Fire safety is important in any building, but in the aftermath of Grenfell Tower, additional scrutiny has been placed on tower blocks, high-rise buildings and social housing. Given the number of...Continue Reading
Fire safety is important in any building, but in the aftermath of Grenfell Tower, additional scrutiny has been placed on tower blocks, high-rise buildings and social housing. Given the number of occupants in these buildings and the speed at which fire can spread, the passage of flames and smoke must be inhibited through a fully compliant compartmentation strategy.
Compartmentation incorporates passive fire protection measures such as fire-resistant cavity barriers, seals and dampers into a structure, dividing it into “compartments” to contain smoke and fire. The minimum requirements for fire compartmentation can be found in Approved Document B which specifies building regulations applicable to fire safety.
In this article, we will explore how professional surveys help to ensure that compartments retain their functionality and identify risks that, if undetected, can render compartmentation ineffective in the event of a fire.
Why are compartmentation surveys important?
Although a building may have been designed and built with compartmentation in mind, regular reviews can reveal signs of degradation or disruptive installations. ‘Service penetrations’, which is when compartments are inadvertently breached by routine installations such as plumbing and electrical work, are a primary example of this. Besides this, older buildings may no longer be compliant with current standards, indicating a need to upgrade outdated or non-compliant fire protection measures.
A fire compartmentation survey involves identifying all issues that may compromise compartmentation. Once these risks have been identified, building owners can work with fireproofing specialists to rectify them. The results of fire compartmentation surveys provide a route toward regulatory compliance. Addressing any shortcomings they uncover ensures that if a fire were to break out, it could be contained for long enough to limit damage and reduce risks to the building’s occupants and contents.
What is involved in a compartmentation survey?
A compartmentation survey should be undertaken by trained and accredited passive fire protection and remediation experts. They will usually adhere to the following steps when conducting a compartmentation survey:
- A general inspection to ascertain the condition of compartments including walls, flooring, cavity barriers and seals between walls and soffits.
- Making sure that openings made for services passing from one compartment to the next are properly sealed with appropriate fire stopping solutions.
- Assessing the materials used for seals to ensure that they are made of the correct materials and checking that they have been properly installed in line with fire stopping regulations.
- Ensuring that fire dampers have been installed in ductwork that crosses fire compartment lines.
- Inspecting dry-lined walls between compartments to see if they have been installed in compliance with fire protection regulations.
- Checking ceiling and roof voids for the presence of fire-resistant materials that limit air circulation and with that, the spread of fires.
- Presenting compartmentation information to show compartmentation lines and providing details of any non-compliant features.
- Recommending actions to remedy any shortcomings that were uncovered during the survey.
What should be done following the completion of a fire compartmentation survey?
The professionals engaged to conduct fire compartmentation surveys will present their findings and remediation recommendations to the people responsible for fire safety in the buildings they inspect. Following these recommendations is a priority for building owners and managers, but even if no compartmentation issues were uncovered, the report must be kept in an easily-accessible format as part of an extensive audit trail.
Compartmentation survey reports form part of the “golden thread” approach. This is the new standard for transparency and recordkeeping which facilitates the transfer of knowledge across various responsible parties. The golden thread must be maintained throughout a building’s lifetime, beginning with its design, continuing through construction, and being handed over to the building owner on its completion. People designated as responsible for the building must continue adding information so that their successors can be fully informed.
Since being founded 34 years ago, CLM Fireproofing has been protecting buildings against structural fire risks. Our successful track record in passive fire protection spans social housing and other residential buildings, healthcare facilities, hotels, industrial facilities, and more.
With compartmentation being among the first lines of defence in the event of a fire, surveys should be undertaken by people with the right accreditations, expertise, and experience. Building managers or owners seeking to commission a compartmentation survey will find that we complete the necessary inspection processes with minimal disruption to the building’s occupants, and they can be sure that our expertise is equal to the task.
Interested in commissioning a compartmentation survey to ensure regulatory compliance? Contact the CLM Fireproofing team today to speak with our industry-leading professionals.