With new European fire test standards becoming mandatory in 2011, Corus has put itself one step ahead of the game with the publication of a ground breaking new technical paper Fire Performance of Pre-finished Steel Cladding Systems. Taking an in-depth look at present requirements for fire safety, the paper provides architects and designers with comprehensive guidance on the legislative and insurance requirements that need to be considered when it comes to addressing fire performance. Ian Clarke, Applications Development Manager at Corus Colors, gives a brief overview of this new research and explains how we can meet fire safety regulations.
Fire safety is a huge issue in the construction industry today. Over the past decade, the media has been awash with reports on incidents of fire and its effect on UK buildings. However, it was a 1999 fire destroying a residential apartment building in Ayreshire that really brought home to the Government the full extent of the risk presented by the effect of fire on cladding systems. Fire safety regulations have therefore become paramount with primary consideration being given to the performance of a building in a potential fire situation right from the initial concept stage of a design.
At Corus, we take fire protection very seriously we are continually researching and implementing solutions that enable us to help our clients build safer buildings. The purpose of this new technical paper has therefore been to provide lucid practical guidance on fire safety requirements that minimise the risk to building occupants in the event of a fire breaking out.
When designing buildings with pre-finished steel roofing and cladding systems, compliance with building regulations and insurance requirements are the two major considerations that need to be addressed. Steel cladding systems can easily meet both of these but variables including building location and application will influence the specific requirements.
In terms of meeting fire safety regulations for new buildings, Approved Document B is the latest industry standard to follow. It is one of a series of approved documents issued by the Secretary-of-State and provides guidance on the fire safety requirements for completed buildings. Building regulations are intended to ensure that reasonable provision has been made to minimise the risk to people in the building. It should be remembered that the protection of property and the building itself may require additional measures and insurers will generally specify their own higher standards before accepting any insurance risk.
When looking at buildings, insurance requirements specifically relate to minimising the financial risk of fire to an acceptable level. In recent years, a number of high profile fires have attracted attention from both the media and insurance companies resulting in heightened interest in the specification of roofing and wall cladding systems and insulation.
Compliance with Building Regulations is now no longer considered by insurance companies as sufficient with them now often specifying additional fire performance criteria that building components must meet. The Association of British Insurers (ABI), the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) and FM Global all set their own approval tests when it comes to considering insurance.
Above all is the fundamental approach to risk management and minimisation as part of an overall strategy which is to say that fire safety considerations should be incorporated in the overall design strategy of a building not just as a stand alone element.
When considering fire regulations for steel cladding systems, there are various aspects that need to be considered to meet building standards and insurance requirements; issues such as provision and fire resistance of external walls and internal compartmentation being of key importance.
With any fire test, there are two vitally important criteria integrity and insulation. Wall integrity being the ability of a system to prevent the penetration of hot glasses and frame, whilst insulation relates to the ability of the system to reduce the temperature rise on the unexposed side of the fire - therefore preventing fire spread through radiated heat.
Failure criteria are clearly set out in Approved Document B building requirements. Building integrity has not been met when there is a collapse or sustained flaming on unexposed surfaces; when flames or hot gases cause flaming or glowing on external faces, or when a gap gauge of specific size can be moved through a space and into the furnace. Insulation failure is therefore deemed to have occurred when the unexposed temperature increases by more than 140 degrees or when the temperature at any point exceeds 180 degrees.
Meeting the requirements
To ensure compliance with all of these fire safety requirements, consideration should therefore be given to key points namely compliance with Approved Document B requirements. National and European standards exist for testing and assessment of product fire performance, and there is currently a period of co-existence of standards, which means that either National or European test methods and classifications can be used to demonstrate compliance with building regulations.
Demonstration of compliance with insurance requirements is also of utmost importance. When looking at insurance risks a number of factors must be taken into account. These include intended application of a building, building fabric, safety management, internal sprinkler systems, compartmentation, panel core material and panel construction and joint design. Insurance companies often specify that building components must meet additional fire performance tests. Cladding systems that meet the requirements of these tests are generally regarded as presenting a lower level of fire risk.
In terms of giving a true reflection of meeting and even exceeding insurance requirements, approval from Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) can make a big difference. FM Approvals and independent assessment also give an excellent recommendation to fire safety standards.
When it comes to addressing fire safety requirements, testing is clearly a key element of success. Fire safety is increasingly important in todays world, and all those responsible for designing and delivering buildings should make it a top priority. With building requirements and insurance regulations widely available there is no defence for an office, apartment or retail development that does not meet strict standards.
Having developed technical data, Corus has tested and proven the fire safety capabilities of Corus Colorcoat® pre-finished steel products, whilst also establishing that all cladding systems using Colorcoat® pre-finished steel products meet fire safety requirements to provide the construction industry with confidence that any pre-finished steel roofing or cladding system will contribute to a buildings safety and offer protection to all its occupants.
By adhering to the maxim that consideration should be given to the specification of wall and roof cladding systems at the initial design concept stages of a building taking into account their material properties in context of regulatory and insurance requirements as an industry we stand to create an outstanding reputation for safety and building management.