3 FM quick reads on fire protection
1. Minimize Fire Protection Costs Through Design
Fire protection system costs can be minimized through careful evaluation of the needs of the space and considerations for how the space can be altered to facilitate fire safety instead of making the fire protection system compensate for the space.
To start with, flammable materials will clearly need adequate fire protection, but how these materials are stored can impact what kind of system is required. Facility managers might be able to avoid the expense of installing a fire pump to provide adequate water to the fire suppression system by exploring options in hazardous or flammable product storage. This might be achieved by reducing hazard heights, using different racking or storage arrangements, or using fire barriers to compartmentalize the storage area, says Tony Schoenecker, senior fire protection engineer for Burns & McDonnell, in the January issue of Building Operating Management. Exploring the options might decrease the fire suppression system's water needs down to where a fire pump would not be needed.
Another way to avoid additional cost by modifying design is in canopies. If the canopies will require sprinkler protection, consider shortening the canopy to within the range of standard or extended coverage dry sidewall sprinklers off the wet-pipe system. This will avoid a dry-pipe system, with its separate sprinkler riser, air compressor and additional maintenance costs.
In buildings where there are different occupancies between floors, a built in fire safety advantage might lie in the concrete deck. A two- or three-inch concrete floor might provide the required fire resistance to the ceiling of the floor below. This might affect how much, or if, sprayed-on fireproofing will be required to the underside of the deck.
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3. Fire Protection for Structural Steel
Structural steel needs to be protected from fire so it does not reach temperatures, which would compromise its strength and possibly lead to collapse. The steel members in a building are protected from fire by several methods. These include gypsum board, which has chemically bound water that boils off during a fire, spray-applied fire resistant materials (SFRM), such as sprayed cementatious which absorbs energy, and intumescent products, which when heated expand to many times their original thickness and form a char layer.
These fire protection products can become damaged during renovation or during normal wear and tear. According to John Mammoser, a consultant with Rolf, Jensen & Associates, when repairing the damage, attention should be paid to material compatibility. For example, old and new SFRM are compatible but new intumescent materials might not be compatible over old intumescent on the same piece of steel due to different chemistry.
To aid the repair process, facility executives should be sure to know what material has been applied in their facility and also the building code at the time of original construction, since current regulations might just require that repairs maintain the original fire rating. The manufacturer of the existing fire protection product can provide ideas for how to patch it.