Solid Fire Protection Must Start With Correctly Specified Insulation
Posted on March 11, 2015 by CCF
The Regulatory Reform Order is the biggest fire safety reform in over 30 years and places a degree of responsibility for reliable and solid fire protection systems with the specifier and contractor. Annemarie Shotton, Category Manager for Insulation at CCF, explores whether awareness of this serious duty is strong enough and discusses its importance to installation standards across the industry.
The significance of fire safety, for protecting both life and property, doesn’t need to be reiterated. However, the importance of complying with fire protection specifications and installation details does. The right insulation system can play a vital role in the passive fire protection of a building and it’s vital that the right system is used and installed correctly as per the test certificate. The reality is that insulation products form an integral part of Passive Fire Protection (PFP) with the specified materials playing a crucial role in the amount of evacuation time available.
In 2000, to consolidate and clarify fire legislation, the industry saw the introduction of Euroclass classifications relating to the surface spread of flames. Euroclasses replaced the traditional Class O classifications and created a harmonised European method of comparing a product’s reaction to fire, with testing standardised through BS EN 13501-1.
Insulation products that are intended for use in wall and ceiling constructions are classified into seven levels, A1, A2, B, C, D, E and F, based on numerous reactions to fire such as the creation of smoke, flaming droplets, or particles.
Although not mandatory, products achieving A1 classification are defined as non-combustible by UK Regulations, whilst limited combustibility products require an A2 classification or higher. Mineral wool insulation such as Stonewool products are those that are commonly A1 rated. Often made from spun molten rock at a temperature of 16000C, these products have natural fire protection properties.
Under CE marking, it is now mandatory for all insulation manufacturers to label their products in line with the Euroclass ratings. This investment has equalled a much more robust approach to classification and means that choosing the right product for the right application, should be clearer than ever before for the contractor.
The Regulatory Reform Order was introduced to place a higher level of responsibility on the shoulders of specifiers and particularly contractors. The Order ultimately places the emphasis on complete fire prevention rather than protection once a problem occurs. This has made comprehensive assessments of which building materials should be used for each specific application a necessity. These evaluations must take place as early as possible to identify potential fire risks so that the relevant building materials can be implemented and any foreseen risks eliminated.
This assessment process has meant that the input of contractors is essential at a stage much earlier in the project than traditionally expected. They must feed into the building design and provide direction on how the right insulation products can contribute to a solid protection system; however, I feel that awareness of this responsibility still needs to be raised further amongst contractors, particularly due to the serious nature of the material’s purpose.
Contractors must understand that if they change any element of a fire protection system without the approval of the specifier, or if an installation isn’t completed in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines, then they are accepting liability.
This accountability means that any problems meeting requirements at the building sign-off stage or any future failure of the fire protection system will also be linked back to the contractor. This is likely to mean prosecution, fines, and potential court orders in the most serious cases.
With innovative products regularly entering the market, insulation now has a strong position in the creation of an effective PFP system. With the Regulatory Reform order now in full-swing, contractors must be even more involved in the design and specification stage, as well as being stringent when selecting fire safe products.
I believe distributors must play a role in raising awareness of this increased responsibility on the part of the contractor. Key industry players such as CCF are crucial in providing expert advice and additional resources of support. For us, this means a dedicated insulation sales force and ‘insulation champions’ in each branch to provide information on topics such as acoustics, thermal efficiency, and fire protection.
Therefore, it is advisable to make the most of the vast experience of those behind the local trade counter. By taking advice from insulation specialists, contractors can guarantee that they will meet all necessary requirements and ensure that their knowledge of fire protection solutions is as up to date as possible.
CCF is a leading interiors, insulation, and building products distributor. Insulation news, comment pieces, and blogs will be posted throughout 2015 on www.ccfltd.co.uk/CCF_Updates. Visit the website to find out more or follow CCF on Twitter via @CCF_UK and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/ccf. Call the CCF insulation sales team directly on 0844 892 2563.