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Lack of fire protection features

Hazard Knowledge

Without fire protection features, fires in buildings under construction or demolition may develop more easily and spread unchecked with little or no warning.

Temporary fire protection features may be installed prior to the permanent measures that will protect the completed building. These can include temporary fire stopping pillows, wireless detection systems, sheeting on scaffolding to prevent firespread, temporary rising mains or sprinkler systems.

Passive fire protection

Fire compartmentation may not have been constructed or installed, or may have been altered, compromised or removed in a building under construction or demolition.

Without compartmentation the scenario presented is one of a fuel controlled fire and not a ventilation controlled fire. This is not to be confused with a fire that has vented.

A fuel controlled fire will rapidly develop and spread unchecked until the fuel has been consumed or firefighting action is undertaken to extinguish the fire.

This hazard is not confined to timber structures as even concrete or masonry buildings may have timber floors and stairs, stud walls, timber roof structures, electric cabling and other flammable building materials may be stored.

With buildings under construction or demolition the breaches made in compartmentation may allow fire to spread into construction voids more easily, as well as into the voids and ducts where services may run.

Without fire compartmentation a fire may develop rapidly, leaving a building susceptible to premature collapse.

The unfinished nature of the building allows a good oxygen supply to the fire, compounding the hazard that fire can spread easily in an incomplete building. In a building under construction or demolition, various components, such as doors, windows and roofs may be missing. This can result in a fuel controlled fire as ventilation is not restricted. Refer to National Operational Guidance: Fires and firefighting for information on fire behaviour.

One of the last measures in completing a building is installing fire stopping. Fire stopping will be installed in cavities during construction - where services such as cables and pipework have been situated and they breach compartments, fire stopping is used to complete the compartmentation and prevent firespread. This could be permanent fixings, such as cement, or 'pillows' that can be removed easily if additional cables or pipework need to be added.

This means that in the later stages of building completion before fire stopping is installed, although compartmentation may appear to be complete, any concealed spaces will be particularly vulnerable to undetected firespread.

Active fire protection

Active fire protection features are systems that react when the signs of a fire are detected. The level of protection installed in a building is designed to manage the level of risk identified for the final use and occupation of the completed building.

The design of these systems will relate to other fire protection measures installed. As these may not be in place until completion, temporary systems to protect site personnel may need to be provided. A lack of passive fire protection or protected escape routes or high fire loading can increase the risk to site personnel. Risks such as these can mean temporary measures such as wireless detection and alarm systems are used to provide early warning of the outbreak of fire.