The use of a steel frame is a common construction method for modern buildings. So much so that almost three quarters of the available multi-storey building market has been built in this way. There are many advantages to structural steelwork from the construction point of view. But what about the potential issues that can arise with respect to fire protection?
Every building is different
Although there may be similarities in terms of the use of structural steelwork in construction, every building still has a very different set of requirements when it comes to fire protection. There are a number of different factors that can affect this, including aesthetic constraints and the limitations that may exist with respect to application methods. A thorough assessment of the fire protection options that are available for structural steelwork should always include the following:
Board based systems
This tends to be one of the most popular choices for fire protection for steelwork for 30 and 60 minute fire rated periods. There are a number of advantages to board based systems, including the level of tolerance to weather conditions and the fact that the application method is dry. Board based systems can also be used alongside other fire protection measures.
A major advantage of integrating intumescent paints as part of a fire protection solution is the fact that they can be applied off site and can be used with a top coat that not only protects the intumescent layer underneath but also provides a specific aesthetic finish. Although intumescent paints appear to offer just a thin layer of protection, when they are activated they can expand to up to 50 times their original thickness. This creates a significant shield for the steelwork underneath.
Cementitious or Gypsum spray
Ease of application is a major advantage when it comes to opting for Cementitious or Gypsum spray as a method of fire protection for structural steelwork. This is a cheaper option, in terms of application costs, than board based systems or intumescent paints, particularly with respect to higher fire resistance periods. Cementitious or Gypsum sprays don’t tend to be a first choice where the aesthetics are high spec but nevertheless can be very effective in the right situation.
Fire protection to structural steelwork – what to consider
Which option is the most cost effective will depend on the individual building. On average, this type of fire protection usually equates to 10% – 15% of the cost of the overall steel frame construction.
The construction process
If fire protection needs to be quickly applied then some methods (such as intumescent paint) will be more appropriate than others.
The weather may have an impact, both in terms of which method of fire protection is the most suitable and which application process is going to be the more appropriate.