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Passive fire protection

Effective fire protection coatings

More than 150,000 fires are reported in England every year. And these fires cost: they damage buildings, destroy equipment and – in the worst cases – can take lives. But these outcomes can be prevented. Preventive fire protection measures help to prevent a fire or contain any fire that does occur. Flame retardants contribute to passive fire protection in a number of different ways. Fire protection coatings are easy to use and highly effective.

Fire protection measures: A coordinated attack on flames

Fires are a huge threat. To protect buildings – and the people inside them – against fire, measures must be implemented to prevent fire. These measures

  • minimise the risk of a fire breaking out,
  • prevent the spread of a fire,
  • facilitate smooth rescue,
  • favour effective extinguishing measures that minimise property damage.

The more direct and resolute fire protection measures are – tackling the risk of fire, with all of its causes and consequences – the greater their efficacy. Fire protection should be a holistic concept that coordinates a range of different fire protection measures.

Fight and prevent fire

Fire protection requires a dual approach, including both fire fighting and fire prevention. Fire protection measures are therefore divided into two categories: Measures to fight against fire, or active fire protection, are implemented by the fire brigade, or the use of fire extinguishers. Measures to prevent fire, or passive fire protection start before that point: These measures cover all precautions taken to prevent a fire occurring or spreading.

Passive fire protection: Prevention is better than cure

Passive fire protection starts right from the planning of a building. In the planning phase, the requirements in terms of fire protection are defined, structural fire protection provisions taken into account and concepts for fire prevention worked out. Passive fire prevention can be subdivided into three further main categories:

Structural fire protection includes all measures connected to the construction or modification of a building. These measures focus on

  • how the construction materials use respond to fire 
  • the fire resistance duration of construction products
  • constructing supporting and fire integrity structures in line with standards
  • dividing a building into fire sections using fire partitions and fire doors 
  • Fire compartmentalisation 
  • Escape route planning

Technical fire protection includes the technical equipment and systems in a building that provide adequate protection against fire and facilities to fight any fire that occurs, such as

  • Gas or smoke alarms
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Smoke and heat extraction systems
  • Systems to retain fire extinguishing water

Organisational fire protection supplements structural and technical fire protection with measures such as 

  • Alarm plans 
  • Fire protection policies 
  • Labelling escape and rescue routes and keeping such routes clear 
  • Displaying information on what to do in the event of a fire 
  • Training on handling flammable materials

Passive fire protection with fire retardants

Standing up to a fire is a particular challenge for the supporting construction of a building. Almost all materials used in construction are put at risk in the event of a fire. The structural stability of these materials is affected by the high temperatures: Concrete cracks, wood becomes charred, steel loses its strength. The fire protection requirements in the construction regulations stipulate a minimum fire resistance duration for all construction elements of a building. This is the time until the critical temperature is reached, during which the component remains functional while subjected to fire. For these reasons, passive fire protection concepts rely on the use of flame retardants. These products support the stability of the material, enabling it to maintain its ability to bear loads and uphold fire integrity for the required length of time. Fire protection coatings, which form a flame-proof layer on the application surface, are designed for exactly this purpose.

Fire protection coatings: A thin layer with an enormous effect

Fire protection coatings extend the resistance duration of components in the event of a fire. The thin coatings are barely visible, yet provide highly effective protection: If subjected to extreme temperatures, they foam up and expand to many times their original volume. This forms a thermally insulating layer that carbonises very slowly, providing hours of additional protection in the event of a fire. Although fire protection coatings foam from temperatures of around 200°C, steel, for example, only reaches its critical temperature at 500°C. When a coating is applied, the structure of the component remains unaffected for longer, and steel constructions are guaranteed to be protected against fire. Fire protection coatings also help to inhibit the development of smoke, which ensures that escape routes stay clear.

The perfect protection system

Fire protection coatings are available as system solutions, and are comprised of three compatible layers:

  • The primer is designed to provide a good application surface for the fire protection coating and to protect against corrosion. 
  • The fire protection coating is the core element of the coating system, helping the component to retain its load-bearing ability for longer in the event of a fire. The thickness of this layer depends on the type of component, the load it is subjected to and the required fire resistance duration. 
  • The top coat protects the fire protection coating against weathering and mechanical wear. The top coat also provides the desired aesthetic finish, including colour and surface structure.

Special low-emissions systems are available for coatings in interior spaces. These systems comply with the stringent sustainable building requirements and guarantee optimum interior comfort.

tremco illbruck: A strong partner for professional fire protection solutions

For owners and operators of commercial properties and public institutions in particular, passive fire protection should be essential to prevent buildings being lost due to fire. In the event of a fire, any additional measure you have put in place may be what makes the difference – and could even save lives.

Professional fire protection measures such as fire protection coatings and seals or sealants for fire compartments can significantly increase the safety of the people and property inside a building. With its Nullifire product range, tremco illbruck offers optimum system solutions and maximum protection, regardless of your application area or requirements.

We would be happy to help you tackle your other challenges with our expertise, experience and innovative products. Our team will be pleased to advise you – either by telephone, at your office or on the construction site. Don't hesitate to contact us.