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Building Products January 2018

FIRE PROTECTION AND SECURITY FIRE SAFETY IN FOCUS Richard Sutton, general manager at Horbury Property Services, looks at how regular inspection of both active and passive fire protection systems is essential to enhance fire safety in buildings. In recent months, and reinforced by the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, many organisations, political parties and individuals, have been calling for fire sprinklers to be retrofitted into buildings. In some ways, this makes perfect sense, but in others, it could set a trend towards too heavy a reliance on active fire protection systems, without adequate care taken to maintain passive fire protection systems. There have been many reported instances of people being evacuated from residential accommodation and hospital buildings because of fire risk and in some cases, such buildings have consequently been fitted with fire sprinklers. However, what must not be forgotten is the very real and important role that fire compartmentation and other passive fire systems play in a building. Fire compartmentation Building Regulations Approved Document B requires that buildings be sub-divided into a number of discreet compartments or cells using construction materials, in order to prevent the passage of fire from one cell to another, for a given period of time, to allow occupants to escape. Passive fire protection (PFP) systems effectively 58 BUILDING PRODUCTS | JANUARY 2018 compartmentalise a building by creating fire-resistant walls and floors, which allow sufficient time – usually 30, 60 or 90 minutes protection to occupants. Requirements differ according to particular types of building. Hospitals, for example, are subject to Healthcare Technical Memorandum (HTM) 05-02 Firecode, which states a minimum of 30 minutes fire protection for single storey buildings (unsprinklered or sprinklered), 60 mins for up to 12m high buildings that are unsprinklered and 30 mins for that height when sprinklered. For buildings between 12m and 30m, the requirement is 90 mins fire protection unsprinklered and 60 minutes with sprinklers. These specific requirements take into account the evacuation of immobile and vulnerable people, if necessary. Compartmentation was introduced to contain fires and to reduce the risk of large fires, which are obviously more dangerous to occupants, fire and rescue services and people located nearby. Fire compartmentation is also effective in limiting damage to a building and its contents and is an important factor in reducing the risk of fire spread. As well as limiting the amount of damage done to a building and giving its occupants more time for evacuation, compartmentation is also used to protect ‘means of escape’ routes from a building, such as stairways and service shafts. These ‘protected shafts’ play an important role in restricting fire spread between compartments. Refurbishment breaches The issue arises when the fire compartmentation is breached, or the fire doors are not working properly. As outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, every building should be subject to a fire risk assessment and regular inspection programme of both active and passive fire systems. As a building moves through its life cycle, refurbishment work may be carried out and mechanical, electrical and IT services may be upgraded, which means that fire compartments can become compromised. This is why it becomes so important that they are regularly inspected to ensure they retain their integrity and provide the level of protection required. Part B states that “...any alteration which, at any stage of the work, results in a building being less satisfactory than it was before in relation to compliance with the requirements of Part B... is therefore controlled by Regulation 4 as it is classed as building work”. It is therefore vitally important that any works do not


Building Products January 2018
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