Removing compartment walls and replacing them with fire curtains could provide more work for fire contractors. It is a common desire to create atria and other open spaces in large buildings by removing multiple small areas, however this has a negative impact on fire compartmentalisation. Fire curtains are an ideal solution when compartment walls are removed – but is that enough?
Is installing fire curtains alone enough to maintain safe conditions in a fire?
The answer in short, is yes. Ensuring the curtain you’re installing provides the same (if not better) fire and radiated heat protection than the wall or partition being removed should guarantee safe conditions in a fire.
An old approach would see the installation of a curtain that would provide the same integrity as the wall being removed. For example, if the original compartment wall was designed to hold back a fire for an hour, then a 60-minute rated fire curtain would be installed. This approach seems straightforward enough, but sometimes it can be overlooked that the curtain protected an escape route and therefore should provide escaping occupants with protection from irradiated heat as they pass the curtain.
What are the important regulations regarding fire curtains?
BS 8524 part 2 covers the new regulations in detail and provides a table for designers to use in order to work out what length the fire curtain should be depending on the radiation value of the fabric and the speed of the escaping occupants. The calculation also needs to take into consideration factors like the deflection of the curtain fabric which is a result of a pressure build up on the fire side of the curtain as this will affect the tenable zone required for escape.