In the first part of this article, Jane Embury, looked at the growing culture of fire safety. Here she looks more closely at compartmentation.
Effective fire safety provides safe evacuation and the minimum of financial loss. In turn, that better ensures business continuity.
The key to achieving that is compartmentation, with fire contained in a discrete area. Compartmentation also involves fire-protecting escape routes.
At Wrightstyle, our systems have been tested to UK, EU, US and Far Eastern standards, and often subjected to site-specific testing.
It means that we have a comprehensive understanding of fire dynamics and how fire can spread beyond its place of origin.
Fire spreads by three methods, the first of which is convection. This is where fire or smoke passes through holes or gaps into other parts of the building.
Second, conduction, when heated materials transmit that heat to other materials, which then ignite.
Spread of fire
Third, radiation, which is the transfer of heat through the air.
Fire safety systems, including advanced glazing systems, are designed to prevent the spread of fire by one or more of these methods.
Compartmentation is a fundamental element in fire safety, sub-dividing buildings into compartments with fire resistant walls, floors and doors.
This prevents the spread of fire and smoke between each compartment and between floors. It facilitates evacuation, minimises damage and allows firefighter entry.
Where progressive evacuation has to be considered, additional “protected areas” or “refuge points” can be included in the building design.
Fire doors are an important element in compartmentation, and Wrightstyle has a full range of fire doors, providing protection from 30 to 60 minutes.
We were also the first company to introduce unlatched fire doors, adding an additional level of aesthetic practicality.
But technical excellence only goes so far because we’ve seen many examples of poorly-fitted or badly-maintained fire doors.
We quite recently reported that one of our staff saw – ironies of ironies – a hotel fire door propped open by a fire extinguisher.
Needless to say, all fire doors should be professionally fitted, inspected regularly and properly maintained – which isn’t always the case.
We’ve also recently introduced a dual-directional fire-rated system because fire can, and does, start from either side of a glazed assembly.
Traditionally, an advanced glazing system offers protection only from one direction – from a high-risk to a low-risk area.
The target performance, itself demanding, was to achieve EI120 (120 minutes integrity and insulation).
In the event, the test ran for a period of 148 minutes. Such a comfortable overrun is rare in high-performance tests, and represents a milestone in fire safety.
That aspect of testing is crucial because, at Wrightstyle, we rigorously test everything. For example, when we introduced a bomb-resistant system, we live tested it against a lorry bomb. You can see a video of the test here.
Compatible testing is also important because it tests each component in the glazing system. The glass and its framing system may be compatible on paper, but there’s no substitute for an actual test.
It’s what allows us to market our systems as complete and guaranteed. All our systems, the glass and its framing system, have been tested together as one unit.
Ultimately, it’s about recognising that fire can be both friend and enemy. It may cook our food and heat our homes, but fire can also be deadly.
Mitigating against the risk of fire is therefore a sensible precaution and a legislative necessity. Specifying Wrightstyle systems is a good place to start.