Façades & Fire Safety – In Context
During this blog series we’ve looked at the limitations of the linear route to fire safety compliance for insulation within façade systems at, or above, 18 metres:
- Materials aren’t subjected to large-scale testing as part of a complete façade system in order to justify their performance in a specific scenario.
- As such, this begs the question ‘can behaviour within a façade system be truly accounted for when, for example, limited or non-combustible insulation materials are installed behind combustible external cladding materials?’
The fire safety engineering and performance based routes to compliance aim to close this evidential gap. They use relevant supporting test data, giving a greater assurance of performance when in-situ. However, as specifications are rarely made solely based on fire performance, it is essential to view these routes within the context of other factors which can influence specifiers.
Take for example the façade insulation material. The primary role of this product is, of course, to help conserve energy. This makes thermal performance of paramount importance, but it is still just one of a number of important considerations which include:
- Product Lifespan: issues such as moisture resistance, air–infiltration and durability can all impact the thermal performance of the insulation over time.
- Insulant Thickness & Weight: Along with the obvious implications for structural loading and ease of install, thicker insulation materials can also have long term cost implications as discussed in the Real Value of Space research.
- BBA Certification & LABC Registered Detail Status: These certifications can help to streamline the building control checking and approvals process, keeping projects on schedule and on budget.
- Environmental Impact & Responsible Sourcing: With ongoing demand for buildings to be constructed to the highest sustainability standards, the BRE Green Guide rating and other certifications, such as BES 6001, are a key consideration.
- Technical Expertise & Support: Having reliable access to accurate technical information can make a world of difference, whether in the office or on-site.
In order to deliver the best possible results, these elements should all be considered within the context of the building as a whole – its overall design, its intended use, and any associated risks or benefits arising from selected materials in-situ. The fire safety engineering route to compliance is a natural extension of this approach, providing a thorough, scientific framework for achieving truly fire safe buildings which stand the test of time.
Ultimately the construction industry faces a simple question. If compliance with the Building Regulations / Standards for energy performance & CO2 in Great Britain is achieved through the adoption of a ‘Whole Building’ approach, why settle for anything less when it comes to fire safety?
To the view the full technical bulletin of Façades and Fire Safety, including case studies, simply click here.
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