December meeting – fire safety in apartments

Published on: Dec 11, 2013

Here will follow my hastily scribbled notes from tonight meeting:

Tonight speaker is William Ward from ARUP.

Various problems with apartments from a fire safety perspective
1. Responsibility – not always clear who is responsible for the building.
2. Competency – the people running the company don’t always have the necessary skills
3. Design – lack of storage, access for people with impairments, etc
4. Risk – residential dwellings are statistically more risky than other buildings

Legislation

A group of acts and documents together cover all building regulations and fire safety. More technical requirements are covered in BS documents and Guide to fire safety in flats, bedsits and apartments. Not all buildings require a fire safe certificate but apartment blocks always do, not only at the completion but also, later, if any changes are made.

Fire safety certificates are only based on the design, not the build. If it’s not built as per design, it doesn’t cover it. There is no detail about the design in the certificate, all that information is in the application. This is held by the developer and the council and can be inspected by the public (for a fee).

Opinion of compliance is issued by an engineer at the time of completion and tells prospective owners that the building was examined and built in compliance with the fire safety certificate. However these are heavily caveated. They usually state that they are visual only and can’t verify anything which isn’t immediately obvious. This will change next year when new building control regulations are introduced next year. This new document can only be produced by an architect, because a fire engineer cannot stand over a document produced after an end of construction inspection.

Apartment design

BS requires a building to be built as separate fire compartments, to reduce the spread of fire. Irish regulations require a common alarm system, even across separate apartments.

Automatically opening vent – used to automatically extract smoke and protect dead ends and fire exits from being filled with smoke. Opening vents (could be as simple as a window) are also used in some situations. Natural ventilation shafts can be used to remove smoke through the core of the building and out through the roof instead of leaving the building at each floor. Mechanical extract systems are sometimes used to reduce the size needed while still removing the same amount of smoke.

Cross corridor doors are required for halls exceeding 30m.

Each apartment must be separated from the others and protected by fire doors. Stairwells must also be separated and protected by fire doors.

Depending in the size and layout of the apartment, a protected hallway may be required. This means the walls between the hall and the rooms are fire resistant for (usually) 30 minutes. All doors off the hall must be self closing fire doors which are resistant for 20 minutes. This allows a hallway to be up to 9m long. The requirement for internal self closing doors may be removed in the future.

Fire protection systems

The slides on this section are great and self explanatory. They’ll be uploaded shortly after the meeting. Equipment and systems are given a rating, LD1, LD2, LD3, etc where 1 is best.

Intumescent material expands under heat. It can be applied in various places, one of which is on the sides of fire doors. In this case, it means the door seals itself in the event of a fire (not in the early stages of the fire)

Maintenance

Annual checks and maintenance of:
1. Fire detection system
2. Emergency lighting system

All done, slides to follow.

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