Fire security experts must be active in all building projects, whether commercial or residential, from the beginning. They will advise on the fire safety standards needed for structural steel in buildings.
Multiple structural defects were found by investigations into the Grenfell Tower fire. The building’s cladding was found to have a number of defects upon inspection. This resulted in “multiple disastrous fire-spread paths,” according to fire safety engineer Barbara Lane. This highlights the fact that a building’s security needs more than just alarms and sprinklers.
The word “structural controls” refers to how fire safety is integrated into a building’s structure. They ensure that a building’s structural integrity is maintained for as long as possible in the event of a fire.
The primary aim of structural fire safety is to avoid fire and smoke from spreading within a structure. This helps to contain the destruction and ensures that the building’s residents have enough time to safely evacuate. In the event of a fire, the Building Regulations for England and Wales have guidance for how long a structure must preserve its structural stability:
– For 30 minutes, a structure less than 5 meters tall must remain stable.
– For 60 minutes, a structure between 6 and 18 meters tall must remain stable.
– For 90 minutes, a building between 19 and 30 meters tall must remain stable.
Several structural measures will be addressed in this article to prevent a building from being completely consumed by fire. These initiatives, when properly applied, will save lives and reduce financial losses.
Steel can lose its load-bearing properties once it exceeds a certain temperature (between 350° and 750°) in the event of a burn. Steel structures must also be insulated with an intumescent coating. This expands the time until the steel collapses, allowing firefighters more time to evacuate a structure.
Multiple chemical components within the intumescent coating react when exposed to temperatures of up to 250°C. As a result, the coating becomes denser, forming a fireproof layer to protect the steel. From thin filming coatings to spray-applied paint, intumescent coatings may be applied in a number of ways.
Both on and off-site, intumescent coatings are simple to add. They can be used on a number of materials, including steel, concrete, wood, and composites. Furthermore, an intumescent coating has no effect on the material’s mechanical properties. This means that once subjected to high temperatures, the coating is basically “neutral.” As a result, intumescent coatings are both efficient and reliable in terms of fire safety.
The division of a building into a series of “cells” is known as fire compartmentation. After that, fire-resistant materials and frameworks are used to isolate the cells. Because of the ‘chimney effect,’ a fire will easily engulf a structure. As airflow between floors and rooms ‘pushes’ flames within a building, this is known as suffocation. This effect is minimized by compartmentation, which confines the flames and smoke to a single cell.
Fire walls, doors, and cavity partitions are all examples of ways to compartmentalize a structure. Smoke is prevented from spreading across open spaces in roofs and across floors by using cavity barriers. Concrete, gypsum, and masonry are some of the materials that can be used to build these barriers.
There’s no question that, in theory, compartmentation is a safe way to prevent a fire from spreading. However, due to building repairs, compartments can be breached at times. This takes us to the next structural fire safety step.
Plumbers, electricians, and contractors can unintentionally compromise structural fire safety measures while working on a building. Let’s say an electrician drills holes in a fire wall and runs wires through it. The wall no longer provides adequate fire protection, no matter how small the hole is. Fire has the power to pass through even the tiniest cracks and ignite almost everything in its path. As a result, these positions must be filled as soon as possible, by eligible firestopping contractors. This is referred to as ‘fireproofing.’
The use of unique fire-resistant materials is needed for effective fireproofing. Intumescent sealants must be used to fill any breaches in fire compartments. when subjected to extreme heat This covers any holes and stops smoke and fire from going through.
Fireproofing is necessary for all openings between compartments, including doors, windows, joints, pipes, and ducts. It is important that in the case of a fire, fire does not have the ability to break through a compartment.
It’s important for construction professionals to realize that investing in structural measures isn’t enough. First and foremost, these steps must be carried out in line with industry regulations. Second, they must be checked on a regular basis, with any breaches or content deterioration being resolved as soon as possible.