Fire regulations and standards play a pivotal role in ensuring across the board quality and safety. As such, all industry role players must play their part in adhering to these standards.

Safety forms the cornerstone of any building product. One of the most crucial factors when determining the quality and strength of building systems is to assess their fire performance. Government regulations require fire equipment and systems to comply with a standard of performance and to be tested, serviced and maintained on a regular basis. Similarly, products – especially thermal insulation products – need to comply with certain South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) guidelines.

Fire testing
All commercially available thermal insulation material must comply with the relevant South African National Standard pertaining to fire – SANS 10400-T Fire-protection and SANS 428 Fire-performance classification of thermal insulated building envelope systems.

Members of the Thermal Insulation Association of Southern Africa (TIASA) agreed to a protocol of routine product-testing of identified physical attributes and properties of thermal insulation products in accordance with SANS 428. The TIASA Fire Performance Classification Register provides a summary of the test results that members of the association have achieved. This enables the professionals and the consumer to make informed decisions when it comes to the specifying or purchasing of thermal insulation materials.

Testing and standards
TIASA also represents its members on the various technical and sub-committees of the SABS, SABS TC 1021 – Expanded (Cellular) Plastics and Thermal Insulation, SABS SC 59G – Construction Standards –Energy-Efficiency and Energy Use In The Built Environment and SABS SC 21F – Fire Safety – Fire Properties, Testing and Classification for Buildings.

The Association also advises and facilitates in the development of South African building regulations and national energy-efficiency measures for building fabric thermal performance measures in the residential and commercial built environment. This contributes to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The application of the National Building Regulations

Fire protection and installations
The National Building Regulations contains two sections that relate to fire protection and installations: South African National Standards (SANS) 10400 Part T: Fire Protection, published in March 2011, and Part W: Fire installation, also published in March 2011.

Part T of the National Building Regulations was issued in terms of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No 103 of 1977). This part of SANS 10400 provides deemed-to-satisfy requirements for compliance with Part T (Fire Protection) of the National Building Regulations.

The Act defines fire regulations and functions to ensure that a building is safe in a fire scenario. These functions are measured against the Act’s basic requirement that specifies that the building must be safe to live and work in.

Fire performance requirements in accordance with SANS 10400 Part T

Thermal insulation
Any insulation, insulating panel or lining used as a thermal insulation system under an external covering as part of a roof or wall assembly (thermal-insulated building envelope), tested in accordance with SANS 10177-5, and found to be combustible, shall be acceptable if it is classified in terms of SANS 428.

Partition walls and partitions
Any partition wall in any occupancy:

  • Shall have a nominal fire resistance of not less than 30 minutes and be non-combustible.
  • Where combustible materials are present, it shall not contribute a fire-load of more than 5kg/m² in a division.

Insulation/roof lining/waterproof membrane
When any insulation, roof lining or waterproof membrane that is not used as a ceiling and is used under a roof covering as part of a roof assembly, is tested in accordance with SANS 10177-5 and is found to be combustible, the material shall be acceptable should it be classified, marked and installed in accordance with SANS 428 requirements.

Ceilings
In any building that is not classified as E4, H3, H4 and H5, combustible material shall not be used for any ceiling or suspended ceiling, or as a component thereof, except in the following case:

a) A ceiling tested in accordance with SANS 10177-5, which is found to be combustible, shall be acceptable if it is used in terms of its classification in accordance with SANS 428. This requirement shall not apply where the thickness of such combustible is less than 0,5mm and the thickness adheres fully to a non-combustible substrate.

SANS 428:2012

SANS 428 fire-performance classification of thermal insulated building envelope systems, Edition 1.1, dated 2007, has been revised.

Important changes between the2007 and 2012 edition include:

  • Including a table with clear guidelines on the specification of materials for specific occupancy classes as per Regulation A20.
  • Additional definitions.
  • Clarity on the testing regime of non-combustible and combustible products.
  • Incorporating additional insulation materials that are available on the market.
  • Incorporating energy-efficiency requirements in accordance with SANS 204.
  • Incorporating testing requirements for under-tile and roof linings in pitched roof configurations.
  • Incorporating testing requirements for insulated ceilings.
  • Incorporating installation requirements pertaining to the insulation’s safety and more specifically ceiling insulation.
  • A clear testing-flow diagram.

SANS 428 evaluation protocol and testing

Non-combustible products:
a)    SANS 10177-5 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 5: Non-combustibility at 750°C of building materials.
b)    SANS 10177-10 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings Part 10: Fire propagation properties using inverted channel tunnel test.

Combustible products

1.    Ceiling insulation:
a)    SANS 10177-5 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 5: Non-combustibility at 750°C of building materials.
b)    BS 5803-4 Thermal insulation for use in pitched roof spaces in dwellings. Methods for determining flammability and resistance to smoldering.
c)    SANS 10177-10 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 10: Fire propagation properties using inverted channel tunnel test.

2.    Radiant barriers used under tile and under tile membranes

a)    SANS 10177-5 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 5: Non-combustibility at 750°C of building materials.
b)    SANS 10177-10 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 10: Fire propagation properties using inverted channel tunnel test.

3.    Other products
a)    SANS 10177-5 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 5: Non-combustibility at 750°C of building materials.
b)    SANS 10177-10 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 10: Fire propagation properties using inverted channel tunnel test.
c)    SANS 10177-11 Fire testing of materials, components and elements used in buildings, Part 11: Large-scale fire performance evaluation of building envelope thermal insulation systems (with or without sprinklers).

 

Performance classification (symbolic) of thermal insulation materials

1. Combustibility as determined with SANS 10177-5
The symbols given in the table shall be used to indicate combustibility and surface fire properties.

 

fire a

 

Materials used in the construction and finishing of buildings or structures are classified as non-combustible or combustible according to their behaviour in the non-combustibility test.

2. Surface fire properties
The symbols given in the table below shall be used to indicate surface fire properties.

Symbolic classification of non-combustible materials as determined with SANS 10177-10

fire b

 

Symbolic classification of combustible materials as determined with SANS 10177-10 and SANS 10177-11

fire c

 

3. Use of materials
The symbols given in the table below shall be used to indicate the designated use of materials in single- or double-storey buildings.

fire d

 

Classification criteria for usage

1: Non-combustible/no limitations
2-4: The classification as listed implies that products with equal or better classifications are also suitable. Classification listed is for both sprinklered and un-sprinklered buildings, with the provision that the product has been successfully evaluated as suitable for use with sprinklers.

For buildings of more than two storeys all roof/ceiling constructions shall be non-combustible

For vertical non-encapsulated insulation, the suitability of the product is determined as being acceptable or non-acceptable, and would be classified separately.

The suitability of products in terms of their ability to propagate smoldering combustion is determined as being acceptable or non-acceptable and would be classified separately.

4. Application of materials
    
The symbols given in the table shall be used to indicate the designated application of materials.

fire e

 

5. Sprinkler testing
When tested with or without sprinklers the classification must reflect the following:

  • SP – Protected by a sprinkler system.
  • USP – Not protected by a sprinkler system.

An example of product identification and classification:

A product shall be identified as follows:
Combustibility / surface fire properties / use / application / with or without sprinklers

For example:

  • A/A1/1 (No limitations)
  • B/B1/2/H (USP)
  • B/B1/2/H (SP)
  • B/B1/2/H (USP & SP)

fire f

 

The flipside
According to Chubb Fire Safety and Security, company executives may be unaware that should one of their employees be injured or killed in a fire whilst on the company premises, they could be personally liable in the form of hefty fines or even prison sentences. As such, businesses should ensure that they comply with fire-safety regulations. By not complying with regulations, they bear the risk of major financial losses and liability due to damaged property and assets, as well as the loss of lives. The cost of not complying to regulations far outweigh the cost of compliance when one considers the loss of profits, operational delays and the damage to a business’s reputation. Businesses should assess their fire-safety procedures on a regular basis. A number of bodies, such as the Automatic Sprinkler Bureau, Fire Detection Installers Association and the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa, can do a professional assessment of fire safety.

Checking that exit doors and escape routes are free of obstacles and work smoothly, as well as testing public address systems, should become a part of a business’s daily routines. However, a full fire-safety assessment should be scheduled for a shopping centre at least once every year.
Insurance contracts place the duty of care upon the insured. This usually includes compliance with relevant statutory requirements for prevention of loss, as well as other best-practice requirements that insurers could impose. Not having sufficient fire protection could therefore be considered as a breach of contract.

Firefighting equipment
Part W of the National Building Regulations, issued in terms of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No. 103 of 1977), must be followed by occupancy type of building in terms of firefighting equipment required. This is often monitored by the local fire departments, but due to the many tasks and community duties they perform, many organisations are not monitored, resulting in them being non-compliant.

Tackling a fire with the wrong type of fire extinguisher can be ineffective and even dangerous. Extinguishers must also be properly serviced and maintained annually in accordance with SANS 1475 Part 1. Every business should have the peace of mind of knowing that it complies with SANS 10105-1:2010 The Use And Control Of Fire-Fighting Equipment – Part 1: Portable And Wheeled (Mobile) Fire Extinguishers, SANS 10400-W and the Occupational Health and Safety Act with regard to quantity required and type of equipment in the workplace. All reputable service providers, including sales personnel, should carry positive identification and/or proof of SAQCC fire registration.

Full acknowledgement and thanks are given to www.sabs.co.za, www.tiasa.org.za andwww.chubb.co.za for providing the information to write this article.