Fire safety is a huge topic at the moment, especially in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. A lot of work is going into improving rules and regulations to ensure buildings are safe. A big part of this is the DCLG asking BRE to do a lot of research into various aspects of fire safety. One part of this is an investigation of how big compartments can be. The findings could have an impact on designs and the requirements for compartmentation surveys.

What are the current requirements?

The details of the maximum dimensions of compartments can be found in the Building Regulations for England as well as similar guidance for other parts of the UK. Currently the sizes vary depending on things like the type of occupancy and the height of the structure. In addition, the nature of the construction and the fire hazard play a part.

You need to check the Post-War Building Studies No. 20 Fire Grading of Buildings to find an idea of what cubic size a compartment should be in different buildings. However, these size recommendations are now very old.

New recommendations?

Compartmentation surveysThe aim of the research from BRE was to find if there could be a systematic method to determine maximum compartment sizes based on life risk. Sadly they found that this is not possible. However, there are some important findings.

Firstly, the research took a look at compartments in single storey industrial buildings. These were left out of the recommendations in the building study above. The important finding is that in buildings where structural elements are only supporting the roof, there is no restriction on compartment size. However, insurance providers introduce limits of 7,000sqm if there is no sprinkler system and 14,000sqm when there is an automatic one.

Another finding is that a single zone approach remains valid if the space is below 500sqm. However, as the size of the space increases above this figure, the risk of fire spreading beyond the point of origin increases. That means it may be necessary to introduce more compartments.

Talk to us about compartmentation surveys

The most important thing to keep in mind is that good compartmentation is vital for improving fire safety. You need to ensure your compartments are the right sizes and have the right seals. The aim is to stop fire and smoke from spreading, containing it for a specific period of time. To do this, you need the right products, including fire walls and ceilings, a fire door, dampers for ducts, and more.

If you work with Trident Fire Protection & Training we can help you to get your compartments right. We offer compartmentation surveys to determine how effective yours are. This can include advice about how to improve them.

So, if you need any help, contact us.