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What Does Compartmentation Mean


A core principle governing building design under UK building regulations is to protect individuals from fire and its effects so that they can react before conditions become untenable, with time to spare, for escape without panic to a place of safety should fire break out.

Everybody who is likely to be affected should be able to leave safely. And it is important that fire should be contained as much and as long as possible, such that the chances of fire spread are restricted.

People safety depends on containing fire in the place where it breaks out, wherever that happens to be. And those at risk must be able to move safely through protected areas along protected routes on their way out of the building.

That requires the building to be designed and constructed with separately protected areas using fire-resistant walls, floors and ceilings (i.e. at the boundaries). Those areas are specifically referred to as “compartments”. The principle is “compartmentation”. The compartments need to be connected by fire doors, and there must be corridors, lobbies, and stairways available for escape (also access for firefighters) which people can use whilst being separated from fire and its effects.

Those effects are not only flames and heat. Smoke and hot fumes from combustion are also potentially lethal, restricting vision and leading to disorientation as well as causing breathing problems from ingested soot particles and potentially toxic and aggressive acrid gases.

The twin objectives of compartmentation and fire separation accordingly need the use of not only integrity but also of integrity with insulation fire resistance performance at potentially critical points and for higher-risk situations and types of building occupancy.

The benefits of the special laminated chemistry technology used in Pyrodur and Pyrostop is that in case of fire the laminate expands and swells up to provide a foamed layer that cuts out radiant heat. That also effectively reduces conduction through the glass sandwich structure, which in turn leads to reduced convective heat transfer on the protected side. The interlayer also acts as a glass-compatible glue to bind the whole structure together. In effect, Pyrostop in particular can provide fire resistance as effective as a block wall, with all the additional key benefits of a transparent construction for normal day-to-day use in the routine life of the building.

Transparent constructions have long been known to be helpful for physical, medical and mental wellbeing, especially from the 1930’s when sanatoria were constructed, as architect Alva Aalto observed, to “bring sunshine indoors.” That is one of the main examples in the new Wellcome Collection exhibition in London “Living with Buildings”, about how architecture can support and shape human health and mental stability.

Compartmentation does not have to mean dark and dismal enclosed spaces. Transparent and open fire safety design is entirely possible using well tried and tested fire-resistant glazing solutions.

Glass constructions enable light to be channelled into the heart of a building, providing an open environment connected to the sky and outside surroundings. To be able to do that - whilst maintaining and satisfying basic requirements of compartmentation and fire separation - is a great benefit for architects and specifiers. Designs do not have to be unduly constrained and limited; and both building owners and residents will very much appreciate the benefits of better buildings. #

T A Anders Limited is a longstanding Licensed Supplier of the well tried and tested Pilkington Pyrostop and Pilkington Pyrodur fire-resistant glass and glazed framed systems. We stock the entire range at our modern factory in Trafford Park, Manchester, and can process, distribute, install in proprietary frames and provide fire safety and product guidance if required. For further information, please contact T A Anders Limited on 0161 736 2487 or or visit for product specification and test evidence.

These opinions are offered in good faith but it is the responsibility of the reader to satisfy themselves as to their veracity and form their conclusions

T.A Anders & Co. Ltd
Unit 12 Guinness Road Trading Estate
Guinness Road
Trafford Park
M17 1SB
Tel: 0161 736 2487
Fax: 0161 736 3824
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