Compartmentation is the foundation of passive fireproofing. Playing a crucial role in meeting fire safety regulations and industry standards, compartmentation protects the inhabitants of a building, and in many cases the building itself, by creating compartments that contain a fire to its area of origin. This article explores the many reasons why compartmentation is a vitally important factor in fire safety.

What is compartmentation?

Compartmentation involves partitioning or sectioning off a building into distinct compartments. The compartments are created using fire-resistant materials, including barriers and walls. By approaching fireproofing this way, buildings are better equipped to contain and prevent the spread of fires and smoke, enhancing overall safety and minimising potential damage.

Why is compartmentation important?

Containing fire and smoke

The most fundamental purpose of compartmentation is to contain heat, fire and smoke in the event of a fire. By creating fire-resistant compartments, equipped with fire-rated walls, floors, and ceilings, the spread of flames, smoke, and toxic gases can be effectively confined to their area of origin.

Protecting supporting structures

By fireproofing buildings into compartments, the spread of fire is effectively slowed down, which is especially important in minimising the damage caused to structural elements within a building. Structural support is arguably the most important part of the building to protect, simply because if the structure of the building gives in, the entire building and its contents will be destroyed. Compartmentation protects key structural elements, significantly minimising the chance of a building collapsing, allowing occupants more time to evacuate safely, as well as giving emergency responders more time, and clear space, to enter and intervene.

Protection of escape routes

Compartmentation plays an important role in assisting with the safeguarding of escape routes, ensuring that occupants can evacuate the building in the event of a fire. By compartmentalising escape routes such as stairwells, corridors, and exit pathways, these routes are shielded from the direct impact of fire and smoke. Without compartmentation protection of the building’s structure, a total or partial destruction of an evacuation route could spell disaster for inhabitants trying to evacuate, as well as firefighters attempting to gain access.

Insulating against heat

While fireproof compartments are designed to slow the spread of flames and smoke, they are also an effective barrier to heat. Because fires generate significant amounts of radiant heat, having a heat barrier is crucial for areas like escape routes, or where the occupants of a building need to move close to a fire in order to evacuate. Heat transfer through walls that are not thermally protected is a significant issue in the event of a fire, even if a wall or ceiling can physically resist the flames. Compartmentation ensures the reduction of heat transferred, allowing occupants a safer passage out of the building.

Protecting valuable assets

In addition to protecting the inhabitants of a building, compartmentation also exists to preserve the property and assets within a building. With fires costing Australian businesses millions every year, compartmentation is literally the last wall of defence in protecting valuables, especially in warehouses and industrial sites where machinery, stock and other valuable assets are kept. By confining a fire to its area of origin, compartmentation minimises the extent of fire damage, which in some cases may cripple or destroy a business completely.

Compliance with Building Regulations and Standards

Compartmentation is a requirement of several Australian building codes and safety regulations. When a building or any other structure is being erected, it is essential that the following safety codes are met –

AS 4072.1-2005, AS 1668.1-1998, AS 1851-2005, BCA Volume One Part C, AS ISO 15287:2003 and AS 1530.4-2014.

Compliance with these codes ensures that effective compartmentation has taken place and that a building is not only up to code but is deemed safe and may receive its Occupancy Permit.

Professional compartmentation

Compartmentation is the key method of effective fire stopping, playing a key role in safeguarding lives, protecting property, and ensuring the resilience of structures against a fire.

As experts in compartmentation, PROFINISH offers comprehensive fireproofing solutions for both new construction projects and renovations. As certified installers of top-tier passive fire protection products, we are committed to safeguarding buildings and other structures from the effects of fire. For more information about professional compartmentation, get in touch with a member of the PROFINISH team today.