Passive Fire Protection: Part 1

Making smarter choices when it comes to passive fire protection can mean the difference between survival and complete devastation. Learn more about what to look out for and minimise the spread of fire in your building. 

Welcome to the interesting world of fire and smoke walls, penetrations and building compartmentalisation. Although mostly unseen these important parts of building design contribute significantly to the overall fire safety and passive fire protection of any building. 

Most people have some appreciation for what smoke detectors and fire alarms do – they serve as an early warning to the buildings occupants to facilitate a fast response from the emergency services, as well as safe timely evacuation to ensure people are kept well away from danger.

The structures in a building that form part of their passive fire system however, come into play once a fire has already taken hold and typically work without any external intervention or power, hence the term passive fire. There are a myriad of products and complex rules regarding their use and suitability for purpose. Some commonly used products are fire collars, intumescent mastic, and fire rated boards.

Fire collars

Here is an example of fire collars in use. They contain intumescent materials that expand rapidly with heat, to effectively seal the penetration and resist fire burning from one level to the next.

A keen observer will also notice some of the defects in this photo;
A) The use of (plastic) non fire rated fixings;
B) The incorrect collar type used on the right above the floor waste pipework.

There is no substitute for experience and knowledge and when assessing passive fire assets an eye for detail is a must. While it is fairly simple it is also very easy to get wrong. 

Again, easily noticeable, in this image, is that the top PVC pipe is not afforded collar protection where it penetrates the fire wall. In this instance neither pipe was compliant due to the fact it is also a requirement that these type of retrofit fire collars are required to be installed on both sides of the wall in horizontal wall penetration installations.

Has your building been tested by accredited technicians? Call us if you have any questions. 

Switch room – wall penetration

Cable and conduit penetrate without being fire sealed. In this instance there is a requirement for both fire and smoke separation from the adjoining corridor. Small penetrations like this can be easily overlooked and underestimated as to their importance. Effective containment of building fires has been clearly shown to protect human life and limit the damage to building assets, both the contents and the actual buildings themselves.

Smoke wall – penetration 

Initially believed to be a fire-rated LWC wall, inferring fire collars would be required, was subsequently found to be required to be smoke rated only. In this case sealing with mastic was an appropriate method to seal the pipe penetrations.

Close examination of construction plans and assessment given known BCA and Australian Standards shows additional expenditure on the behalf of building owners is not always required to ensure compliance.

It is important the correct product and the correct installation are utilised in the correct locations. Buildings need to have the appropriate maintenance and testing to ensure no unprotected penetrations exist.

Passive repairs are usually one off and don’t always require ongoing maintenance and therefore represent real investment in ensuring continued safe buildings both for their inhabitants, contents and structure of those builds.

If you have any questions about the passive fire protection of your building or facility, or notice anything that appears faulty or defective, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

To learn more about fire and smoke damper maintenance, click here.