Structural Fire Protection Inspection
Many buildings today are constructed using a structural steel frame. This is the building material of choice for many projects, preferred for its speed of erection and flexibility of design. Steel is a very versatile substance but it is also vulnerable to corrosion and fire. To combat these, protective coatings are specified to protect the steel. Anti-corrosion steel primers are typically applied at the fabricators works after the steel is blasted to a specified standard. Intumescent coatings are applied to the steel in an off-site facility of around 50% of all structural steel in the UK. In the remainder of steel buildings the fire protection takes place on site during construction.
Fire protection coatings of any kind – intumescent, cementitious, gypsum and others – are applied to steel to meet the fire protection specification (1 hour, 90 Minutes, 2 hours). There are many different coatings in the marketplace and each has been tested at a range of thicknesses that are unique. The different thicknesses of a coating will protect a variety of steel of different size, mass and type (e.g. ‘I’ section or hollow section). In order to ensure the correct thicknesses are applied to the different steel sizes care must be taken in specifying, estimating and especially in applying each coating thickness. All fire protection coatings are affected by cold/wet atmospheric conditions and to ensure the coatings are fit for purpose the correct application conditions must be adhered to. Only trained and qualified applicator personnel should be used to apply these life saving coatings.
All types of coatings are sensitive to poor substrate and atmospheric conditions, and all require application to a product specific thickness to ensure they will perform as they were designed to. Many fire protection coatings require multiple applications in order to achieve the appropriate dry film thickness. If left unchecked a wide range of application qualities can be expected. In order to ensure the coatings provide their designed performance and last their maximum life span, it is imperative that substrate, atmospheric and thickness checks are carried out before, during and after application of the coatings. The only way to ensure that these checks are carried out to the correct standard and frequency is to employ the services of a qualified paint inspector who is independent of all other parties.
Fire Stopping and Compartmentation Inspection
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 it is the responsibility of a building owner or an appointed responsible person to ensure that the fire safety systems within a building are subject to a system of maintenance and that they are maintained in an efficient state, efficient working order and in good repair. This assumes, of course, that they are installed in a compliant manner from the outset. All too often it has been our experience that the provisions within existing buildings can be very poor or non-existent and that new provisions can be installed in a sub-standard manner, even when appearing sufficient on the face. In many cases, even seemingly minor deviations from the manufacturer’s tested details can entirely negate the fire performance of a product or system.
Firespec are qualified to survey existing buildings and report on the condition of any provision for compartmentation, it’s current state of repair, its likely ability to perform under fire conditions and any requirements for remediation. During construction of new buildings or refurbishment projects, Firespec’s inspection services ensure that the materials or products chosen in each scenario will meet or exceed the design criteria and that they have been installed in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Surveys and inspections take numerous forms from assessing the proposed materials and their ability to perform to the specified time period in a fire, scrutiny of installation practices, destructive testing and thorough visual examinations. It is worth noting that materials and products from different manufacturers may appear very similar but can have widely differing levels of performance. This differs further when considering the substrate type, penetration type and size, the desired fire rating and many other factors. Firespec perform inspections based entirely on the published fire test data for the specific materials being installed, when considered against these factors.
All surveys and inspections are accompanied by a written report outlining the key findings along with an itemised photographic log and marked-up location plans utilising the latest electronic recording systems.
These processes give main contractors, developers, building owners, Responsible Persons and occupiers peace of mind that the life-critical systems employed have been fitted to the highest possible standards and will perform as designed if the worst should happen. They also provide a sound base from which to create the building’s cyclical maintenance procedures.