The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – Fire Safety on construction sites – Part 16

October 26, 2020 12:22 pm

In LWF’s Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others involved in building design, we have been looking at those activities of a company which can be classed as fire safety management. In part 15, LWF discussed fire training for construction site staff and life safety standards. In part 16, we consider the fire precautions on a site that may be built-in or ‘hidden’.

Fire precautions for a building which are built into the construction are most effective when they work in harmony with the building’s normal use. One example is that in a healthcare building, the department boundaries are marked by compartmented enclosures offering a period of fire resistance to avoid fire spread to the next compartment/area. The doors will be fire-resistant and self-closing meaning that no effort is required by building occupants in their use of the building to ensure the fire-resistant construction will work as intended if there is a fire.

All in-built fire precautions require checks and maintenance, however. Something as simple as a drilled hole in a compartment wall could allow smoke and fire to travel through the aperture into the next area.

On construction sites the same considerations should apply, with the fire precautions ‘hidden’ in the fabric of the building during the process of development. The use of reinforced concrete, for example, provides fire resistance to the required value as soon as the formwork is removed. Steel provides inherent fire protection, but for a much lower fire load than that for the finished building.

Fire protection measures included in the process of construction not only provide fire safety during the building process, but also help to ensure the measures put into place are cost-effective. It is certainly more economical to incorporate built-in fire precautions as the building progresses than it is to attempt to retro-actively supplement an almost finished build.

Some large construction projects may have extended timescales and parts of the building may be completed and cleared for occupation while work continues in other areas of the same site. In such circumstances, additional care should be taken, especially where the area to be occupied includes sleeping quarters, e.g. residential or other sleeping accommodation.

The completed parts of the building will be subject to the requirements of the Building Regulations and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in England and Wales and therefore the risks of construction on the site must be mitigated. It may be necessary to provide additional, and possibly temporary, fire safety measures to offset the level of risk.

In LWF’s next blog for Architects and others with an interest in fire engineering and building design, we will begin to look at CIBSE Guide E 2019 edition. 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 the LWF office on 0800 410 1130.

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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