The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Compartmentation – Part 34

August 8, 2018 8:40 am

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, the aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 33 of this series, we looked at the potential for fire spread through the internal structure of the building, particularly the minimum periods of fire resistance provided by elements of the structure. In part 34, the use of compartmentation is discussed.


Compartmentation is provided by the fire-resistance of walls, floors and apertures to prevent the spread of fire between areas within the minimum period of fire resistance. In areas accessed by patients, compartmentation can be used to provide temporary places of safety for refuge in case of fire. In general, compartmentation prevents the rapid spread of fire throughout the building.

Where a building has more than one storey, each floor should be a compartment floor to avoid the spread of fire between levels.


In a healthcare venue, the maximum size of a compartment should be dictated by its usage. It is a strong recommendation that the size of a management department dictates the size of the compartment.


The maximum size of a compartment should not exceed 2000 m2 in a multi-storey building or 3000 m2 in a single-storey building.


The minimum period of fire resistance previously mentioned refers to both integrity and insulation of compartment walls. For a single-storey healthcare building, the minimum period is 30 minutes unless this conflicts with prescribed requirements. Where a building is sprinklered throughout, the minimum period remains 30 minutes and for all other healthcare buildings, including ones with basements more than 10 m deep and/or which have four storeys or more above ground level, the minimum period is 60 minutes.


It should be noted that all compartment floors are considered elements of structure and so should satisfy the same requirements.


Materials used to meet the provisions are classed as ‘Materials of limited combustibility’ and are tested in line with BS 476-11. Where sprinklers are installed throughout a healthcare building, the necessity for elements of structure and compartment walls to be constructed of materials of limited combustibility does not apply.


In part 35 of this series of fire safety in healthcare premises, LWF will look at openings in compartment walls and floors and how these should be protected to provide at least the minimum period of fire resistance. 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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