Firestopping is included in the fire-resistance-rated system maintenance sections of codes throughout the world, including the National Fire Code of Canada (NFC) and the International Fire Code (IFC) in the United States.
In Division B–Part 2, “Building and Occupant Fire Safety,” NFC also has a short, but specific, reference to maintenance:
126.96.36.199–Damage to Fire Separations: Where fire separations are damaged so as to affect their integrity, they shall
be repaired so that the integrity of the fire separation
From this language, it seems the integrity of the fire separation is meant to be continuous (i.e. maintained at all times). Section 188.8.131.52 of NBC states, “where fire separations are damaged…they shall be repaired.”
In the 2015 IFC, there is a requirement for annual visual inspection of fire-resistance-rated or smoke-resistant assemblies by the building owner under Section 703.1.
How many building owners and managers have a line item in their operating budgets to repair these abutments, voids, gaps, openings, breaches, or holes in fire separations? How many have a sprinkler maintenance or alarm maintenance budget? In surveys of audiences during barrier/fire separation educational symposiums, it has been found the fire-separation budget is a new concept to the building owner and manager and growing.
Firestopping as a system and 07 84 00
Throughout North America, firestopping is a systems-oriented installation. The product alone does not get a rating. The rating comes from the products installed to the tested and listed system and manufacturer’s installation instructions. This means products must be installed to the tested and listed ‘system’ from a nationally recognized testing laboratory before the entire assembly becomes a fire and life safety-tested and listed firestop system.
It takes a firestop contractor who specializes in this complex work to understand all the details involved in accomplishing this. He or she also knows how to supervise the workforce so people do not get ‘creative’ in the field and veer away from the tested and listed systems.
Inspection of firestopping is important as well. However, if the firestop contractor does not get the systems installed correctly, inspection time and costs will skyrocket, as this is generally an hourly fee rather than fixed price. Inspection needs to be specified to be bought by the building owner and manager, not the general contractor, to maintain independence.
Firestop contractors who specialize in complex tested and listed systems, manufacturers’ installation instructions, and detail are needed to maintain continuity of fire resistance.
Where is the future of fire resistance going? Qualifications are continually being developed for companies installing, inspecting, and maintaining fire-resistance-rated construction and the features that protect fire separations.
FCIA has been proactive about developing programs to help specifiers, building owners, and managers provide standards from which to specify quality in firestop installations and hire firestop contractors and inspection agencies in a quantifiable way. By joining the quality management process manufacturers embraced long ago, firestop contractors and special inspection agencies are leading the quality movement in the subcontracting world.
Specifiers have been adding the DIIM requirements for firestopping to construction documents through the standards listed above (e.g. FM 4991, UL/ULC standards, and IAS AC-291), and some projects are using this method of construction. The trend needs to continue to grow so buildings are safe for all people to occupy, regardless of whether they are sleeping, playing, or working.
Bill McHugh, CSC, CSI, MBA, is executive director of the Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA). He has been involved in Division 07 items since 1981, and in firestopping since 1990. McHugh has been FCIA executive director since the organization’s beginning in 1998. He has written, spoken, and moderated symposiums throughout North America and the Middle East. McHugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.