Publication - Advice and guidance

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: domestic buildings

The Building Standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and are available in two volumes, domestic buildings and non-domestic buildings. This publication is available in html and also in PDF format (in 'supporting documents' ).

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: domestic buildings
2. Fire

2.2 Separation

Mandatory Standard

Standard 2.2

Every building, which is divided into more than one area of different occupation, must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, fire and smoke are inhibited from spreading beyond the area of occupation where the fire originated.

2.2.0 Introduction

In order to reduce the risk of fire spreading from one dwelling to another, fire separation should be provided between dwellings and between dwellings and any common spaces. Such separation should form a complete barrier to the products of combustion; smoke, heat and toxic gases. In semi-detached or terraced houses, or between flats or maisonettes, the barrier will normally be in the form of fire resisting walls and floors where appropriate.

The guidance in clause 2.2.9 (Openings and service penetrations) and clause 2.2.10 (Junctions) is common, not only to separation, but also to the relevant guidance in Standard 2.4 Cavities and Standard 2.9 Escape. To avoid duplication, these clauses are referred to throughout the Handbook and the reader is prompted to return to these common clauses whenever it is considered appropriate.

Conversions - in the case of conversions, as specified in regulation 4, the building as converted shall meet the requirements of this standard in so far as is reasonably practicable, and in no case be worse than before the conversion (regulation 12, schedule 6).

A separating wall or separating floor with at least a medium fire resistance duration should be provided between adjoining dwellings.

2.2.2 Dwellings with common occupation

A separating wall or separating floor with at least a medium fire resistance duration should be provided between a dwelling and any other part of the building in common occupation. A protected zone and a common access corridor should be considered as being in common occupation. Any self-closing fire door installed in these separating walls should have at least a short fire resistance duration and in the case of a high rise domestic building, a medium fire resistance duration. For ancillary rooms and spaces, common external escape stairs or open access balconies, see the guidance to Standard 2.9.

2.2.3 Separation between domestic and non-domestic buildings

A separating wall or separating floor with at least a medium fire resistance duration should be provided between a domestic and non-domestic building. Reference should also be made to the guidance for non-domestic buildings where appropriate.

2.2.4 Domestic garages

There is a risk posed by the storage of combustible materials and other highly flammable substances in garages which are integral or attached to a dwelling.

A separating wall or separating floor with a short fire resistance duration therefore should be provided between an integral or attached garage and a dwelling in the same occupation. It is not necessary for a roof space above the garage to be separated from the dwelling where the garage ceiling will serve as a separating floor with a short fire resistance duration (see annex 2.A).

2.2.5 Lift wells

Every lift well should be enclosed by separating walls with a medium fire resistance duration. Where the lift well does not extend the full height of the building, the lift well should form a junction with a separating floor with a medium fire resistance duration. Where a lift is installed, the landing controls and lift car controls should be of a type that do not operate on heat or pressure resulting from a fire.

A platform lift constructed in accordance with the guidance in BS 6440: 1999 (see Section 4 Safety), need not be enclosed by separating walls or separating floors.

2.2.6 Combustibility

Separating Walls - in a building with no storey at a height above 18m, separating walls may be constructed from combustible materials provided the appropriate fire resistance duration is maintained.

To reduce the risk of a fire starting within a combustible separating wall or a fire spreading rapidly on or within the wall construction:

  • insulation material exposed in a cavity should be constructed from materials which are non-combustible or of a low risk classification, and

  • the internal wall linings should be constructed from materials which are non-combustible or of a low risk classification, and

  • the wall should contain no pipes, wires or other services.

Where an opening is created to allow services to pass through the wall, the opening should be constructed in accordance with the guidance in clause 2.2.9.

Separating floors - in a domestic building with no storey at a height above 18m, separating floors may be constructed from combustible material.

Where a domestic building also contains non-domestic accommodation, every part of that separating floor (other than a floor finish e.g. laminate flooring) should be constructed from non-combustible products. This is not necessary for a floor:

Occupants in high rise domestic buildings may not evacuate the building immediately and fire-fighting and rescue operations will take longer to commence if the fire is on a floor high above the ground. Therefore in order to improve occupant and fire-fighter safety in high rise domestic buildings every:

2.2.8 Supporting structure

Where an element of structure (see clause 2.3.0) provides support to a non-combustible separating wall or separating floor, the supporting element of structure should also be non-combustible.

Where an element of structure provides support to a separating wall or separating floor which attracts a higher fire resistance duration, the supporting element of structure should have at least the same fire resistance duration.

2.2.9 Openings and service penetrations

General - Separating walls and separating floors are intended to prevent fire passing from one part of the building to another part under different occupation. Openings and service penetrations through these walls or floors can compromise their effectiveness and should be kept to a minimum. The solum and roof-space should not be forgotten. Openings and service penetrations should be carefully detailed and constructed to resist fire. This can be achieved by following the guidance below.

A self-closing fire door with the same fire resistance duration as the separating wall should be installed in accordance with the recommendations in the Code of Practice, ‘Hardware for Fire and Escape Doors’ Issue 2, June 2006, published by the Door and Hardware Federation and the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers.

In some instances a self-closing fire door with a short fire resistance duration may be installed. For example in a separating wall between a dwelling and a common space (see clause 2.2.2).

A self-closing fire door should not be fitted in a separating wall between 2 dwellings in different occupation.

A lockable door to a cupboard or service duct with a floor area not more than 3m2 need not be self-closing.

Hold open devices- Self-closing fire doors can be fitted with hold open devices as specified in BS 5839: Part 3: 1988 provided the door is not an emergency door, a protected door serving the only escape stair in the building (or the only escape stair serving part of the building) or a protected door serving a fire-fighting shaft.

It is important that hold open devices deactivate on operation of the fire alarm therefore some buildings will need automatic fire detection to be installed. Electrically operated hold open devices should therefore deactivate on operation of:

  • an automatic fire alarm system designed and installed in accordance with BS 5839: Part 1: 2002 (Category L5) determined on the basis of a risk assessment

  • any loss of power to the hold open device, apparatus or switch, and

  • a manually operated switch fitted in a position at the door.

An example of a Category L5 fire alarm system could be a system installed in the common corridor of flats incorporating only 2 smoke detectors, one installed on each side of the door and positioned not less than 500mm and not more than 3m from the door.

Additional guidance on the siting and coverage of fire detectors is contained in BS 5839: Part 1: 2002, and for actuation of door release mechanism, see BS 7273: Part 4: 2007.

A chimney or flue-pipe should be constructed so that, in the event of a fire, the fire resistance duration of the separating wall or separating floor is maintained.

A service opening (other than a ventilating duct) which penetrates a separating wall or separating floor should be fire stopped providing at least the appropriate fire resistance duration for the wall or floor. This may be provided by:

  • a casing which has at least the appropriate fire resistance from the outside, or

  • a casing which has at least half the appropriate fire resistance from each side, or

  • an automatic heat activated sealing device that will maintain the appropriate fire resistance in respect of integrity for the wall or floor regardless of the opening size.

Fire stopping of the following services passing through a separating wall or separating floor need not be provided for:

  • a pipe or a cable with a bore, or diameter, of not more than 40mm, or

  • not more than four 40mm diameter pipes or cables that are at least 40mm apart and at least 100mm from any other pipe, or

  • more than four 40mm diameter pipes or cables that are at least 100mm apart, or

  • a pipe which has a bore of not more than 160mm and is of iron, steel or copper, or of a material capable of withstanding 800oC without allowing flames or hot material to pass through the wall of the pipe, or

  • a branch pipe of a bore of not more than 110mm connected to a vertical drainage or water service pipe, constructed from aluminium, aluminium alloy, or uPVC to BS 4514: 1983 (1998).

Where a pipe connects to another pipe which attracts a more demanding fire resistance duration, and is within 1m from the separating wall or separating floor, the pipe should be fire stopped to the more demanding guidance.

Ventilation systems - the potential for ventilation systems to allow the spread of fire and smoke should be considered. A mechanical ventilation system may contribute to the spread of fire and smoke unless it is designed to shut down automatically or operate in a fire-mode if fire is detected. Ventilation ductwork passing through a separating wall or separating floor should be provided with either:

  • fire dampers

  • fire resisting enclosures, or

  • fire rated ductwork.

Ventilation ductwork should be fire stopped in accordance with BS 5588: Part 9: 1999. Section 6 of BS 5588: Part 9: 1999 provides guidance on design and construction including fire resisting enclosures, fire resisting ductwork and the use and activation of fire dampers.

Fire-stopping - may be necessary to close an imperfection of fit or design tolerance between construction elements and components, service openings and ventilation ducts. Proprietary fire-stopping products, including intumescent products, should be tested to demonstrate their ability to maintain the appropriate fire resistance duration under the conditions appropriate to their end use.

Where minimal differential movement is anticipated, either in normal use or during fire exposure, proprietary fire-stopping products may be used. The following materials are also considered appropriate: cement mortar; gypsum based plaster; cement or gypsum based vermiculite/perlite mixes; mineral fibre; crushed rock and blast furnace slag or ceramic based products (with or without resin binders).

Where greater differential movement is anticipated, either in normal use or during fire exposure, proprietary fire-stopping products should be used.

To prevent displacement, materials used for fire-stopping should be reinforced with, or supported by, non-combustible materials where the unsupported span is more than 100mm and where non-rigid materials are used. However this is not necessary where it has been shown by test that the materials are satisfactory within their field of application.

2.2.10 Junctions

General - the basic principle is that junctions between separating walls and separating floors and other parts of the building should be designed and constructed in such a way to prevent a fire in one part of the building flanking the separating wall or separating floor and entering another part of the building under different occupation, including any solum space or roof space. Therefore, the building elements, materials or components should not be built into, or carried through or across the ends of, or over the top of a separating wall in such a way as to impair the fire resistance between the relevant parts of the building.

Junctions with walls - where a separating wall or separating floor forms a junction with an external wall, another separating wall, or a wall or screen used to protect routes of escape (see clause 2.0.6), the junction should maintain the fire resistance of the separating wall or separating floor.

Junctions with roofs - where a separating wall forms a junction with a roof, the junction should maintain the fire resistance duration of the separating wall in accordance with the following:

  • where the roof has a combustible substrate, the wall should project through the roof to a distance of at least 375mm above the top surface of the roof, or

  • where the wall is taken to the underside of a non-combustible roof substrate, the junction should be fire stopped and the roof covering should be low vulnerability (see guidance to Standard 2.8) for a distance of at least 1.7m to each side of the centre-line of the wall, or

  • in the case of a pitched roof covered by slates nailed directly to sarking and underlay, the junction between the sarking and wall-head should be fire-stopped as described in BRE Housing Defects Prevention Unit “Defect Action Sheet (Design)” February 1985 (DAS 8), or

  • in the case of a pitched roof covered by slates or tiles fixed to tiling battens and any counter-battens, the junction between the tiles or slates and the underlay should be fully bedded in cement mortar (or other fire-stopping material) at the wall-head.