Tackling Passive Fire Protection with effective insulation specification
As Building Regulations have become more stringent over time, specifiers need to make smart choices when it comes to choosing insulation solutions. Here, Annemarie Shotton, Category Group Manager for insulation at CCF, discusses the challenges and how CE-marking and third party accreditation certified insulation products offers an efficient and simplified solution for Passive Fire Protection.
Fire protection and safety has long been an important and vital part of the specification and building design process due to the ongoing responsibility of the construction industry to ensure that fire related accidents and fatalities in buildings are reduced. This is why having a sound understanding of the Building Regulations and the implicit relationship these have with the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety), in addition to how insulation is integral to Passive Fire Protection, is instrumental to the success of commercial and Multi-occupancy projects.
Building Regulations and The Regulatory Reform Order
As the industry will already be aware, Approved Document B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations stipulates the conditions that have to be met to ensure a safe means of escape from fire, including minimum periods of fire resistance which need to be achieved. Additionally, most commercial buildings will also be subject to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which was introduced to simplify and consolidate fire safety legislation.
For commercial insulation specialists, both the Building Regulations and The Order are equally important. Failing to adhere to both will cause problems at the preliminary stages when submitting building permission plans. Even if plans are accepted, checks then made by the Building Control Body and Fire Safety Enforcing Authority could reveal discrepancies if plans aren’t executed in line with regulations. This could result in the building not being signed off, and subsequent delays, additional cost, as well as the risk of prosecution, fines and imprisonment.
It is therefore obvious that getting insulation specification right first time, in line with the building design, is fundamentally important to the success of a project. Likewise, because insulation can significantly affect the spread of flame and its rate of growth, smart specification to prevent rapid spread of flames is crucial and should not be overlooked.
Fire Protection Specification
Different types of fire protection, be it Active (covers detection and suppression of fire, including fire alarms and sprinklers) or Passive (covers the containment or the delaying of the passage of fire) work together to provide a means of escape for occupants. For insulation specialists, Passive Fire Protection (PFP) and structural protection systems are the main concern, with the specified insulation materials and the building design playing a crucial role in the amount of evacuation time available.
PFP methods such as insulation will slow the progression of a fire. For example, choosing ‘Euroclass rated A1’ non-combustible classified products, such as stone wool insulation which is made from volcanic rock giving excellent resistance to heat, are proven to slow the spread of flames by protecting the structural frame of the building from destruction by fire. Euroclass Product ratings go down to ‘E’, which is the most dangerous and ‘F’ is unclassified.
Not only is the insulation material type important but the building design is vital too. Compartmentation and structural protection to create a safe means of escape for occupants and access for firefighting personnel is a requirement. Compartmentation is achieved by dividing the building into a series of fire tight boxes (compartments), which will form a barrier to the products of combustion; smoke, heat and toxic gasses.
Compartmentation in the form of Cavity Barriers may be required to inhibit the spread of flames and smoke within horizontal and vertical sealed spaces. Cavity Barriers, which are installed at eaves level at the head of the cavity wall provides effective perimeter edge seal that minimises air leakage and heat loss between external cavity and separating party walls.
In terms of how specifiers and installers can ensure that PFP products and systems are compliant there are a number of checks to remember to make.
CE-marking and Third Party Accreditation
Since July 2013 CE-marking of all construction products, covered by a harmonised European standard has been mandatory under the Construction Products Directive (CPD). Part of this CE-mark is the declaration of the reaction to fire classification of the product. This gives insulation specifiers reassurance that the product meets the requirements of the relevant technical specifications.
It is also a legal requirement that insulation products should be tested by a credible source to British, European industry standards and test methods. This is where third party accreditation evidence, which verifies building products and system as being compliant with those standards, comes to the fore.
Choosing third party approved and certified insulation products and systems eases the process of achieving building control and compliance sign off. All while giving the assurance that products have satisfied the most rigorous of quality processes; linked with the factory production and full scale laboratory testing in the given application. By seeking out suppliers with third party accreditation it is undeniable that risks are certainly reduced.
Help and Support
Insulation distributors such as CCF can help provide insulation specifiers and installers with the latest information relating to fire safety, protection and products. This is important, as getting it wrong can be very costly to rectify, incur fines and in some cases prosecution. So don’t be afraid to seek out professional advice and mitigate the risks by choosing suppliers that can help you to meet the challenges presented through the likes of CE-marked and third party accredited products.