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Understanding The Structural Fire Testing Process

Jan 09, 2019

Whenever a structure is built, regulatory boards and government agencies require builders to meet health and safety requirements that includes fire protection measures.  Specific provisions are outlined in the Australian Building Codes Board, all of which must be strictly complied with.  To ensure the regulations are followed, a typical structure or building is subjected to undergo structural fire testing, a fire retardant test, and a fire propagation test, among others.

But why undergo fire tests?

Even with the advent of technologically advanced fire protection products and procedures that promise to safeguard people and property, the incidence of fire-related accidents does not seem to end. In fact, the scale of loss from damage and life continues to rise, amounting to around $700 million between 2013 – 2014 in Australia alone. That is why it is critical the industry as a whole seeks to make advancements in product and building design, proved through testing, as to ensure the strength of your structure in the case of catastrophic fire.

The Evolution of Fire Resistance Measures   

As early as 19th century, improvements in structural design and the measures taken in response to fire and it’s prevention have been made. Back then, replacing combustible materials with non-combustible was the pinnacle of ”fire proofing”; or covering wood and using an iron-and-brick system which similarly was seen as ensuring a building was ‘protected from fire’.
With advancements in science and engineering however, we have gained the ability to study the thermo-mechanical behaviour of structures and their elements including the understanding of fire dynamics. And with design and material advancements, there has been growth in the development and application of fire retardants and other fire rating measures. As a result, specific requirements have been defined and coded in regulatory literature to promote standard building performance and ensure structural integrity not just today, but for years to come. 

The Australian Regulatory Fire Test

When it comes to materials and components of buildings, regulatory bodies have determined the minimum requirements which are required for different components and which satisfy as being compliant.  Tests are then designed which exist to make sure all products reach a minimum requirement for use. One of these tests includes a standard fire test for building components that are typically exposed to building fires such as structural beams. Treated beams (those which have been given a fire rating coating such as Nullifire SC902) are put into a furnace to demonstrate fire resistance and load-bearing capacity when under the stress of fire. 
In Australia, everyone is required to follow the AS 1530.4:2014 Standard which sets out test procedures and criteria for the determination of fire-resistance of elements of building construction. It includes test for combustibility and flammability of material as well as simultaneous determination of ignitability, flame propagation, heat release, and smoke release.
This structural fire testing aims to determine the performance of external construction elements when exposed to radiant heat, burning embers and burning debris in case of a cellulosic fire. It specifies procedures on testing furnace linings; walls; floors, roofs, and ceilings horizontal separation elements; columns; beams, girders, and trusses; doorsets and shutter assemblies; uninsulated glazing; air ducts; service penetrations and control joints; fire damper and air transfer grille assemblies in ducts; and critical services.
Fire resistance is then measured in terms of temperature, pressure, time, deflection, received total heat flux, and integrity, along with other established determinants of fire resistance. It must be noted that these tests are conducted only by accredited and authorised fire rating experts in Australia. 

Time to Boost Your Structural Fire Retardant Rating

If you want to ensure that your building complies with AS 1530.4:2014 for Protection Against Fire, it is best that you combine active fire protection with passive fire protection methods. If you are not sure where to start, or need a quote, contact our a Permax experts who will be happy to help you.

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