Passive Fire Protection in High-Rise Buildings

The spectre of the Grenfell fire disaster back in June 2017 requires that we shine a spotlight on the ways in which we protect the lives of residents living in high-rise buildings. The ongoing inquiry into the disaster has also highlighted need for us to learn urgent lessons from this tragedy. These should then be applied to how we construct tower blocks for future use, and protect those living in existing high rise buildings.

The Role of Passive Fire Protection for Residents

Passive fire protection (PFP) provides a fundamental guarantee of safety for residents living in multi-storey buildings. Despite its name, passive fire protection is proactively integrated into the constructional fabric of the building, in order to create a safe means of escape, over a designated time period, for residents. PFP requires no human agency in order to be effective, its defences are engaged automatically, should fire break out.

Countering the Risks of Fire in a High-Rise Environment

As we saw in the example of Grenfell, a high-rise building is a dangerous environment, should a fire break out. The flames can spread quickly between floors, and it may prove difficult for fire-fighters to reach and tackle the blaze on higher up. Residents may find their exit routes cut off by fire, or be given instructions which end up being counter to their safety.

Passive fire protection technologies, if routinely installed in new build developments, provide protection for residents and the maintenance of the structural integrity of the building. The ways in which fire is managed by PFP may be divided into two categories: resistance to fire and reaction to fire.

Passive Fire Protection Offers Resistance to Fire

Resistance to fire is achieved when a high-rise building is designed to limit the spread of a fire. This requires compartmentalisation whereby fire resistant materials are used to contain the fire close to its source or origin. Effective compartmentalisation requires the floors and walls of each compartment to be fire-resistant. Each flat in a high-rise should form a discrete compartment. This is achieved by the integration of fire protection barriers and fire-resistant panels.

Firestopping Materials for an Effective Reaction to Fire

Compartmentalisation is the first step to managing a fire, but firestopping is equally important to the minimising of risk. Firestopping describes products that stop the ingress of water, smoke or toxic fumes between compartments. It is also the means by which the structure of the building is protected from flames or high temperatures.

Firestopping products include:

About Wallace Fire Protection Ltd

Wallace is a specialist contractor, providing bespoke passive 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 DURASTEELĀ®, 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 talk to a Wallace specialist about passive fire protection? Call our team today on 01908 109045