Commercial Fire Safety Requirements – Building Code of Australia
All commercial buildings in Australia are required to meet the standards laid out in the Building Code of Australia. This includes strict regulations regarding the fire safety systems and elements of commercial buildings. All fire-rated materials used in commercial buildings must comply with AS4072.1 and AS1530.4.
In the Building Code of Australia, commercial buildings are classified into different classes. For example, office buildings are classified as Class 5 buildings, and retail buildings including restaurants are classified as Class 6 buildings. Each class of buildings must meet particular fire resistance requirements.
How is Fire Resistance Level Measured?
In Australia, fire rated elements are given a Fire Resistance Level (FRL) according to the Building Code of Australia. The FRL indicates how well that element can withstand fire under test conditions.
The FRL for any building element is given as three numbers. For example 60/60/60.
These three numbers stand for structural adequacy / integrity / insulation.
Structural Adequacy refers to how long the building element can withstand the spread of fire and still remain structurally sound. The number indicates how long (in minutes) the building element can support what it is designed to support.
Note: windows and doors are not structural elements (they don’t hold anything up like a wall does) and so they are not given a number for structural adequacy. You will see a “-” in place of a number for non-structural elements.
Integrity refers to how well a building element can prevent the spread of flames and hot gases.
Insulation refers to how long a building element can prevent the spread of fire due to heat transfer.
As an example, a window with a FRL of -/60/60 would not be expected to fail for 60 minutes in the integrity and insulation categories when exposed to fire.
Testing for Fire Rated Building Elements
Fire windows, fire doors and other fire rated building elements are required to undergo strict testing to certain specifications (AS1530.4). The testing is designed to assess how well the product can resist the spread of fire, reduce heat transfer and contain smoke.
Testing of fire building elements is done under conditions which mimic real fire conditions. The testing must continue for the required resistance level before the performance of the product is assessed. In Australia, fire testing is conducted by accredited authorities and organisations. These are governed by the National Association of Testing Authorities.
Active and Passive Fire Control Systems for Commercial Buildings
Fire protection elements usually fall into one of two categories: active fire control and passive fire control. Both types of fire protection systems are essential for commercial buildings of all kinds.
Active fire control refers to elements that must be activated in order to work. This could be manual activation such as with a fire extinguisher. Or the activation can be automatic such as sprinklers that are triggered by an alarm. Once activated, active fire protection elements work to contain, suppress or extinguish the fire.
Passive fire control refers to elements that are always working and hence do not require activation. These elements are incredibly important for compartmentalising a building, preventing fire from spreading and helping create safe passageways for people to evacuate. Examples of passive fire control systems include glass fire doors, fire rated windows and intumescent paint.
Timber, Steel & Glass Fire Doors
Fire rated doors play a crucial role in the passive fire protection of commercial buildings. They can be made from a number of materials such as timber, steel or glass and are required to meet strict standards and regulations. All elements of the door set must be tested including the frame, vision panels, handles and any other hardware.
Glass fire doors are popular in commercial spaces where visibility and natural light are important factors. Specialised fire rated glass is used as untreated glass can explode when exposed to very high levels of heat.
Fire Rated Windows
Fire rated windows are specially designed to resist the spread of fire. They allow natural light and clear visibility while also providing passive fire protection for commercial buildings.
Fire windows are made from fire resistant glazing and specialised glass panels with a fire resistant layer in between. The thickness of the fire resistant layer will determine how long the window will resist the spread of fire. AFC fire rated windows come in a range of fire resistant levels including: -/30/30, -/60/60, -/90/90 or -/120/120.
Intumescent paints (also known as fire retardants) are coatings which protect the building materials in the case of a fire. When exposed to high levels of heat, the intumescent coating expands and insulates the structure.
Intumescent coatings are a tried and tested method of protecting steel structures. Although these coatings are not fireproof, they play a key role in preserving the structural adequacy of steel buildings by slowing down the destruction of fire.
Fire curtains are activated in the case of a fire and play an important role in a building’s active fire protection. In their activated state, fire curtains help compartmentalise large open spaces. This is important for slowing down the spread of fire, improving the efficacy of other systems such as sprinklers and protecting the building structure itself.
Modern fire curtains, such as the ones we supply at AFC, are cleverly designed to be inconspicuous in their unactivated state. Fire curtains come in a range of designs to suit commercial spaces including vertical, horizontal, accordion and boundary fire curtains.
When it comes to fire safety in commercial buildings, trust the experts
Fire protection systems in commercial buildings are vitally important for saving lives and protecting the building structure in the case of a fire. At Australian Fire Control, we can assist with creating tough and reliable systems for commercial spaces. We offer professional services, fast delivery and the highest quality fire protection products in Australia.
Get in touch today to see how we can assist you.