Loft compartmentation: looking beyond cladding in compliance
Compliance has understandably taken centre-stage within the build and refurbishment sector since 2017, but it can be easy to overlook other fire safety measures which are ultimately equally as important.
Investing in Compliance
Of course, the critical issue of cladding has remained at the forefront of discussions over the last 4 years.
However, with cladding being the key focus for compliance in local authority buildings (especially for high rise social housing), it we must not fall into the trap of overlooking other fire safety measures that are equally as important.
Novus has recognised this issue and is investing heavily in its compliance works carried out on behalf of local authorities.
One key service area in the public sector is the installation of loft compartmentation.
In this article, Compliance Works Manager David Barnes explains why this measure should be regarded as an essential fire safety feature across the sector.
Compliance is Critical
Lessons in compliance continue to be learnt across the sector as it continues to work hard to ensure that the events of 2017 are never repeated.
Clearly, fire outbreaks endanger the lives of residents and those involved in rescue operations, this without mentioning the high levels of destruction, which can be both costly and time-consuming to repair.
It is for these reasons that fire safety measures have become a key focus for both local authorities and social housing landlords in recent years.
The consequence of which has seen significant investment in compliance measures for new builds and in remedial works for existing buildings.
Fire moves quickly in concealed spaces, and particularly in high rise buildings, loft spaces can present a severe risk of rapid spread – so it’s essential that precautions are taken in such areas.
The Role of Loft Compartmentation
Loft compartmentation provides a solution to this potentially life-threatening problem as it is effectively designed by specialist manufacturers to prevent the spread of fire by using barriers that divide the loft area into areas of manageable risk.
|Fortunately, the benefits of installing loft compartmentation are becoming more widely known and Novus has experienced an increase in this type of work – with its East Midlands region alone having carried out more than 50 installations.
To date, installation of loft compartmentation has predominantly taken place in sheltered housing schemes, but we have also seen a significant uplift in local authority buildings including hospitals and universities.
How it works:
Non-load bearing vertical or horizontal barriers are constructed.
Fire separation extended into the loft space from the identified compartment walls and floors below.
Movement of fire is slowed.
A Versatile Option
There really are no limits on the types of public sector buildings that loft compartmentation can be used for due to its versatility.
It is specially designed by manufacturers to fit requirements and the available space within the loft.
Contractors such as Novus will work directly with clients to ensure the layout of the loft compartmentation is the perfect fit for each building.
This will include identifying where the barriers are required and how much extra time they should give – 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 120 minutes are the most commonly requested integrity ratings.
Building regulations also often require fire barriers to have the same integrity and insulation values as the wall or floor on which they will be mounted, so this will be accounted for with the fire barrier product selection.
Compartment wall identification is dependent on the building’s fire risk levels and can be installed to suit existing arrangements depending on the roof construction.
Looking to the Future
Going forward, loft compartmentation should be seen as an essential investment for local authorities in the provision of fire safety measures.
Loft compartmentation may ultimately save the lives of residents living in social housing in the event of a fire by reducing the spread of the fire and buying more time for evacuation.
It is especially important for buildings where the top levels are heavily used, such as blocks of flats or high rises where people live on the higher floors.
Loft compartmentation in these types of buildings is often incorporated into the evacuation plan requirements, therefore it’s also worth considering its installation in communal areas as these are often marked as fire escape routes.
The installation process has a relatively quick turnaround, so even where loft compartmentation is being retrofitted there is minimal disruption to residents. This makes these works suitable for live environments also.
By investing in loft compartmentation now as part of their fire safety efforts, local authorities may well prevent physical, financial and emotional toll that fire may exact in the future.
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