Fire safety on commercial premises is a serious business. As an employer, landlord, building owner, facilities manager, or anyone else in charge of the building, it is your job to prevent fires. Government legislation is very clear. You must carry out fire risk assessments regularly and you must put in place safety measures to protect the building’s occupants. If you don’t follow fire safety guidelines, you could end up being fined or looking at a prison sentence.
Modern Building Design
When it comes to fire safety, building design matters. A poorly designed building with minimal attention paid to fire safety is dangerous, to inhabitants and to the building itself. In this post, we are going to examine the various methods building designers use to increase fire safety.
Modern buildings are increasingly complex in design as architects continue to push the boundaries. Designers are restrained by building codes and fire safety must be a priority at the design stage. Commercial buildings are often vast and there are numerous components to consider, including smoke movement, materials toxicity, heat transfer within the building’s structure, and how people behave when a fire breaks out.
Concrete and Steel
Commercial buildings are typically constructed using concrete and steel. Concrete is non-combustible, but once other materials such as timber are added, the structure becomes vulnerable to fire.
Many commercial buildings have a steel framework. Steel is tremendously strong and can support huge loads, but fire generates phenomenal heat. Without thermal protection, supporting steel structures will lose strength and buckle in the heat. A serious fire could cause the roof structure to collapse, leading to devastating damage and potential loss of life. In the event of a major fire, steel infrastructure could fail in as little as ten minutes if no fire-retardant measures are used.
Intumescent paint can protect steel for up to 120 minutes if a fire breaks out, but it must be applied during the construction phase to be effective. In the heat of a fire, the chemicals found in intumescent paint react and foam up. This solidifies and chars, protecting the underlying material. This process hampers the spread of fire and gives the building occupants valuable time to escape. It also aids firefighters by containing the fire to a smaller area.
Fire retardant paint can also be applied to timber structures, although fire protection is limited to a maximum of 60 minutes. In a large commercial building, the easiest way to apply intumescent paint is to spray it on, but in smaller areas, a brush or a roller can be used.
Whilst intumescent paint is an important fire retardant for commercial buildings, it should not be used in isolation. Fire doors, sprinkler systems, and smoke alarms should all meet building codes and fire safety risk assessments must be carried out once a year. There should be a clear fire escape route for the building’s occupants, so if a fire does break out, people can escape quickly without being impeded by furniture, locked doors, or discarded rubbish.