How Partitions Keep Fire Contained

Passive fire protection has as its goal the creation of structural defences against the spread of fire through a building. Compartmentation is a key element in achieving this. A building is sub-divided into a number of compartments using horizontal and vertical partitions, made of fire resistant materials. The purpose of compartmentation is to contain the spread of fire for a designated period of time during which an orderly evacuation can take place and firefighters can access the building.


The Role of Partitions in Controlling Fire

Fires start off small and are fed by oxygen and combustible materials. In less than 60 seconds the flames can start to gain ground. If there are no physical limits to stop the fire’s progress it can quickly engulf the whole building. Partitions are designed to keep fire and hot gases contained. These will take the form of fire resistant walls, floors and ceilings.

Fire partitions are used to manage the risk of fire by localising it, and providing a time frame during which it’s held at bay. This can range between E30 to E130 and E240 to E1240. Compartmentation design has to comply with Building Regulation and British Standards requirements.

How do Fire Partitions Work?

In order to function effectively there are criteria partitions must conform to.

Partitions should fulfil at least one of the following:

  • Insulation. In most cases the temperature on the ‘cold’ side of the partition should not rise more than 180ºC, compared to the original temperature.
  • Integrity. Flames and hot gases should not be able to penetrate the partition.

Vertical Fire Partitions

When designing and installing fire partitions, each wall is unique and has to be treated as such. The partitions may be attached to a concrete, brick, sandwich or shaft wall and it will need to be assessed for suitability prior to installation. The majority of walls also include electric sockets, and holes for cables and pipes. These introduce weaknesses into the fire protection, and need to be sealed to maintain the integrity of the passive fire protection.

Horizontal Fire Partitions

Each ceiling will be assessed for ‘fire above’ or ‘fire below’ requirements as stipulated by the Building Regulations. Horizontal partitions stop the vertical spread of fire through the creation of incombusible, or low combustible ceilings, a ceiling membrane, or suspended ceilings.


About DunbarWallace Fire Protection

We are a specialist contractor and an experienced installer and designer of passive fire protection systems and a leading UK designer an installer of firestopping solutions in high risk environments. These include power stations and nuclear facilities.  In this context the requirements are at their most stringent, and compartmentation has to be able to withstand severe fire conditions.


DunbarWallace Fire Protection is a licensed and approved installer of Promat DURASTEEL® fire compartment walls and ceilings.