The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – Compartmentation & Property Protection – Part 7

September 27, 2018 2:28 pm

In LWF’s Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others in the building design industry we have recently been looking at compartmentation. In part 6, how compartmentation affects life safety through limiting the spread of fire and smoke in a building for the period of fire resistance was discussed. In part 7, we talk about compartmentation and property protection.


Whether considering the benefits to building occupants or a building and its physical contents, the premise of compartmentation is the same – that the fire is contained within its area of origin for the duration of the structural fire resistance, which is measured in minutes. The minimum amount of fire-resistance in compartmentation is usually 30 minutes.

When considering property protection, this means that the damage caused by a fire will be limited to one area of the building with the remainder undamaged, so long as the fire is extinguished in a timely manner.

The use of compartmentation in a building means that excessive damage to the building from fire and smoke is not usually experienced. Valuable materials can be protected, and business continuity can be relied upon.

Where the aim is to contain the fire in the smallest area possible, the use of compartmentation and/or a sprinkler system is recommended.  Both compartmentation and sprinklers have been proven in real fire situations and tests to reduce fire spread and although sprinkler systems in particular are suitable for retro-fitting into older buildings, ideally, both should be considered for use at the design stage of a new build even where they are not required for life safety reasons.

Loss Prevention Guidance

While the Building Regulations are produced with life safety in mind, property protection may require additional or differing measures. The LPS/FPA Design Guide (PDF) gives loss prevention guidance for those who design and construct industrial and commercial buildings. It looks at fire safety in buildings to reduce the risk of fire and the effects of fire should it occur. The guidance is likely to assist with meeting the requirements of building insurers.

The core document within the FPA Design Guide – Compartmentation – looks to address the fire integrity of compartments with respect to the interactions between walls, floors, structural framing and roofs, along with the importance of fire-stopping service and other penetrations through the compartment enclosure.

In part 8 of this series, LWF will continue looking at the Loss Prevention guidance available, starting with Approved Document B. 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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