Fire spread in buildings is a risk to life safety for which the Building Regulations aims to reduce to acceptable levels. For the designer, there is a responsibility to specify materials, and to provide details that:
- reduce the potential for fire ignition
- limit the spread of fire
- stop the passage of hot gases and smoke
An appropriately designed building will allow people remote from the seat of a fire to escape and provide a building from which the fire service can deal with the fire safely and effectively.
Structural fire safety is achieved either by what is called ‘passive protection’ e.g. fire resistant lining boards and/or ‘active protection’ e.g. smoke ventilation, alarm systems and sprinklers. For the structural engineer, the material choice within the structural solution will influence the passive and active fire protection strategy.
The Eurocodes deal with specific aspects of passive fire protection in terms of designing structures and parts thereof for adequate robustness against fi re ignition and in the load bearing resistance under fire time duration.
The structural engineer is not specifically involved in the design for active fi re protection, or in the layouts for fire compartment sizes and escape routes. These aspects fall under the guidance of the architect and are an integral part of building design. A structural engineer must be aware of what is intended in this respect however,
as fire safety design requires an integrated approach by all members of the design team.
The structural engineer, in specifying products, should take account of CE marking which, under the Construction Products Regulation means that a product’s fire safety is now an essential part of the declaration of performance.
The required level of fire performance for structures is typically given in terms of a reaction to fire classification and a fire resistance rating, as given in the Building Regulations.
This notebook provides an introduction to fire safety in relation to timber structures. Designers involved in fire engineering should be aware that it is a specialist subject and that this notebook is a top-level introduction to the scope of fire safety issues.