Fire safety

Fire compartments – your unknown friend in case of a fire

Andrei Mircea Corches
Andrei-Mircea Corches
28 March 2019

Find out what a fire compartment is, along with the critical role fire resistant materials play in your building.

Fireman, Fire, Stairs, Building

How much do you know about fire safety?

You wouldn’t necessarily think that a fire would break out in the confines of a building you’re residing in, but as a matter fact, on average, approximately 3.7 million fires occur in cities worldwide per year, and an average of 43.2 thousand lives are lost as a result1.It is therefore essential for buildings to have high quality fire safety measures in place, otherwise lives are put at risk.

That means that you would want to know the answers to questions such as “Does the building have adequate level of fire compartmentation?” and “Is the building made of fire resilient materials?”

A fire compartment is an area that contains the fire once it has started, preventing it from spreading to the rest of the building. Ideally, this area would be as small as possible so that the damage done is minimised.

It is absolutely important that the walls, ceilings, floors, and doors of the fire compartment can withstand a fully developed fire, without allowing heat, flames, or toxic smoke to pass through the compartment boundaries. The walls, ceilings, floors and doors should primarily be constructed from non-combustible materials to secure that the building elements do not contribute to the size of the fire.

This is especially crucial after the fire reaches the flashover point, as fire compartmentation is the only way to contain the fire within a small area. This ensures that it achieves its goal of keeping flames from overwhelming a building.

After flashover, the fire is so intense that it can break through regular windows and expose the exterior of the building to flames. This will ignite any potential combustible materials on the facade, which can further lead to vertical spread of fire, thus negating the purpose of the fire compartment. A façade system made of non-combustible materials can counteract this by slowing the spread of fire and smoke.

On average, approximately
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fires occur in cities worldwide per year

The combination of effective fire compartments and non-combustible façade systems play a key role in giving residents more time to evacuate the building in case of fire. It also gives firefighters safer environment to combat the fire and rescue people.

An added benefit of fire compartments is that fire damage to the building will largely be contained within a small space. This means that other parts of the building can stay safe.

Overall, fire compartmentation with a high fire resistance is an essential tool for minimizing the consequences of a fire. 

International fire safety standards evaluate fire resistance using tests based on exposure to the standard time-temperature curve. The results are expressed in minutes that a construction element can resist a fire before the construction either collapses or the temperature on the unexposed side is getting too high. Fire tests are performed on new constructions under ideal conditions, and the fire resistance in real life will likely be lower than the claimed rating. As such, additional safety factors are recommended to ensure adequate fire safety for the entire useful life of the building. E.g. if 60 minutes of protection is required, use constructions with a fire resistance rating of 90 minutes.

A great solution to fire safety in buildings is stone wool insulation. Stone wool is inherently non-combustible and can resist temperatures above 1,000ºC. This makes it an excellent material for use in fire compartmentation, assisting in containing fire locally. 

 

Source(s):

1. Center of Fire Statistics (CFS) of International Association of Fire and Rescue Services (CTIF), 2018. Fire Statistics Report no 23.

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