Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants
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Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment - Compartmentation & Property Protection - Part 8

Posted by LWF: 04/10/2018 13:32

In LWF’s fire engineering blog series for Architects and others in the building design industry, we have recently been looking at how compartmentation can be utilised in a build with property protection as a focus. While compartmentation is primarily used to reduce the chances of fire spreading for life safety purposes, loss prevention is increasingly important to building owner/occupiers and insurers alike. In part 7 of this series, we began to look at the guidance available on property protection from fire and part 8 continues from that point, before looking at the impact of fire engineering techniques on compartmentation use.

The FPA and RISC Authority published a version of Approved Document B – Volume 2 (Buildings other than dwellinghouses) called ADB Fire Safety Buildings other than dwellinghouses which uses the original text and contains enhancements through additional text, diagrams and tables to deliver guidance on property protection and business interruption issues.

The NFPA 220 Standard on types of building construction and the International Building Code both contain information on the types of building construction based on the combustibility and fire-resistance rating of the building elements going into its structure.

NFPA 221 Standard for High Challenge Fire Walls, Fire Walls, and Fire Barrier Walls specifies requirements for the design and construction of such walls, including protection of openings and penetrations to separate buildings or subdivide a building to prevent fire spreading.


Fire Engineering & Compartmentation

While compartmentation has been the stalwart of building design for fire safety purposes, developments in fire engineering have meant that alternative methods of life safety and property protection have become increasingly popular to enable variations in design. Projects such as sports stadia, airport terminal buildings, shopping centres and atrium buildings have all required fire safe design which also enabled the use of large open spaces. This has meant that the traditional limits on compartment size were no longer suitable.

In such cases, the fire safety strategy for the building must be clearly defined and the role of compartmentation within it seen within the context of the overall strategy. Fire engineering designs for buildings with large open areas may preclude the conventional standards of compartmentation, instead using other fire safety measures such as fire suppression and ventilation strategies. 

A fire engineering strategic approach would require the design team to address certain questions:

- Does the building need to be compartmented?
- What are the possible fire scenarios?
- How big can a compartment be?
- To what rating does the compartment need to be enclosed?

The questions will be answered through the production of the fire safety strategy for the building and where compartmentation is required, the maximum area of the compartment can be determined by the strategy rather than by prescriptive guidance.

In part 9 of this series, LWF will look at the combination of compartmentation and sprinklers. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF's publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.



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