When it comes to building or renovating a home, safety should always be a top priority. One area that should never be overlooked is passive fire protection.
Passive fire protection measures are designed to restrict the growth and spread of fire, helping to minimise damage and, most importantly, protect human life.
In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of passive fire protection for self-build homes, including what materials are combustible and non-combustible, the best insulation materials to use, where insulation should be placed, and the difference between passive and active fire protection.
Two of our members from Technical Building Solutions spoke at SelfBuild Dublin on this topic.
When Does Fire Occur in the Home?
Before we delve into the specifics of passive fire protection, it is important to understand the basics of fire behaviour. A fire cannot occur until the oxygen level in the atmosphere has reached around 15%.
Once the oxygen level is sufficient, a substance must be heated to its ignition point before it will catch fire. Once ignited, the fire will spread if there are other combustible materials in close proximity.
What Is Meant by Combustible and Non-Combustible?
The terms combustible and non-combustible are used to describe the flammability of building materials. Combustibility is a measure of how easily a substance can be set on fire, through fire or combustion.
Non-combustible products are classified as non-combustible to BS 476-4:1970 (2007) or classified as class A1 to BS EN 13501-1:2002. Examples of non-combustible materials to be found in construction include totally inorganic materials such as concrete, fired clay, ceramics, metals, plaster, and masonry containing not more than 1% by weight or volume of organic material.
Following the Grenfell Tower Fire, a decision was taken to ban combustible materials in the cladding for buildings over 18m in height. It is important to note that this ban does not apply to all combustible materials in construction, but rather to those that are deemed high-risk in certain situations.
What Is the Best Insulation to Use for Passive Fire Protection When Building a Home in Terms of Combustibility?
When it comes to insulation materials, there are several options available. However, it is important to choose a material that is non-combustible or has a low combustibility rating. Here are some of the best insulation materials to use for passive fire protection:
This is a common insulation material made from recycled glass and sand. It is non-combustible and has a good fire rating, making it a good choice for passive fire protection. We stock glass fibre mineral wool by Knauf.
This is similar to glass fibre mineral wool but is made from volcanic rock. It is also non-combustible and has a high melting point, making it a good choice for fire protection. We stock rock fibre mineral wool by Rockwool.
This is a type of foam insulation made from polystyrene. It is highly resistant to moisture and has good thermal insulation properties. While it is not non-combustible, it has a low combustibility rating and can be used in certain applications for fire protection. We stock extruded polystyrene by Ravago.
This is another type of foam insulation made from polystyrene. It is lightweight and easy to install but is not non-combustible and has a higher combustibility rating than extruded polystyrene. We stock expanded polystyrene by KORE.
These are two types of foam insulation that are highly fire-resistant and have good thermal insulation properties. They are often used in commercial and industrial applications where fire safety is a top priority. We stock PIR/phenolic by Kingspan.
This is a type of reflective insulation that uses multiple layers of foil to reflect radiant heat. While it is not non-combustible, it has a low combustibility rating and can be used in certain applications for fire protection. We stock multi foils by YBS.
The best insulation materials to use for passive fire protection are those that are non-combustible or have a low combustibility rating.
Glass fibre mineral wool, and rock fibre mineral wool, are good choices for fire protection. Extruded, PIR/phenolic, multi foils and expanded polystyrene can also be used in certain applications, but are not non-combustible and have a higher combustibility rating.
Where Does Insulation Go in a Building and How Can it Protect Us From Fire?
Insulation can be used in various parts of a building, including walls, floors, roofs, and ceilings. When used in walls and floors, insulation can help to prevent the spread of fire by providing a barrier between rooms.
Insulation in roofs and ceilings can help to prevent the spread of fire from the top of a building to lower levels.
It is important to note that not all insulation materials provide equal protection against fire. In order to ensure that insulation provides adequate protection against fire, it should be tested and certified to meet the relevant fire safety standards.
What is the Difference Between Passive Fire Protection and Active Fire Protection?
Passive fire protection measures are designed to restrict the growth and spread of fire, while active fire protection measures are designed to extinguish fires.
Passive Fire Protection
Passive fire protection measures are designed to restrict the growth and spread of fire, while active fire protection measures are designed to extinguish fires. Examples of active fire protection measures include fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers.
Passive fire protection is designed to restrict fire growth and limit its spread, mainly by containing the fire within the room or compartment where it started. Passive fire protection systems are always in place and require no activation in case of a fire.
The materials used in passive fire protection are non-combustible and do not ignite easily. Examples of passive fire protection measures include separating walls and floors, fire-rated doors, fire-rated light covers, and fire collars for PVC pipe work.
Separating walls are walls that create a barrier between two compartments of a building. In case of a fire, the wall should be able to resist the spread of flames and smoke for a specified amount of time. Fire-rated doors are similar and are designed to resist the spread of fire and smoke for a specified amount of time.
Cavity fire barriers and fire-rated cavity closers are also essential components of passive fire protection. Cavity barriers are installed to seal the gap between the exterior wall and the inner wall or floor, preventing a fire from spreading through the gap.
Fire-rated cavity closers are installed in the cavity to seal the gap around doors and windows.
Designing Fire Management into Buildings
Fire management in the built environment is continually evolving, and as such, designers and architects need to keep up with the latest developments.
There are four main areas of fire management: fire precautions, fire prevention, fire safety management, and fire risk management.
- Fire precautions refer to the measures taken to prevent a fire from starting, such as ensuring electrical equipment is well-maintained, avoiding the storage of flammable materials in inappropriate locations, and providing adequate ventilation.
- Fire prevention refers to measures taken to prevent a fire from spreading, such as installing passive fire protection measures and active fire suppression systems.
- Fire safety management involves ensuring that a building’s occupants are aware of the fire safety procedures, such as evacuation procedures and fire drills. It also involves regular testing and maintenance of fire protection systems.
- Fire risk management is the process of identifying and managing fire risks in a building. This includes conducting risk assessments and implementing measures to mitigate the risks identified.
Strategic fire risk management involves taking a more holistic approach to fire safety, taking into account a building’s overall design and function. This approach involves considering factors such as building occupancy, location, and surrounding infrastructure, among other things.
Fire safety is a crucial aspect to consider in any building project, and it requires a combination of both passive and active fire protection measures to ensure the safety of occupants and the property.
Passive fire protection is focused on preventing or slowing down the spread of fire, while active fire protection systems aim to extinguish or control the fire once it has started.
Choosing the right insulation material for passive fire protection is crucial to ensure the building is safe and complies with regulations.
How does SIG’s Technical Building Solutions Team help with Passive Fire Protection?
SIG’s Technical Building Solutions Team plays a vital role in ensuring Passive Fire Protection in construction projects.
They provide cost-effective and regulatory-compliant proposals with impartial product advice to architects, designers, QS/specifiers, consultant engineers, main contractors, and specialist sub-contractors.
With their expertise and support, construction projects can be designed and executed with the highest standards of fire safety, protecting both property and human lives. This service is free and is available to anyone looking for advice on a construction project. You can find out more here.
SIG Technical Building Solutions provides cost-effective and compliant solutions for the construction industry, with impartial product advice and support for architects, designers, QS/specifiers, consultant engineers, main contractors, and specialist sub-contractors.
With ongoing advancements in fire safety technology and management, it is vital to stay up-to-date with the latest standards and regulations to ensure the safety of buildings and their occupants.
We’re exhibiting at SelfBuild Dublin this weekend (5th – 7th of May 2023). Two members from our Technical Building Solutions Team, Eoin Rylands and Michael O’Neill are speaking at the event. On Passive Fire Protection for residential buildings. If you have any questions, ask the experts at Self Build!