Why Firestopping is Crucial

The design of commercial and industrial buildings is now required to take into account fire protection measures, both active and passive. Active fire protection includes systems that are activated in the case of fire – such as sprinklers, or extinguishers. Passive fire protection is part of the structural design, and its purpose is to contain the fire and manage its impact for up to 4 hours.

Passive fire protection materials include; fire protection barriers, fire and blast panels, intumescent paint, and firestopping, or penetration sealing. The goal of fire protection is threefold:

  1. Provide time and evacuation routes for the safe passage of employees from the building.
  2. Protect critical plant and maintain the structural integrity of the building.
  3. Allow fire fighters access to the source of the fire.

In this blog, we shall look at the crucial role firestopping plays in fire protection.

What is Firestopping?

Even a highly rated fire partition is of little use in containing a fire if the gaps in the wall created by cables, pipes or ventilation ducts are not sealed effectively. Without firestopping these gaps allow smoke, or potentially toxic gases to escape, which may endanger the lives of employees attempting to evacuate the building. Firestopping involves the use of fire protection materials to close these gaps in order to ensure a 100% seal around compartmentalised spaces.

How Firestopping Contributes to Compartmentalisation

Suppose that a fire starts in a room next to you. Fire protected walls offer effective containment ensuring the fire won’t spread. If, however, there is even the smallest of apertures through which smoke can escape, the room will become smoke-filled in less than 5 minutes. Compartmentalisation ensures that fire is contained effectively. Firestopping ensures that the measures are absolute.

The Requirements of Penetration Sealing

Firestopping is required to work equally well in an office building, or in nuclear power stations. For this reason the sealing process has to take into account the impact of explosion and blasts as well as fire. Seals are required therefore, to:

  • Resist movement or vibrations
  • Be gas and water tight
  • Allow for adaptation to irregular shaped openings
  • Resist chemicals, water or alkaline
  • Provide effective protection against hydrogen sulphide and methane
  • Use odourless, non-toxic and non-corrosive materials
  • Be shock absorbent

Combustible Pipework or Cabling

Where the pipes that penetrate fire partitions are made of combustible materials which are likely to melt in the case of a fire, intumescent materials may be used to protect them. Intumescent paint is designed to swell to 50 times its volume when the environmental temperatures reach 120ºC. This insulates the pipes, protects the structural integrity of the pipework, and ensures that potential collapse doesn’t create large apertures in sealed partitions.

About Wallace Fire Protection Ltd

Wallace Fire Protection Ltd is a specialist contractor, providing bespoke fire protection design and installation to the construction industry, power generation and utilities across the UK. We are a licensed and approved installer of Promat DURASTEEL®, and provide fire partitions, blast panels and penetration sealing solutions to a range of clients, including nuclear power stations and transport infrastructure.

Would you like to know more about Wallace firestopping solutions? Call our specialist team today on 01908 109045