite inspections of the completed installation of door, shutters and window assemblies by a qualified recognized inspector. NFPA 80 requires the inspection to validate the system against the Certification Accreditation Body (CAB) listing for the fire door assembly. A record of the inspections and testing is required to be signed by the inspector and made available to the AHJ during the AHJ project completion or annual AHJ inspections. It should be noted that it is the entire system and assembly that is inspected and not just the fire door.
For Spray-Applied Fire Resistive Materials (SFRM), which includes cementitious and intumescent coatings and paints, the codes follow the ASTM E 605 and ASTM E 736 methods. These methods are for the “Standard Test Methods for Thickness and Density of Sprayed Fire-Resistive Material (SFRM) Applied to Structural Members” and the “Standard Test Method for Cohesion/Adhesion of Sprayed Fire-Resistive Materials Applied to Structural Members”.
For validating the thickness and density of SFRM sampling and testing, ASTM E 605 requires that at least one test for each 9.3 m² (1,000 ft²) of sprayed area for floors, roofs and walls and 25 percent of the structural members on each floor. For verifying the adhesion of the SFRM, ASTM E 736 requires testing at least once for each 929 m² (10,000 ft²) of sprayed area for floors, roofs and walls and one of each type of structural member per 929 m² (10,000 ft²) on each floor.
The consideration and incorporation of passive fire protection measures should be a part of a complete building life cycle; from preconception and design phase to ongoing building maintenance following occupation. However, if this did not take place during design or build, it should not be dismissed. Completion does not mean that safety measures cannot be implemented – it’s never too late – but it is essential.
Value for money and efficiencies are important to individuals and organizations in many industries across the world, however, correct, complete and compliant fire protection should never be compromised. It can endanger lives which is why it is essential, and even if lives are not lost, fire can make a massive impact. Whether it is the significant cost of rebuilding or the disruptive effect on operations, it can be sufficient to bring an organization to its knees. The assets lost could be irreplaceable, and if any fault is found, the reputational damage could be insurmountable.
It is quite simply, not worth the risk. If a business, builder or contractor has any questions or doubts about the passive fire protection measures in place, now is the time to make enquiries; there is always a solution. An investment now can bring long term benefits and save lives, as well as protect the building itself.
Warringtonfire can undertake the full service offering across testing, inspection, consultancy and certification and can discuss any requirements you may have. We understand the true importance of passive fire protection and inspection and we are passionate about sharing this message. We are currently working towards a more structured way to educate the wider community and we hope to have more information on this soon.
For more information, go to www.warringtonfire.com