How are firestopping projects audited and approved?

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This is the third in a series of blogs about Multivista’s industry-leading Automated Firestopping Assessment.





Common approaches for installing firestop systems

As mentioned in the first blog of the FireTalk series, firestopping is a complex design process involving five different parties. A typical firestop partition, for example, requires one party to design it, another to build it, a third to design the service distribution, a fourth to install and space the services, and a fifth to specify and install the firestop systems.


Sealing penetrations by a trade contractor. Photo courtesy of Quelfire

With this in mind, there are three main approaches to installing firestop systems:

The first approach is when a general contractor decides that “whoever pokes the hole, fills it.” So, each trade is responsible for its own penetrations.

“Inspection costs rise dramatically [for this approach] due to multiple trades involved and submittal package variances to field applications. It is difficult to manage anywhere from 2 to 40 subcontractor firms that touch effective compartmentation with their penetrating pipes, ducts, cables, etc.” — FCIA member Rob Hlady of Affinity Firestop Consulting.

In the second approach
, the general contractor abdicates responsibility from the various subcontractors and assigns it to a specialty firestop systems installer/contractor.


A firestop contractor checks a through penetration. Photo courtesy of Construction Specifier

Under this approach, a specialty firestop contractor handles the entire firestop system installation including rigorous documentation to ensure consistent quality and increased efficiency. 

For the GC or Project Manager, it’s easier to deal with a single firestop contractor rather than the nine-plus possible trades (e.g. plumbing, carpentry and joinery, tiling, plastering, and painting and decorating, etc.) associated with firestopping on a project.

The third approach is a hybrid of the first two.


Why is Approach #2 gaining momentum?

Qualified specialty firestop contractors utilise industry standard quality management system protocols such as FM* 4991 and/or the UL** Qualified Firestop Contractor Program, which audit the firestop contractors’ quality processes.

*Factory Mutual (FM) Global, a global property insurance company
**Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a worldwide safety consulting and certification company


A qualified firestop contractor installs a firestopping system. Photo courtesy of Construction Specifier

Each specialty firestop contractor has a distinct method of selecting classified firestop systems, communicating them to the jobsite team, and ensuring proper installation through inspection that verifies the quality of their work.

Furthermore, for each specialty contractor there is a designated responsible individual (DRI) who manages the installation and quality processes in accordance with the testing directories, engineering judgement, and/or equivalent fire-resistance-rated assemblies.

Contractors choose to become FM 4991 Approved or UL Qualified Firestop Contractor accredited for a variety of reasons. For one, many projects now specify firestop quality control protocols and inspection standards as a requirement for selecting Firestop Contractors. Secondly, these standards and protocols are gaining wider international acceptance.


How is Approach 2 inspected?

Firestopping Inspection firms that provide third-party verification on installed systems now use standardised inspection practises to ensure proper firestopping installation. These standards (for example, ASTM E2174 and ASTM E2393) cover barrier penetrations, wall top joint systems, expansion and construction joints, and perimeter fire barriers.


“Building owners, general contractors, and design/build firms want [firestop inspections] so there are no surprises during the building commissioning process.” — FCIA firestop consultant member Patrick Tesche, explaining the huge demand for a third-party independent inspector of firestop systems.


Why is maintenance easier with Approach 2?

As building services change, new penetrations through fire resistance rated barriers must be continuously inspected and maintained to ensure the compartment’s integrity.

Building owners and managers have adapted the use of “firestop permits” in their facilities to control newly installed or new changes to firestop system documentation for this purpose.

By relying on a sole speciality firestop contractor, it is easier to perform this maintenance, saving time and effort.


What is next?

Top architects, engineers, fire marshals, and building code officials all support firestopping systems manufactured by quality companies and installed by specialty installation contractors in compliance with ASTM E2174 and ASTM E2393 inspection standards. This combination provides the most effective total firestopping quality management process.

To assist inspection firms and firestop contractors in carrying out their processes and procedures, Multivista has developed an innovative technology that is the first in the world to automate firestopping assessments.


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