Keeping safe with passive fire protection

Despite its importance, there’s considerable evidence to show passive fire protection solutions are being ineffectively designed, specified and installed in buildings. In this article, Craig Wells, Sales Director at Quelfire discusses the benefits of passive fire protection and how specifiers can ensure it remains a priority in difficult times.

Effective passive fire protection (PFP) is one of the most crucial elements in protecting a building against fire damage. As its name suggests, PFP remains dormant during normal conditions but will become active in the event of a fire. In these situations, PFP helps to contain the spread of a blaze, affording building occupants more time to safely escape. In Britain, PFP is required by law in all buildings, both domestic and non-domestic. Failure to adequately deliver the systems puts firms at risk of significant fines. Therefore, despite remaining out-of-sight, PFP can never be overlooked, even in these trying times. 

In general, PFP solutions are broadly split into five key areas:

  • Linear gap seals and cavity fire stops

Involves protecting any gaps within the building which may be the result of more than one building material abutting another, movement joints required for expansion and contraction of the building and at the junction of compartment floors and walls.

  • Service penetration seals

Denotes systems that protect gaps left by service elements such as pipework, electrical fittings and ventilation systems.

  • Structural steel protection

The purpose of such protection is to prevent steel heating up and deflecting in the event of a fire.

  • Fire doors

Fire doors are available in different ratings which shows how long they can withstand a blaze.

  • Fire rated partitions

Designed to split the building up into suitably sized fire compartments. 

With so many solutions to choose from, specifiers can become confused about how to effectively deliver PFP in buildings. As such, it’s often best to partner with a PFP expert to ensure effective results. On the whole, to get the most from PFP, it’s imperative that solutions are considered at the early stages of a construction project. Not only does this enable better cost-effectiveness, but it also helps to ensure greater compliancy when compared to retrofitting the solutions. 

Often, there are several different specialist contractors involved in the installation of fire containment solutions. Lack of communication between these trades – especially in current circumstances where physical contact is minimised – increases the likelihood of misunderstandings. Consequently, PFP is now more at risk of being ineffectively installed, which poses a significant risk to building occupants. To minimise the chances of a mistake, it’s important that specifiers choose easy-to-install PFP solutions. This means selecting effective, but straightforward PFP products, which can be implemented simply. Furthermore, in looking to reduce on-site mistakes, it’s best to choose solutions, which are supported by thorough technical documentation, as well as advice from the manufacturer throughout the installation.

With greater access to information, contractors are able to achieve more effective PFP installations and ensure buildings are properly protected. Involving the manufacturer at the design stage of the process is even more efficient therefore specifiers should look towards those that provide solutions supported by strong technical support. Nowadays, suppliers like to offer additional support to specifiers, such as CPD accredited training, online CPD training and Building Information Modelling (BIM) objects. In turn, this suite of value-added services ensures access to a wealth of information from the offset.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, this added support is more important than ever before. In such challenging times, as specifiers, architects and designers continue to work remotely, suppliers who are embracing technology, such as videoconferencing and ensuring that its teams remain available through these channels, will prove particularly valuable. Indeed, some companies are fully prepared and equipped to deliver its CPDs virtually via Zoom or MS Teams, meaning that specifiers and architects can continue to refine their understanding of PFP and ensure that they are considering it at the early stages of construction projects.

To learn more about designing effective firestopping solutions, products available on the market and case studies, please visit: www.quelfire.co.uk