This is the first in a series of blogs about Multivista’s industry-leading Automated Firestopping Assessment.
- Firestopping is a serious matter. Are you doing all you can?
- Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, there has been a surge in interest in firestopping.
- Contractors and owners are now viewing firestopping in a new light.
- Firestopping is a complicated process involving at least five different parties.
- Even the firestopping planning process is challenging
- Choosing a firestopping material is critical
Firestopping is a serious matter.
Are you doing all you can?
Firestopping is the practice of designing and selecting materials to prevent fire spread through Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) penetrations in walls, ceilings, and floors. Thus, a properly implemented firestop can provide firefighters and fire-prevention systems with valuable time during an emergency, allowing them to limit damage and potentially save lives.
Firestopping measures prevent fire spread.
Photo courtesy of Fire Stopping of Service Penetrations: Best Practice Guide
Firestopping is a complex process that is usually planned during the design phase of a construction project to ensure a proper emergency evacuation plan. However, many owners and contractors do not take firestopping seriously enough, resulting in future disasters.
Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, there has been a surge of interest in firestopping
The tragic Grenfell Tower Fire, the deadliest structural fire in the United Kingdom since 1988, has heightened public awareness about firestopping. The fire was started by a faulty fridge-freezer on the fourth floor. It quickly spread up the building’s exterior, bringing fire and smoke to all of the residential floors. The fire’s rapid spread was due to the building’s cladding, external insulation, and the air gap between them, all of which enabled the stack effect.
Grenfell Tower Fire. Photo courtesy of Sky news
Following the tragedy, the construction industry has put a renewed emphasis on firestopping measures, record management during operation, and evidence of compliance at handover.
As a result, construction professionals are increasingly adopting digital solutions and BIM processes to better manage building safety information by incorporating fire rating information into each pipe, duct, cable tray, or ladder at each fire-rated barrier. Industry leaders are also looking for technology-assisted workflows that can automate manual fireproofing assessments.
Contractors and owners are now viewing
firestopping in a new light
Contractors who fail to deliver proper firestopping measures are likely to encounter unfavourable situations such as legal claims, financial retentions, and having to spend more money to correct deficiencies and rework. More and more top contractors around the world have begun prioritising firestopping measures in order to reduce risk and provide more accurate pricing through tenders.
Sealing a penetration.
For building owners, firestopping is critical for life safety, compliance, and the protection of their properties. Even a minor fire can cost millions of dollars to repair and thus raise insurance premiums.
Firestopping is a complicated process involving
at least five different parties
Aside from the difficulty of manual compliance and maintenance, Firestopping is a complex design process involving multiple parties and stakeholders. A typical firestop partition, such as the one shown below, involves up to five parties:
- 1. A party that designs the partition and the opening within it
- 2. Another one that constructs the partition
- 3. A third one that designs the service distribution
- 4. A fourth one that installs and spaces the services
- 5. A fifth one that specifies and installs the fire stop
A Firestop Partition. Photo courtesy of Rockwool
Even the firestopping planning process is challenging
Contractors should start planning and designing for firestopping early on to ensure a solid foundation from the start. To begin, they should develop design specifications for utility and service penetrations that adhere to firestopping best practises. Coordination with subcontractors is required to ensure that electrical penetrations are built with fire-rated materials.
Second, contractors should use 3D virtual construction documentation software like Multivista Documentation Software to correlate firestopping data with BIM. On large projects, this simple step can help to expedite permitting and inspection approvals.
Third, they should use automated data analysis of penetrations to streamline time-consuming and labor-intensive assessments, as well as produce detailed analyses of existing work to plan for upgrades and improvements to fire safety systems.
Finally, they should hand over visual documentation and BIM to owners or property managers for future renovation, repair, and maintenance.
Choosing a firestopping material is critical;
the emphasis should be on resilience rather than strength
A successful firestop is defined by its resilience over time, not by its strength. This means Firestopping materials are commonly rated using time as the primary metric. The most common ratings are 1, 2, and 3-hour firestop products, which are designed to withstand fire for that amount of time. In less common builds, you may require 4 or even 6-hour materials. Smoke ratings are also common, as smoke barriers buy occupants time to exit the building.
A Firestop Partition. Photo courtesy of Firestop Contractors International Association
There are three common passive firestop materials:
- Endothermic material absorbs heat to keep the temperature on the other side of the wall from rising.
Endothermic material. Photo courtesy of Fire and Materials Journal
- Intumescent material expands under heat to crush the penetration around the wiring and form a tight seal.
Intumescent material. Photo courtesy of Clariant
- Ablative material develops a hard char that resists erosion from fire, producing a rigid barrier that withstands direct impact from a water hose.
Endothermic material. Photo courtesy of Fire Security
Are your firestop materials up to passive fire protection inspection standards? Review this checklist to find out.