[code_snippet id=35] Fire stopping is a vital component of most successful passive fire protection strategies. By helping to contain the spread of flames and smoke, investing time and resources...Continue Reading
Fire stopping is a vital component of most successful passive fire protection strategies. By helping to contain the spread of flames and smoke, investing time and resources into fire stopping can make the difference between regulatory compliance and subpar levels of protection.
Fire protection regulations have undergone numerous changes due to post-Grenfell enquiries. Industry professionals – be they project managers or site teams – should therefore refamiliarise themselves with these regulations. This will hopefully mean that compliance is at the forefront of their minds throughout their engagement with a passive fire protection project.
Regulatory requirements can vary significantly based on a building’s size, intended usage and a host of other factors. Therefore, this article will outline how all of the relevant fire protection legislation in the UK relates specifically to firestopping.
What does fully compliant fire stopping consist of?
A primary example of fully compliant fire stopping is the proper sealing of ‘service penetrations’. This term refers to how pipes, ducts and cables travel through different compartments of a building, creating openings that allow a fire to spread.
The smallest gap in a compartment can render it ineffective in the event of a fire. This risk can be minimised with the use of fire-resistant sealants, pipe collars and sleeves. While these gaps can (and should) be protected, they would also ideally be low in number.
Here are some other areas of a building in which fully compliant fire stopping is paramount for protecting occupants and reducing risk:
- Fire doors – Fire doors are fitted to be flush with the door frame, with regulations stating that any gaps between the door and frame cannot exceed 4mm. Common fire stopping methods for closing non-compliant gaps include the application of silicone-based sealants and the installation of intumescent strips.
- Windows – The regulations for fire stopping windows are very similar to the requirements for doors. Gaps around the frame, for instance, can enable the passage of smoke. These gaps must therefore be sealed with a fire-resistant material.
- Ceiling voids – What differentiates ceiling voids from doors and windows is that the application of fire-resistant materials mustn’t affect the ceiling’s load-bearing capabilities. Gaps between floors are usually sealed using intumescent compounds, which expand to form a robust protective layer when exposed to high temperatures. These compounds also offer additional water resistance and soundproofing and can be installed at multiple depths in tower blocks or high-rise buildings.
What are the signs of non-compliant fire stopping?
Non-compliant fire stopping not only exposes a building and its occupants to substantial risk but also incurs significant financial penalties. Non-compliance can take a variety of forms from the use of substandard products to poor maintenance, improper installations or a lack of fire stopping altogether. Below are a few examples of non-compliant passive fire protection that relate specifically to fire stopping:
- No building review for fire stopping in renovation or building plans – According to The International Building Code (IBC) Section 107.2.1, any plans for new builds or renovations must be subject to a detailed review to ascertain what firestopping solutions are either planned or already in place.
- Insufficient ratings and untested solutions – One of the biggest indicators of non-compliance is a lack of appropriately rated and tested firestopping solutions in high-risk areas. These areas include kitchens, boiler rooms, ventilation ducts and chemical storage spaces.
- No fire stopping on top and bottom of walls – In order to be effective, there mustn’t be any gaps in either the top or bottom of any compartment walls. Any gaps present must be sealed using an appropriate firestopping solution, otherwise the compartment will not comply with fire protection regulations.
- Poor installation of fire stopping materials – An incorrectly installed fire stopping product will not be able to perform as required by regulations. For instance, butterings the edges of batts (which is not included in standard installation instructions) may cause gaps – which is one of the main reasons why fire stopping systems fail in critical moments.
- Insufficient materials and solutions – Fire stopping materials must be applied in the recommended quantity to ensure compliance. If installers are ever uncertain, they should consult manufacturer requirements or contact manufacturers directly.
- Improper joins and connections – Incorrect connections and joins will negatively impact fire stopping performance. For example, gaps in welding or connections open up space for airflow which can enable the spread of fire. Proper methods are integral to creating a solid, airtight bond needed to contain fire and smoke.
- Mixing materials not included in regulatory listings – Regulations deem what products can be used for fire stopping as they have undergone the appropriate quality assurance testing. These products cannot be substituted or mixed with other products, as this will compromise performance. For example, even mixing products from different systems is an indication of non-compliance.
How do fire protection regulations impact firestopping?
Post-Grenfell updates to fire protection regulations include a greater level of protection and accountability, along with larger penalties for non-compliance. Below is a brief summary of how the main fire protection regulations relate specifically to fire stopping.
The Building Fire Safety Act
The Building Fire Safety Act will come into full effect in October 2024 and will apply to the majority of buildings and structures with the exclusion of private homes. Key points include passing the financial responsibility of non-compliance to landlords and developers, creating a fire safety manager role for buildings over 7 storeys to maintain fire stopping solutions, and the compulsory registration of building inspectors and control approvers to ensure compliance with the Building Safety Regulator.
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These regulations apply to both residential and non-residential buildings, as well as new constructions and renovations of existing structures. They state that fire stopping measures must be taken to inhibit the spread of fire where reasonably necessary. The extent of these measures will be based on the size of the building and its intended use.
The Fire Safety Act 2021
First introduced in March 2020, this act closes some key gaps in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005. It covers fire stopping for all residential buildings, not just high-rises, and allows fire services to tackle non-compliance regarding external walls and individual doors into common areas. It also places a legal responsibility on the responsible person to commission a fire risk assessment.
The Construction (Design Management) Regulations 2015
These are the central regulations for managing the health and safety of a construction project, and they apply to all buildings including new builds and renovations. It contains guidance for each of the seven duty holders for a project (client, domestic client, principal designer, designer, principal contractor, contractor, and worker) as well as workers. This includes running the project with minimal fire safety risks, coordinating with other duty holders to share information on risks and fire stopping measures, and engaging workers to create a safe worksite.
These regulations govern the materials, installation, and performance of electrical systems with regards to fire stopping. This includes making sure wiring systems retain their integrity in the event of a fire. Appendix 13 also outlines methods for maintaining effective escape routes, which should work in tandem with fire stopping solutions to create the widest possible window of opportunity for a building to be safely evacuated.
Who is responsible for complying with fire stopping regulations?
Ultimately, the laws and regulations have placed a duty on individuals to comply with fire stopping regulations within the scope of their role. For example, regarding BS 7671:2018, the individual installing the electrical systems is responsible. However, in the case of a new residential development, the Building Fire Safety Act places this responsibility on the developer.
The new laws and regulations seek to make responsibility for fire stopping a team effort, where each person is responsible according to their role and duty on the project, including architects, building designers, contractors, and developers. This is enforced by various regulatory bodies including the local Fire and Rescue Authority and Building Safety Regulator.
Once a building is occupied, a responsible person must also be appointed to hold the duty of ongoing compliance through the lifespan of the building. This person will be responsible for a number of duties, including liaising with occupants to identify and correct fire risks, working with professionals to deliver a fire risk assessment, and implementing recommended changes and maintenance to uphold the building’s fire safety compliance.
CLM Fireproofing are industry-leading experts in all matters related to fire stopping and fire stopping. We are committed to upholding the highest standards of workmanship, giving our clients peace of mind that their projects are fully compliant with industry requirements. To enquire about our specialist fire protection services, contact our team today.