What is passive fire protection designed to do?

Passive fire protection is part of a building's systems to do a variety of things. If installed correctly, it should reinstate the fire rating of walls, floors and ceilings where penetrations have been made to allow services to pass through. It can only provide protection equivalent to the substrate it is installed in. For example, installing compound in a riser floor that might be tested for up to 4 hours can only be certified to the same rating as the floor into which it is installed. If, the slab is 60 minutes, then the compound is certified for 60 minutes. Effective passive fire protection will delay the spread of fire between compartments giving people time to escape. It should also provide protection to strucural parts of a building to prevent collapse. The most important part is to preserve life but it is also there to limit damage to the building once everyone has escaped. It is important that a building has a proper fire strategy, designed by a qualified fire engineer and that the strategy is implemented using not only passive fire protection but active measures, clear escape routes, functioning fire doors and signage.

What regulations cover passive fire protection?

In England and Wales, you should refer to Building Regulations Approved Document B (ADB). In Scotland, the Scottish Building Standards Agency publish Technical Standards. In Northern Ireland, you should refer to the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, specifically Part E Fire Safety.

Is third-party accreditation mandatory?

At the moment, third party certification is not a legal requirement of the building regulations but there is an obligation on all parties involved in building or refurbishment to ensure that the requirements of the regulations are installed correctly. The best way to ensure that you are meeting that requirement is to only employ installers with third party certification. Then you are assured that the installing company and their operatives have been trained and their competence assessed. This requirement is likely to change as an outcome of the Grenfell Inquiry, or if it doesn't change, then it should. For a more detailed look at certification, read this article and video on the subject by BAFE The Fire Safety Register.

Can I specify a manufacturer or product for you to use on my project?

You can specify a manufacturer of products that you would like us to use on your project but we must check that the products offered have test evidence that they will perform in your building. This is a fundamental requirement of our third party certification. We will examine the manufacturer's documents and the exact product used and the configuration of those products will form part of your site documentation for your Operations & Maintenance manual. If your chosen manfuacturer has not got test evidence that suits your particular building, it does not mean that those products are poor. We can approach manufacturer's and describe your circumstance and ask that they either test their product in your configuration or provide an "engineering judgement confirming that they are suitable. This costs time and money so we would always recommend that we choose the most appropriate manufacturer for your project. We work with a number of passive fire protection manufacturers so we should be able to find an already-tested configuration of products to suit.

Can products from different manufacturers be used together?

No. Manufacturer's only test their own configurations of products and then publish the results. This is fundamental to the certification of an installation. If we used Company A's batt with Company B's sealant, we would not be able to provide you with the documents to show that this combination had been successfully tested in a laboratory.

How will you document my installation?

We use a system called Bolster. This enables us to track, photograph and sign off every individual installation on a project in real time. At the end of a project it produces a detailed report with before and after images and details of exactly what products have been used so anyone can check that it has been done correctly. We have to provide these reports to our third-party certifier so that they can audit our installations and ensure that we are following manufacturer's installation instructions and best practice. We can also provide you with marked up drawings that are cross-referenced to the images and documents.

Will you issue a certificate?

Yes. We have third party certification from IFC. At the start of every project, they are informed via their website. This gives them the opportunity to require a random audit. When the project is complete and the sire documentation is complete, we issue the certificate from IFC's website.

What training is available in passive fire protection?

If you are looking to become a passive fire protection operative, the first thing we recommend is that you complete the Association of Passive Fire Protection Introduction to... course. This is a Level 1 course that is accessed online and will give you a good overview of the work involved and how it works with other fire protection measures in a building such as sprinklers.

There is an NVQ available for PFP, but these tend to be for experienced operatives that need a formal qualification rather than something that provides training to a complete newbie.

ASFP have other courses at Level 2 and 3 that involve instructor led training.

Most manufacturers provide some level of training. This can range from a two-hour CPD presentation to a one-day course. It is worth going to as many of these as you can find. Most of the core products are fundamentally the same (but cannot be interchanged) but each manufacturer has one or two distinct products that may solve a difficult installation problem.

What is the difference between integrity and insulation?

Passive fire protection ratings are expressed in terms of hours and generally there are two ratings that should be considered. The first one is integrity. This is the length of time that the solution is designed to withstand the effects of fire and to maintain compartmentalisation. The second one is insulation. This is the length of time that the solution prevents the transfer of heat from the fire side to the non-fire side. This is important so that potentially combustible materials on the non-fire side are not heated to their flashover point and start a new fire in a separate compartment.

Can you inspect and sign off work done by others?

No, unfortunately we can only provide certification for works done by us. There are some companies that can provide you with reassurance for work in place but generally they will require you to know what products were used and will most likely want to do some destructive testing. This will only be a "best efforts" report, not certification.