Any good fire safety strategy should contain an element of passive fire protection. It not only helps to preserve the structure of the building in the event of a fire but also ensures a better chance of escape for those inside. Passive fire protection is so important that it is required by UK fire regulations, whether the building is domestic or non-domestic.
Passive fire protection – essential resistance
In normal conditions passive fire protection is not active. The key characteristic of this kind of fire protection is that it becomes active only if there is a fire. Passive fire protection works in a number of different ways – for example, it may limit the spread of heat and smoke or protect essential escape routes. It can also protect the assets within the building, as well as its critical structural points.
A wide range of options are available to integrate passive fire protection into any building, including fire resistant coatings, fire walls and fire stopping. It can be used in conjunction with active fire protection systems, such as sprinklers. The overall goal of passive fire protection is to contain the spread of fire until the fire brigade arrives and also so that people within the building can escape.
UK regulation and passive fire protection
All buildings must have passive fire protection. The Building Regulations 2010, Fire Safety, Approved Document B apply to any new build, modernisation or extension works and set out the requirements when it comes to passive fire protection compliance. One of the most important requirements is contained in clause 10.2 of the regulations: “If a fire-separating element is to be effective, every joint or imperfection of fit, or opening to allow services to pass through the element, should be adequately protected by sealing or fire-stopping so that the fire resistance of the element is not impaired.”
This essentially focuses on the role of passive fire protection when it comes to openings and gaps that could undermine the integrity of fire resistance measures that have been put in place. These gaps and openings could be the result of the presence of pipes or ventilation ducts. They could also be the result of installation work that has been carried out in the building, for example, with respect to electrical sockets, installing lighting units or cable trunking. Any work like this can create gaps that will mean existing fire containment measures are not effective.
What are the options?
There are a range of different passive fire resistance measures available to stop gaps and the right choice will depend on your structure, resources and requirements. It’s worth noting that all passive fire protection products & systems are rated to achieve a range of fire protection periods, which will indicate how long they can resist the impact of a fire – from 30 to 240 minutes. In some instances these are designed around an intumescent material, which will significantly increase in size when exposed to fire conditions.