Keith Wells, Quelfire Managing Director, looks at why CE marking of fire collars can help ensure firestopping consistency and easy repeatability of service penetrations.
According to Home Office statistics there were 167,150 fires in England between April 2017 and March 2018 that required a response from fire and rescue services. These resulted in 334 fire-related fatalities and 7,290 non-fatal casualties. Even more concerning than the total number of fires was the Home Office statistic that in 2017/18, 52 (6%) of the 801 fires in purpose-built high-rise flats spread beyond the room of origin1.
A fundamental part of making sure that buildings meet required safety standards is to effectively firestop all apertures. It is Building Regulations’ Approved Document B that requires buildings to be sub-divided into a number of discrete compartments using construction materials in order to prevent the passage of fire from one cell to another for a given period of time. These passive fire-protection systems effectively compartmentalise a building by creating fire-resistant walls and floors, typically with 30-, 60-, 90-, 120- or even 240-minute protection. Firestopping products used to maintain the integrity of these compartments must be tested to current standards including BS EN1366-3: 2009 and BS476: Part 20: 1987.
In addition to fire testing, there are other ways in which manufacturers can independently demonstrate the quality of their products and one of these is by gaining CE marking.
CE marking is mandatory under UK legislation where a harmonised European standard or a European Technical Assessment has been published. Although there are plans to introduce a harmonised standard, currently there isn’t one available for penetration seals, so CE marking is not mandatory for products that fall into this category.
However, there are still a number of reasons why it is worthwhile for installers to look out for products that have a CE mark as well as for designers and specifiers to design penetration-sealing systems that comply with the CE-mark legislation. This applies especially to cast-in fire collars and some of the reasons for this are set out here:
1. Quality & consistency
Although it is not yet a mandatory requirement for penetration seals, CE mark certification ensures manufacturers offer a tested, audited and repeatable system solution to the end user. CE-marked products are scrutinised through the CE-mark process by an independent approval body such as Exova Warrington Certification, ensuring conformity with the relevant EU directives.
Fire testing is just one criterion you should look for in your system specification. CE marking collates all the key test data while demonstrating product conformity. It audits production and product, and ensures the product is always supplied to the same specification or design as tested.
In addition to the assessment of certain characteristics of the product – such as mechanical resistance and stability, resistance to impact/movement, air and water permeability – the manufacturer of the fire-sealing product must ensure an initial inspection of the factory is carried out and that factory production control (FPC) is in place and its continuous surveillance, judgment and assessment are ensured. The minimum surveillance frequency is normally twice a year. This also applies to any components supplied.
Under the EU legislation for CE marking, the manufacturer is obliged to maintain a traceable documentation of the production process from purchasing or delivery of raw or basic raw materials up to the storage and delivery of finished products. This means that every batch produced has to be clearly labelled with the batch number, which allows traceability to its production to be identified. Should installers be questioned about the quality and the origin of the product and its component for any reason, this provides an indisputable proof for them.
As part of the CE-marking process, the products also go through a durability test and are exposed to the equivalent of extreme-weather conditions. Some reactive intumescent materials may change significantly when exposed to specific conditions and this may result in a product not achieving the expected performance.
As concrete is poured storey by storey, cast-in fire collars are installed at the very early stages of construction projects where they are exposed to outdoor conditions during installation. Based on what they are able to endure without their performance unchanged, products are classified into five categories, Type Z₂, Type Z₁, Type Y₂, Type Y₁ and Type X (the latter being the highest rating).
Products classified as Type X are the only ones intended for use in conditions exposed to weathering, including temperatures below 0°C as well as exposure to UV and rain. Therefore, Type X durability classification on a cast-in fire collar is a guarantee of unchanged performance after exposure to outdoor conditions and weathering.
4. More business opportunities
In mainland Europe there is a demand for use of products that are CE marked. That could mean contractors are likely to secure more business in Europe if they are using CE-marked products for penetration sealing.
It is worth bearing in mind that because CE marking is not currently mandatory on penetration-sealing products, there are still some products available that do not hold a CE mark. However, forward-thinking contractors that take into account the benefits listed above will be compelled to choose CE-marked fire collars, not least because it demonstrates to their client that they have taken an uncompromising approach to fire safety.
When it comes to firestopping service penetrations it is important that the best-quality products are integrated into the design from a very early stage of the project. When this is combined with a commitment to use products that carry independent third-party assessment, such as CE marking, it will set the benchmark for quality on site.
For more information, go to www.quelfire.co.uk