Building Renovations and Passive Fire Protection

22ndFebruary 2022
By Jeff Anderson
Building Renovations and Passive Fire Protection

Here is a statistic to wrap your head around: In the 2025 fiscal year, the value of commercial building activity in Australia is forecast to be valued at approximately AUD $43.2 billion. This is a bounce back to pre-covid levels and an indication of the strength of the commercial building sector. When you consider this does not take into account the value of industrial building construction and maintenance, you get an idea of the value of construction and maintenance within the Australian market.

Our industry – passive fire protection – represents the smallest smidge of this combined value,  however, when you consider the important role our products play in preserving the structural safety of a building during a fire, the truth is, fire rating, whilst often overlooked, is actually an element of the construction and maintenance of buildings that cannot and should not be ignored.

Building Maintenance and Fire Protection

COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on society as a whole. For over 2 years, the world has been in a state of stasis, and the construction industry has been no different. Whilst it was deemed to be an industry that should work during the heights of the pandemic, the truth is, investment into new construction slowed, fueled by drops in investment and lower confidence. What this did do, however, was drive investment into building maintenance, with property owners, building managers and strata corporations all realising that to maintain the value of their asset, money had to be invested to protect the building.

Of course, the nature of renovations and construction dictates that no renovation will be the same as any other construction project. In some cases, it may be an aesthetic upgrade, in others more of a structural change, and in others the addition of new elements altogether. Elements such as walls and doors may be removed which may mean the addition of partitions, or the incorporation of new steel or timber structural components. Either way you look at it though, the truth is, the change to the structure and the introduction of new elements means the building requires new fire protection to be added. This could be thin-film intumescents for steel beams & columns,  thin-film intumescent for timber, or even fire protection for the slab itself.

In fact, if we look at simplifying the above we can do so as follows:

  1. Renovations to primarily wooden constructed buildings comprised of wooden beams, likely using a compression layer over the reinforced concrete.
  2. Renovations to predominantly concrete structures, generally built with unidirectional older (hence the need for updates to the building) slabs which may or may not have signs of concrete cancer, delamination, or other structural deficits.
  3. Buildings that require maintenance or upgrade works that are constructed from predominantly structural steel elements.

First Steps

It is seemingly commonplace for builders, engineers, and architects to consider the fire rating requirements once in the construction phase. Whilst we have worked to educate the market on the importance of scoping and specifying the right solutions earlier in the cycle, there is still a tendency to involve fire rating specialists during construction, at which time the decision on what methods and solutions can be applied may almost be a moot point.

Our advice for all industry professionals is simple: Getting professional advice earlier in the process (the design phase ideally) from someone such as a fire engineer can help with ensuring that not only does an upgrade (or new build) take into account the fire rating requirements needed for compliance, but that there is adequate structural support for the specified products (especially in the case of heavier products such as cementitious vermiculite), that there is clearance for products to swell as char is formed and that the products considered are fit for use (can they be used outside for example).

Our team has the experience and the expertise to help you with the design phase and with ensuring compliance for your renovation (or new build for that matter) projects. We recognise that the competing elements of speed, time and aesthetics, as well as design considerations for older buildings can play havoc with ensuring the timely delivery of a project but are confident in our ability to help you with your needs.

If you need assistance with your project, or advice of any kids, get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help.

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Permax constantly update the documentations based on the new fire testing outcomes and change of standards and regulations. To ensure the documents you read are up-to-date, please contact the Permax technical team.