In the Evolution of Fire Protection… the Next Step is Here
By Reliance Worldwide CorporationConstruction
They just don’t build things like they used to! Words we have all heard throughout the years. When that comment is made regarding the construction of a building what might come to mind is that today’s buildings often appear to lack the lavish architectural majesty of years gone by. Some of today’s buildings simply look plain and functional, but don’t have the attractive aesthetic features that many historic buildings possess. Though this may be true, today’s buildings are built to much higher standards, with regards to life-safety elements and critical systems. You may never see these elements, but they are there, behind walls and above ceilings, protecting the lives of the building’s occupants.
One example of a difference between old buildings and newer ones involves fire protection systems. An older ornate building might look fancy, but probably lacks what are considered critical elements in today’s construction. Fire Protection in one of those elements. Critical Fire Protection elements are typically grouped into three categories; 1) Detection, such as Smoke Detectors, 2) Fire Suppression Systems, such as Fire Sprinklers, and 3) Compartmentation, typically addressed by Fire Stopping. Many older buildings had little, if any, fire stopping installed during construction. The main function of fire stopping is to contain or compartmentalize a fire, should one start. This is to allow building occupants adequate time to safely exit the building. There have been significant advancements in fire stop methodology and materials over the past several years. For instance, poured-in-place sleeves that do much more than simply create a pathway through a concrete floor for pipe conduits and other utilities to pass, but have fire stopping elements factory-installed within the sleeve devices themselves. These devices are tested to appropriate standards, such as CAN/ULC S115, ASTM E814 and UL 1479. These devices automatically react to the heat of a fire in a way that closes off the floor opening (compartmentalizing), to choke-off smoke, fire and poisonous gasses from passing from one floor to another. This is accomplished by what are referred to as intumescent materials.
Some of these devices take fire stopping to another level beyond simply protecting metallic, plastic, and insulated penetrants through floors, but are rigorously tested and UL(c) Listed to even stop water from travelling from one floor to another. This is beneficial both for weather related events during construction, as well as throughout the life of a building, such as when a plumbing fixture overflows or a sprinkler head goes off. Some of these advanced devices have achieved a status of “UL W-Rated”. Many of these fire stop devices are also engineered to ideally handle the installations of unique penetrations, such as toilet drains, floor drains, bathtub drains, shower drains, as well as bundled pipes or conduits.
In addition to these cast-in fire stop sleeves, a wide variety of other advanced fire stop materials are available on the market for protecting against the spread of fire through walls made of sheetrock, concrete and other materials as well as for penetrations through both wood floors and concrete floors. Many of these materials, such as fire caulking, putty pads, fire wrap strip and pipe collars contain various levels of intumescent qualities and can address pipe penetrations, outlet boxes, and a wide variety of other applications. In the evolution of fire protection today, innovative and highly engineered fire stop products and installation methods may not make buildings look fancier or more esthetically pleasing to the eye, but they certainly make them safer for occupants and make the installation of fire stop systems quicker, easier, and overall more affordable than the manually applied and problematic methods back in the old days.