Drywall contractors taking on the passive fire protection package

Author Siniat Date 04/11/2016


For drylining contractors taking on passive fire protection package
Whilst drylining and passive fire protection are two distinct disciplines, they are increasingly being led by contractors as part of the same package.  As a result, growing numbers of drylining contractors now face the challenge of taking on passive fire protection. Here is what you need to know.

Active v passive fire protection
Fire protection comes in two forms: active and passive. Active fire protection includes measures like fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, smoke detectors and emergency lighting.  Passive fire protection – the kind Promat is concerned with – is built into the fabric of the building in the form of fire-resistant floors, walls and doors.  The best fire protection solutions consider the specific design of individual buildings and how they are used by occupiers.  They combine both active and passive measures in a holistic approach. While dryliners need only concern themselves with the protection which is built in, it’s worth being aware that this sits within a broader framework.

Third party accreditation of products… and installers
Across the built environment in recent years there has been a move to drive quality standards, boost supply chain transparency and ensure consistency through independent third party accreditation of both products and installers. It’s a move that we’ve fully supported.

Third party assessment of products and installers has allowed contractors to identify those products and supply chain partners who can offer independently-assured quality and technical performance and – while it may be perceived to add additional time and cost into the equation – the shift has seen standards rise considerably and a reduction in costs by avoiding the use of inappropriate systems and installations and the associated rectification costs.

Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP)
Passive fire protection is no different. Since the rise in third party accreditation, the number of deaths due to fires in buildings has fallen considerably. There are a number of schemes for both products and installers, but the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) only recommends those that have been accredited by UKAS: you can find a comprehensive list on their website.

Not only do these schemes assess both products and installers thoroughly, but it’s an ongoing assessment process with materials tested every few years to ensure ongoing consistency and technical performance.  Critically, by using products with third party accreditation, you avoid being caught out by a manufacturer who gained accreditation initially only to downgrade the composition of the product to cut costs.   Cheaper, non-accredited alternatives are available of course but – as is usually the case – skimping on quality in the name of value engineering is a false economy.

Substandard fire protection systems is only as good as the installation
Any fire protection system is only as good as the installation, and vice versa, and substandard versions of either cause long term issues as well as slowing down build time.  There have been multiple examples recently of PFI projects – in which cost was clearly the central concern during construction – where significant defects in fire protection were discovered long after handover.  The specialists were brought in too late, with major time and cost implications for the client.

Third party accreditation not only assures the quality of the job, it also enables vital transparency throughout the supply chain. Accreditation provides accountability long after handover is complete, giving the client and / or facilities management company all the information they need to manage the asset going forward.  It’s also evidence of due diligence on the part of the dryliner, actively demonstrating that they take seriously their contractual duty of care which each supplier must fulfil.

Accreditation in-house or sub-contract to others is your choice
If gaining accreditation fits within the balance of your in-house skill set then it’s worth considering for your business, but equally dryliners shouldn’t be afraid to sub-contract this element of the package to a specialist. If you do take this route, early engagement is key. It’s worth getting your chosen supplier involved as early as possible – specialists can advise on how passive fire protection can fit most seamlessly into your plans, and also recommend the best materials for your specific requirements.

Passive fire protection with accredited materials and installers saves lives and protects property, so don’t be afraid to either gain third party accreditation yourself or subcontract to a specialist – it could save a life, and certainly won’t do your reputation within the supply chain any harm either.

Nigel Morrey is technical director of Promat - an ETEX Building Performance company – which includes leading passive fire protection.