New research reveals many architects don’t fully understand passive fire protection and fire resistance. Only 8% are reported to be able to correctly define four key fire safety terms, including fundamental concepts that should underpin basic fire safety design.
In its April edition Fire magazine featured a study commissioned by fire retardant technology company Zeroignition which has revealed that architects have amazing gaps in their knowledge base on fire safety. Architects were asked about their understanding of active fire protection, passive fire protection, reaction to fire and fire resistance terms. But 92% apparently failed to satisfy researchers that their understanding was complete – when the result should have been that nobody had any real doubts since all four requirements taken together are key in designing and building for fire safety.
Fire resistance is a key property of passive fire protection systems and it shouldn’t be possible to design modern buildings in compliance with building regulations if there isn’t a grasp of what fire resistance is all about. Fire resistance fundamentally means the ability of a product system and elements of construction, including those systems, to prevent the passage of fire from one side to the other.
Fire resistance therefore fundamentally contains the concept of fire containment, i.e. preventing the movement and development of fire away from and beyond the boundaries of the place where it first breaks out. Compartmentation is a basic fire design concept and that cannot be achieved without the use of fire-resistant passive fire protection barriers to contain fire.
It is really difficult to understand how a sample of architects can be so apparently lacking in their appreciation of what are fundamental principles for protecting buildings and people against fire. Yet 71% were found to admit to not understanding fire resistance.
A basic requirement of fire resistance is referred to as integrity. That requires the fire-resistant barrier to significantly prevent the physical passage of fire through the barrier, from one side to the other. To do that the barrier needs to stay in one piece, without catastrophic collapse and without cracking up to allow the passage of flames or hot ignitable fumes from the fire.
To do that requires special properties: not only resilience against thermal shock and thermal stress but also an ability not to soften and melt as heat builds up over time, or if the local fire load leads to a high intensity fire.
Fire resistance is a property established against prescribed pass/fail criteria by evaluation in standard tests by building the fire-resistant barrier into one wall of a gas or oil-fired furnace. The temperature-time profile is an internationally agreed standard, designed many years ago to represent a particular developed post-flashover fire condition. The test is carried out for set time periods to allow product and system classification. Those classification times are from 30 minutes minimum, up to 4 hours (i.e. 30, 60, 90, 120 and 240 minutes). Test temperatures approach 840 deg C after 30 minutes, rising gradually to around 1150 deg C after 4 hours (with high levels of heat build-up during the time of continuous heating).
Ceramic Glass Limited has been involved in fire safety since 1982 as a dedicated supplier of integrity fire-resistant ceramic glass FireLite. As a transparent ceramic FireLite has ideal properties to perform as a robust resilient barrier against fire. It has a softening point above typical flashover maximum temperatures in building fires and is specifically designed to be immune to thermal stress (as a result of an effective zero thermal expansion coefficient that avoids significant thermal stress generation).
FireLite is therefore ideal for use as vision panels and glazed screens. Use as an integrity barrier in external glazing can also be effective in preventing fire break-out and break back in for tall buildings should fire spread up the outside of the façade. It has the core property of being able to survive in tests for longer than 4 hours, even resisting without change the impact of a cold-water hose stream at the end of 4 hours exposure to demonstrate effective resilience against thermal shock and stress.