Playing for Time

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Playing for Time

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Here, Keith Wells, Managing Director at Quelfire, looks at why compartmentation in buildings relies on effective fire stopping of service apertures.

“Building Regulations’ Approved Document B requires buildings to be sub-divided into a number of discreet compartments using construction materials in order to prevent the passage of fire from one cell to another for a given period of time.  These passive fire protection systems effectively compartmentalise a building by creating fire-resistant walls and floors, typically with 30, 60, 90 or 120 minute protection. Firestopping products used to maintain the integrity of these compartments must be tested to current standards including BS EN1366-3: 2009 and BS476: Part 20: 1987.

An important element of creating an effective passive fire protection system is ensuring buildings are designed with fire rated compartments. It is these compartments that protect ‘means of escape’ routes from the building, for example, corridors and stairwells. Occupants rely on the integrity of these fire compartments to ensure their safe evacuation. However, over the years, as buildings are renovated or altered, fire compartments can be compromised. Simple changes such as drilling a hole through a wall for new HVAC or IT services can result in a breach. Even a drill hole the size of a pencil that hasn’t been adequately fire stopped can allow rapid spread of smoke in minutes, leading to potentially devastating consequences.

Retaining a safe means of escape for building occupants relies on the fire compartmentations being regularly checked and as such should be an integral part of any existing fire risk assessment. Building owners and facility managers should verify that whoever is undertaking the fire risk assessment includes a review of fire compartmentation, focussing on whether penetrating services have been suitably fire stopped, properly supported, and are in good condition and complete. They should also check for third party certification, including products used and identification of installers. All fire stopped penetrations should be labelled and recorded and carried out by a competent person or external fire inspection company.

System approach

Helping customers to create and retain fire compartments was one of the reasons why we have put together a one-stop-shop system that is aimed at specialist firestopping contractors as well as drylining and partitioning installers. A major benefit of our new firestopping system is the high quality of individual products, comprehensive testing and technical back-up, which means quicker and more efficient installations. In combination, they save time and labour costs on site, so contractors have the potential to complete more quality installations during a given time, and for commercial teams to present an enhanced value proposition at tender stage.

New to the firestopping system is QuelCoil Continuous Intuwrap, a universal application that can be used on a variety of pipes, including non-combustible insulated pipes. Unlike traditional wraps it can be cut to length on site, minimising waste, creating a better fit and reducing costs for the installer.

Also part of the system approach is QuelStop Fire Batt, a coated mineral wool board that provides up to 2 hours fire rating. Recent tests show that it offers increased scope of applications. It is effective at reinstating the fire rating of wall and floor constructions where they have been penetrated by services.

Additional development and testing of the QuelStop Intumescent Acrylic Sealant, which has just gained CE-marking, provides up to 4 hours fire rating (EI240), has again increased its scope of application. Completing the firestopping system are Quelfire QF2 Fire Protection Compound, a gap filling material where cables, ducts or pipework services penetrate fire compartment floors and walls, and QuelStop HPE Intumescent Graphite Sealant, a high expansion intumescent acrylic based graphite sealant. The QuelStop system is also compatible with other Quelfire products, such as fire collars and fire sleeves.

All the products have undergone rigorous testing as a complete system, which means contractors avoid having to source different products from multiple suppliers. It is suitable for use with most common service penetrations as well as some of the more uncommon or unusual applications.

Our aim with introducing the system approach is to support firestopping contractors by providing them with a one-stop-shop, single branded system. It brings together a number of new and existing products, enabling contractors to retain high quality fire compartmentation. Sourcing passive fire protection systems from Quelfire also means contractors receive all the value for money benefits of buying direct from the manufacturer. Most products in the system are available on next day delivery.

Quelfire is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of specialist passive fire protection for buildings and has 40 years’ experience of supplying high quality, independently tested solutions. Products are tested to the current standards including; BS EN1366-3: 2009 and BS476: Part 20: 1987. A number of its products are also CE Marked.

Time’s up

The importance of fire compartments can’t be underestimated – they provide more time for occupants to escape by protecting the integrity of ‘means of escape’ routes such as stairways, whilst delaying the spread of fire to other areas of the building. It is also worth bearing in mind that a hole in a wall that is only the diameter of a pencil will allow smoke to pass into the compartment, meaning that a person would be unable to see an object half a metre in front of them within only a few minutes. Ensuring effective fire stopping is carried out really is playing for time.”

For more information on Quelfire’s new firestopping system, visit: www. quelfire.co.uk or call: 0161 928 7308.

Published May 2018

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