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New report: Fire safety during construction and rehabilitation of buildings

The report «Fire safety during construction and rehabilitation of buildings» is now published. The study deals with how the covering of buildings during the construction or rehabilitation of buildings affects fire safety and to what extent the regulations take this into account. We have mapped relevant requirements, recommendations, and performances related to the covering of buildings, mapped available materials, studied the documentation of materials’ reaction to fire properties, and modelled the spread of smoke within the covering.

Our mapping of the many relevant laws and regulations applied for constructing and rehabilitating buildings has shown that demands are placed on owners, users, project owners, builders, businesses, employers, planners and contractors, often with similar roles having different names. Buildings in use are particularly complex with regard to regulations, since fire safety must be ensured for both the users and workers. In addition, during use,  both the owner and the users are responsible for ensuring fire safety. This requires good communication and cooperation between different actors to ensure that fire safety is maintained for all involved, during construction and rehabilitation of buildings.

When covered scaffolding is used, the covering is required to satisfy the fire requirements for materials used in escape routes, that is, B-s1,d0 (In 1) for walls and ceilings. There is currently no fire requirement for the walkways in the scaffolding, but we recommend that this is implemented in the same way as for the covering. This means Dfl-s1 (G) for surfaces on floors and B-s1,d0 (In 1) for surfaces on ceilings.

The simulations show that the spread of smoke from a fire inside a building is affected when the scaffolding around the building is covered. Covering around the sides leads to greater horizontal smoke spread in the scaffolding than without covering. When the cover also has a roof, the smoke first accumulates underneath the cover's roof before it eventually also fills up with smoke down the floors of the scaffolding. The simulations shows that establishing an opening in the upper part of the cover would ventilate the smoke gases effectively, and the spread of smoke was essentially the same as for a cover without a roof. In addition, the simulation indicates that the air flow through the walkways in the scaffolding could be an important factor in reducing the covering's negative effect on the spread of smoke.

We studied the fire documentation of 64 products used for covering, of which 35% had full classification according to EN 13501-1 (such as B-s1,d0). About 6% stated that the product was not flame retardant. The rest was either tested using other test methods, or did not provide any fire documentation, or stated that the product was flame retardant without further specification. Most products from market leaders used by large general contractors are in line with regulations.

For the fire and rescue service, covering could cause challenges and delays during firefighting, since the covering gives a reduced visual overview of the spread of smoke and the location of doors and windows. In addition, the covering can be an obstacle to the actual extinguishing effort, the use of an extinguishing agent and smoke divers and rescue efforts.

This study is funded by the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) and the Norwegian Building Authority (DiBK).

You may find the full report (pdf) in Norwegian with English summary here:

Photo: Bergen brannvesen