Building standards technical handbook 2019: domestic

The building standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 October 2019 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

This document is part of a collection

2.3 Structural protection

Mandatory Standard

Standard 2.3

Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, the load-bearing capacity of the building will continue to function until all occupants have escaped, or been assisted to escape, from the building and any fire containment measures have been initiated.

2.3.0 Introduction

In order to prevent the premature collapse of the load-bearing structural elements of a building, appropriate levels of fire resistance duration (see annex 2.A) should be provided to all element of structure. The purpose of structural fire protection is:

  • to minimise the risk to the occupants, some of whom may not evacuate the building immediately, and

  • to reduce the risk to fire-fighters who may be engaged in fire-fighting or rescue operations.

An element of structure may perform more than one function and it is important that the appropriate guidance related to the different standards is followed.

The added benefit to structural fire protection means that the risk to people in the vicinity of the building or in adjoining buildings from collapse of the structure is reduced.

An element of structure is part of a building which is part of a structural frame (beams and columns), load-bearing (other than part which is only self load-bearing), a floor, or supports a floor. An example of part of the structure that is only self load-bearing could be a lintel in a non load-bearing wall. A roof structure should not be considered as an element of structure unless the roof provides support to an element of structure or which performs the function of a floor.

Conversions - in the case of conversions, as specified in regulation 4, the building as converted shall meet the requirement of this standard (regulation 12, schedule 6).

It is essential that during a fire the elements of structure should continue to function. They should remain capable of supporting and retaining the fire protection to floors, escape routes and fire access routes, until all occupants have escaped, been assisted to escape or rescued by the fire and rescue service. In practice, the fire and rescue service could remain in the building long after it has been evacuated. For this reason, an additional level of protection is built into the guidance for domestic buildings that varies depending on the height of the topmost storey of the building.

Table 2.1. Protection of Structural Elements

Height of topmost storey above ground level Fire resistance duration
Not more than 7.5m short
More than 7.5m but not more than 18m medium
More than 18m but not more than 60m long [1]

Additional information:

  1. An intermediate floor or floors within a flat or maisonette need only have short fire resistance duration provided the floor or floors do not support or provide lateral restraint to any part of the structure with a medium or long fire resistance duration.

However the following element of structure need not be provided with any fire resistance for structural protection:

  • an element of structure in a single storey building which does not form part of, or provide support to, a separating wall, a wall or screen used to protect routes of escape (see clause 2.0.6) or an external wall which attracts a fire resistance (see guidance to Standard 2.6)

  • a gallery floor other than a gallery floor which is wholly or partly enclosed below

  • the lowest floor of a building.

2.3.2 Combustibility

An element of structure in a building (other than a high rise domestic buildings) may be constructed from combustible material provided the construction achieves the appropriate fire resistance duration.

However, where an element of structure provides support to another element of structure (or a protected route of escape, see clause 2.0.6) which should be constructed from products that achieve European Classification A1 or A2, the supporting element of structure should also be constructed from products that achieve European Classification A1 or A2 (see annex 2.B).

2.3.3 Supporting structure

Where an element of structure provides support to another element of structure (or provides support to a protected route of escape) which attracts a higher period of fire resistance, the supporting element of structure should have at least the same period of fire resistance.

2.3.4 Openings and service penetrations

In general, openings and service penetrations in element of structure need not be protected from fire unless there is the possibility of structural failure. However where a large opening or a large number of small openings are formed, careful detailing particularly at the edge of the opening or service penetration should be carried out in order to maintain the load-bearing capacity of the element of structure. If in doubt, edge protection should be provided.

2.3.5 Junctions

The detailing of junctions between relevant parts of a building is described in clauses 2.2.10, 2.4.7 and 2.9.21. Fire-stopping of other junctions is generally not necessary. The important criteria to consider is the ability of the element of structure to maintain its load-bearing capacity in a fire in accordance with clause 2.3.1.

Back to top