Tim Kempster, managing director, looks at fire compartmentalisation, in other words: keeping fire locked in.
Fire remains a potent threat, despite advances in building design and construction and the enforcement of strict building regulations.
Essentially, fire safety in commercial buildings is down to three things. First, an alarm system to detect and warn of the danger. Second, a sprinkler system to damp down the fire. Third, fireproof compartments to contain the fire at source and prevent it from spreading.
Taken together, those active and passive measures allow occupants to escape from the building, and provide safe access for the fire and rescue services. How those elements are applied depends on the size of the building, its complexity and its function.
For example, an evacuation plan for a hospital or care home will be different to that of an office block. Building safety must address the mobility, or otherwise, of its likely occupants.
Whatever the building, compartmentalisation is fundamental to its safety. It creates a series of protected fire zones to ensure that the fire is contained.
Fire is spread through three methods: convection, conduction and radiation. Convection is when smoke from the fire becomes trapped by the roof, spreading in all directions.
Conduction is the process whereby materials such as metal absorb the heat and transmit it to other rooms. That can cause secondary fires to break out.
Lastly, radiation which is the transfer of heat through the air. This too can set off new fires, spreading the danger from its original location.
Our advanced systems are there to protect against convection, conduction and radiation. Wrightstyle’s curtain walling, internal doors or fire screens offer up to two hours of protection. That’s more than enough time for a safe evacuation, even in a complex building.
But building designers and specifiers must ensure that the glass and its framing system have proven compatibility. That means insisting on comprehensive fire test certification that covers both elements.
In a fire, the glass and its frame have to function together to prevent the spread of fire, smoke or toxic gases. If one fails, both fail, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
At Wrightstyle, we’ve invested in fire certification in the UK, USA and Far East – a reflection of our global business, and our confidence in our systems’ performance.
We can also handle each step – from designing bespoke solutions, to fabrication and installation: an end-to-end service with comprehensive guarantees at each stage.
We can’t prevent fire from happening. But we can prevent it from spreading, and that’s just as important.
Picture: One of our advanced systems being fire tested in the USA.