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March 18, 2020

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Fire safety

Considering fire safety alongside acoustic drainage

Though contractors consider acoustic performance when installing drainage systems throughout these buildings, they may not be aware of how this can factor into fire safety. With the topic now more relevant than ever, Franz Huelle, Head of Technical at Rehau Building Solutions, discusses fire safety considerations with acoustic drainage installation.

In the wake of incidents such as the Cube student accommodation fire in Bolton and the release of Phase I of the Grenfell Inquiry, building fire safety measures are increasingly under the spotlight. When specifying each aspect of a building, and particularly when constructing high-rise and multiple occupancy developments, contractors must ensure compliance with fire safety regulations. Yet, at the same time, they must select solutions that provide comfortable, high-quality living conditions to the building’s occupants.

Sound traveling through the building’s structures into occupants’ homes caused by low-performing acoustic drainage systems can have a negative effect on living conditions. This acoustic performance, on top of fire resistance, can be affected by a multitude of aspects, including low quality fittings and incorrect installation. By contrast, well-insulated pipes, correct bracketing, and fittings that absorb vibrations at points of directional change allow for optimal system performance and high levels of fire protection.

Regulation matters

Often contractors do not associate the importance of fire safety and acoustic performance when specifying a development’s drainage systems. However, in conjunction, they ensure drainage systems produce minimal sound disturbance, while acting as a further line of defence in the event of a fire.

Both fire safety and acoustic performance are detailed in The Building Regulations. Of these regulations, Approved Document B, 2019, provides the framework for fire safety standards in all building types, offering guidelines that detail the prevention of fire spreading through building services in multiple occupancy and high-rise developments.

Additionally, Approved Document E, 2015, delivers information about resistance to the passage of sound and the considerations that must be taken when designing and specifying a development. As well as setting standards for correctly soundproofing individual residences, it also covers the correct installation of drainage systems through separating floors or walls.

Although both approved documents go into great depth separately, fundamental links between acoustic performance and fire safety are not addressed in much detail. Therefore, it is down to contractors to make this association during the specification and design process of their development.

Fire safety at the forefront

When specifying a regulations-compliant drainage system for a development, contractors require a solution with great acoustic performance on top of good fire resistance and protection. If a system is not installed correctly or does not adhere to rigorous government regulations following inspections, installers may be required to remove and reinstall all the pipework.

Fire collars fitted to acoustic drainage systems provide protection that stops the spread of fire through the piping network. It is vital that these collars are installed correctly to ensure best acoustic performance. Indeed, if the fire collar is in contact with the pipework, it provides a direct channel for the sound vibrations to pass from the pipes to the building’s structure, where it could potentially disturb occupants. Incorrect installation could also compromise the system’s fire protection credentials, leading to the increased risk of fire spreading through the system.

Any other non-compliance leading to a complete reinstallation could not only incur huge costs for contactors, but also damage the reputation of any key stakeholder involved in the project. It may therefore be more practical for contractors to consider a system that best solves all of these issues at once, rather than being guided by initial cost savings.

Safety and performance together

With pressure on contractors to specify the best acoustic drainage system adhering to fire safety regulations, suppliers have a duty to create solutions that deliver everything in one package. Companies such as Rehau are therefore producing pipework systems with available accessories for great acoustic performance while also ensuring its fire safety.

Rehau’s acoustic soil and waste system Raupiano Plus combines sound-absorbing multi-layer technology, elbow joints with thicker walls, and patented acoustic brackets in a system with 17dB sound rating, meaning vibrations or noise from the system do not disturb occupants. Special fire collars ensure that Raupiano Plus is completely compliant with fire safety regulations. It achieves a minimum fire resistance for up to 120 minutes, while providing an acoustic separation between pipes and the building’s structure. Solutions for waste pipe sizes in 32 and 40mm are also available, providing a reliable, safe and quiet option.

Systems such as these provide contractors with an inspection-compliant, full solution that solves both acoustic and fire safety issues. Crucially, they also remove the risk of a complete replacement and reinstallation that could come with an initially low-cost system, and the financial and reputational cost that would ensue from this.

Find out more about Rehau’s acoustic soil and waste system, Raupiano Plus.

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