14 per cent of British people now live in apartments, and with a population that grows by more than 500,000 each year, we’re expecting this figure to increase – particularly when you factor in the ever-present housing crisis.
If you’re a landlord, building owner or specifier, you will no doubt be aware of the Health & Safety regulations within flats and how they determine the choice of materials and construction practices you must undertake to ensure your project meets Building Regulations.
In this post, we’ll be focussing on the Approved Document B2 that you should be aware of if you’re involved in the design and/or specification of fire doors in apartment blocks.
Read on to find out more…
Fire Doors in Flats
Approved Document B2 provides guidance on when fire doors should be fitted within flats. There is a specific recommendation that the entrance door to a flat that opens onto a common area should be a fire door, classified as meeting a minimum half-hour fire resistance, fitted with smoke seals and self-closing.
Internally the recommendations vary depending upon the floor level of the flat.
1 Flats that are located on the ground floor.
These do not need fire doors if the habitable rooms have a means of escape. This means of escape must be directly from each room to the outside and can be either through a door or window meeting the Emergency Egress recommendations (see BWF guide); or all the habitable rooms directly access a hall leading to the entrance.
2 Flats that are located on an upper floor.
Flats located on an upper floor below 4.5 m do not need fire doors if the habitable rooms have a means of escape through a door or window meeting the Emergency Egress recommendations.
3 Flats that are located on an upper floor that are above 4.5m.
These will need fire doors between the habitable rooms and the hall leading to the entrance. Alternative design layout options are available that would reduce the need for fire doors at these levels, for example open-plan arrangements may not need fire doors.
4 One special condition.
This covers blocks of flats of maximum four storeys with a top floor not more than 11 m above the ground with a single stair.
In this situation, fire doors can be omitted from the internal layouts of each flat, provided that the external lobby is separated from the stair well by another fire door.
None of the fire doors within the flats will need door closers.
All the internal doors are classified as FD20s. Fire doorset manufacturers do not supply FD20s and therefore FD30s must be used including all the specified hardware and intumescent seals.
Most flat units are of three or four storeys and will therefore require fire doors within the second and third floor flats. It is usual for builders to use the same doors throughout the other lower areas to avoid the incorrect fitting of non-fire doors on the upper floors.
This Guide is a RW Doorsets interpretation of the recommendations set out in Approved Document B2 2006.
How does this all work?
Compartmentalisation of fire in flats
In the unfortunate event of a fire, an individual flat should act as its own ‘fire box’. In other words, any fire that breaks out within the flat should never spread beyond it. And that is where your apartment fire doorset plays such a crucial role.
Similarly, if a fire were to break out in a hallway or corridor of an apartment building, your individual flat’s fire door should stop the fire or smoke from entering via intumescent protection that meets the minimum requirement designated by the fire strategy. (For example FD60 will ensure fire resistance for up to 60 minutes.)
Certified, Tested Fire Doors
All fire doorsets must be certified to the required fire resistance standard. This doesn’t just mean the door leaf itself. Every component of the fire door (i.e. the whole fire doorset) should be tested and certified. This includes ironmongery, vision panels, intumescent strip and other essential components.
Fire Door Obstructions & Alterations
Fire doorsets in apartment building hallways will have a self-closing mechanism fitted. It’s crucial that these are never removed or disabled for any reason as a fire door must be kept closed at all times in order to fulfil its function in the event of a fire.
In a similar way, tenants should be discouraged from wedging open fire doors.
Any physical work, or alterations, carried out must maintain the integrity of the safety features and ensure that the compartmentalisation aspects are protected and adhered to. Only those certified to amend or alter fire doorsets are permitted to do so. Failure to use competent persons may breach the fire integrity of the doorset leaving you, the landlord or owner liable for all loss.
Installation of Fire Doors in Flats
You could have a fully certified and engineered fire doorset, but if incorrectly fitted, it won’t serve its primary function – to protect users in the event of a fire.
It may be tempting to go down the manufacture and supply only route, getting your guys on site to install the doorset.
However, this is not advisable. We’ve compiled a list, taken from this blog post, of things to consider when it comes to fire door installation.
– Any individual fitting a fire door should be fully trained and competent to do so.
– Look for a label or a plug to show that the door is certificated and check the instructions/certificate supplied.
– Essential Ironmongery such as locks, latches, closers and hinges MUST be CE marked, firmly fixed with no missing screws and compatible with the door leaf’s certification.
– The gap between door and frame at the top and sides should be 3 mm and the threshold gap as per manufacturer’s instructions (typically around 3-10 mm) – the certificate will include details of this.
– Ensure any voids between door frame and wall are tightly packed with the appropriate packing material.
– Once installed, check that the closer and other ironmongery shuts the door onto the latch from any position.
– Once complete use the manufacturer’s checklist to review the installation and ensure compliance.
Cheaper “certified” Alternatives?
Value engineering your fire door should be avoided at all costs – for example, purchasing your leaf from one manufacturer and your ironmongery from another.
Well, even if your components are all individually certified, that doesn’t mean they’ll be compatible with other component(s). For example, a door leaf manufacturer can legally sell a door leaf certified to BS476 Pt 22, but,
But what did the frame look like that they tested their leaf with? Was it sufficient section size, material density?
What was the intumescent recipe they used? Does it suit the size and fire rating of the leaf?
Will the leaf permit vision panels, what beading, glass and intumescent seals are suitable?
Fire doorset components are tested in literally hundreds of combinations with the same leaf passing and failing in certain scenarios. It is critical that you use a certified fire doorset manufacturer and certified fire doorset installer if you wish to maintain full fire certification within the fire doorset.
Adhering to these regulations will ensure ultimate safety to those living inside an apartment block. However, in the quest for safety, don’t overlook the design of your fire door.
At RW Doorsets, we specialise in creating unique, awe-inspiring designs without compromising on safety. So, if you’re involved in an apartment project and want to discuss your fire door options further, don’t hesitate to speak to an expert today.