Unconscious cheating in passive fire protection?
Contractors in the field of passive fire protection make sure that parts of buildings divided into fire sections and limited by fire cells comply with defined functional requirements (E, I and R) in the separating structure. They close openings, create seals around installations or protect load bearing structures.
There is no official requirement that a contractor must be certified or have special qualifications in order to perform this kind of work. The requirement is to use the correct system or material and to follow their installation instructions. The works must then be checked/inspected to ensure that they have been correctly undertaken and documented. It is now common for many fire safety consultancy companies to offer implementation checks to make sure that the fire safety description has been followed. They check the contractors’ self-checks and documentation, and inspect the completed works.
And so to the problem
When it comes to fireproofing for penetrations or fire protection of load bearing structures, simplified dimensioning is always applied in the fire safety description of a project. This means that the general advice on functional requirements as described in Chapter 5.231 of BBR (the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning’s Building Regulations) must be followed. The systems and products must then be tested in accordance with the following adopted standards:
- Penetrations <– EN 1366-3 (most recently adopted in Sweden SS-EN1366-3:2009)
- Linear joint seals – EN 1366-4 (SS-EN1366-4+A1:2010)
- Applied reactive protection to steel members
- EN 13381-8 (SS-EN 13381-8:2013)
In Sweden we use national certificates (e.g. type approval certificates) to verify and guarantee that our products comply with our defined construction regulations. We also have the facility to test in accordance with the latest European standard (EN) and to obtain an ETA that makes it possible to CE-mark these products and market them in Europe. There is no difference between the latest EN standard and the confirmed Swedish standard for passive fire protection.
The Swedish National Board of Housing has opened up the possibility of not having a requirement that products must be tested in accordance with the latest standard, as there may be a possibility, by means of analytical dimensioning, of being able to use products tested according to other standards within non-harmonised product areas.
Unfortunately, certification bodies interpret this possibility differently, which means that older tests are accepted by one certification body but not by another, which requires tests in accordance with the latest European standard. This means that we have a number of products with valid Swedish certificates that have been tested according to old, discontinued standards (SIS 024820, NT FIRE, etc.).
As current test standards are “tougher” and adapted for passive fire protection, this causes serious difficulties in using these products through analytical dimensioning.
How big is this problem, and why?
We would estimate that in Stockholm more than 80% of new installations have used incorrect systems and solutions that do not follow the projects’ fire safety description with regard to simplified dimensioning. The consequence is fire protection that fails to meet the requirements of current building regulations. Unfortunately this has been the case since January 2013, when the new building regulations came into force.
So is this being done consciously?
No, we believe that the biggest reason for this is ignorance and a lack of information. No information from suppliers and a major lack of knowledge among purchasers, inspectors and executing contractors.
And so it continues…
We must have better descriptions that state clearly what applies and above all we must have control of the fire protection system selected as an item in the control plan. If you apply simplified dimensioning, there must be information stating requirements that systems and products must be tested in accordance with the latest adopted standard and not simply, as is now the case, refer to the fact that products must have type approval.
We must make sure we start following the building regulations that we actually have.
Unconscious cheating in passive fire protection? Written by Peter Walter guest author of Brandposten