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Fire Risk Assessment for Healthcare Premises – Managing Fire Safety – Part 117

December 12, 2022 11:42 am

LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals aims to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 116 of Fire Risk Assessments for Healthcare Premises, LWF discussed compartmentation in healthcare buildings. In part 117, we consider elements of structure and fire resistance and sandwich panels.

Elements of Structure and Fire Resistance

In a healthcare environment, it is imperative that the safety of all building occupants, but especially dependent and very high dependency patients is a primary consideration. For this reason, the structure of a building is very important. Each element of the construction, such as columns, load-bearing walls, floors, structural frame etc. should possess the following as minimum levels of fire resistance:

  • In a single-storey healthcare building – 30 minutes fire resistance
  • Healthcare building with between 1 and 4 storeys above ground – 60 minutes fire resistance
  • Healthcare buildings with more than four storeys above ground – 90 minutes fire resistance
  • Healthcare buildings with basements two or more storeys below ground – 90 minutes fire resistance

It is possible to lower the duration of fire resistance required in all but the first example, above, (30 minutes duration is the very minimum fire resistance duration permissible) by the appropriate installation of an automatic fire suppression system, most commonly, sprinkler systems.  This commonly reduces the duration of fire resistance required in the structural elements by 30 minutes.

Sandwich Panels

Some healthcare buildings have insulated core panels as exterior cladding or have used them for internal structures and partitions.

The reason they are seen frequently is their ease of use. They are easily constructed and this enables alterations to the interior of a building and for partitions to be erected with minimum disruption to the day to day activities of the hospital.

Sandwich panels normally consist a centrally insulated core sandwiched between an inner and outer metal skin with no air gap. Externally, they are normally coated with PVC to improve weather resistance and to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

It should be noted that the central core of sandwich panels may be made of virtually any insulating material and the flammability of such ranges from non-combustible through to highly-combustible.

In Part 118 of LWF’s blog series, LWF will discuss how highly combustible cores in sandwich panels used in healthcare buildings can be safely mitigated. 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 since 1986 to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact LWF on freephone 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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