When it comes to rainscreen facades, fire safety is paramount. Aluminium rainscreen facades have become increasingly popular for their looks, energy efficiency and durability when it comes to protection against fires. But what tests, regulations and best practices are in place to ensure these rainscreen facades are safe to use?
Find out in this blog.
Importance of Fire Safety in Building Design
There are many reasons as to why fire safety in building design is important.
The main goal of fire safety when it comes to building design is to ensure the safety of the occupants. Fires can spread quickly if you don’t put adequate fire safety measures in place. Fires can also lead to property damage, which results in large financial losses for not just the building owners but the occupants too.
On top of this, if you don’t comply with building codes and regulations which state specific fire safety standards, this can lead to lots of legal issues, and no one wants that.
When it comes to rainscreen facades, there are many potential risks involved.
Rainscreen facades create a cavity between the exterior cladding and the building structure, and fire can travel through this pathway within the building, creating havoc. Also, some materials don’t have good enough fire resistance, which can negatively affect the structural integrity.
They also require a lot of maintenance and inspections to ensure they are safe. By not regularly maintaining the facades, issues that compromise fire safety can arise, which is a massive risk.
Fire Safety Tests, Regulations and Codes
There are many different regulations and codes regarding fire safety for facades in the UK. Adhering to these regulations and codes is a must if you want your building to be safe from the threat of a fire burning it down.
For the UK, the Building Regulations 2010 (Statutory Instrument No. 2214) is the current legislation issued by the government. When choosing the materials for rainscreen facades, you should always select those that adequately resist fires per these regulations.
The Euroclass standards are also one of the most important standards available. They test and rate the reaction that materials have, to fire, with a rating system of A to E, with A being that the material is non-combustible and E being that the material is very combustible.
The BS EN 13501-1 fire test is part of the Euroclass Standards, specifically dealing with the classification of construction products and building elements concerning their reaction to fire. While BS EN 13501-1 is concerned with individual products, the BS EN 13501-5 test focuses on the classification of the whole external wall cladding system.
British Standard fire test, BS 8414, is also often used in rainscreen cladding and assesses the performance of external cladding systems by subjecting a full-scale cladding section to controlled fire exposure to evaluate factors like fire resistance, flame spread, and breach potential, ensuring compliance with fire safety standards.
The gross calorific potential test (Code: EN ISO 1716) is another safety test that you need to be aware of. This finds the maximum total heat release of a material when it is burned completely. If the material releases its maximum heat level too early, it will be unfit for use in rainscreen facades.
Because of all the potential risks listed, choosing fire-resistant materials for rainscreen facades is of the utmost importance. Let’s take a look at some of the best fire-resistant materials below:
Types of Fire-Resistant Materials for Rainscreen Facades
When it comes to fire resistance, there are three classes of materials. Using the Euroclass standards, take a look at the following materials and their ratings:
Class A rainscreen facades include materials such as aluminium, steel and brick. These materials are non-combustible, which is exactly what you want for your facades.
Class B rainscreen facades include materials like fibre cement and enhanced timber. These are flame-resistant and offer reduced combustibility compared to many options.
Class C is materials such as uPVC and PVC. While they have some protection against fire, it’s better to choose other options to be on the safe side.
Aluminium is known the world over for its strength-to-weight ratio. It is lightweight while also being durable. It can withstand harsh weather conditions and fires mainly due to its corrosion-resistant properties and non-combustibility.
Choosing aluminium will also reduce the maintenance requirements. Unlike wood or steel, aluminium doesn't require regular painting or staining to protect it.
It is also 100% recyclable and can be recycled repeatedly without losing its properties. This means that aluminium rainscreen facades can be manufactured using recycled material, and at the end of their life cycle, they can be recycled once more.
Fire-Resistant Coatings and Cladding Systems
Fire-resistant coatings and cladding systems can help with giving that extra layer of protection for delaying the spread of a fire and reducing structural damage that may occur. They are also great for complying with building codes and regulations, as this often needs to be applied before allowing people to live and work inside these buildings.
The Use of Aluminium Rainscreen Facades in Real Life
One example of an aluminium rainscreen facade being installed onto a building with success is that of the University of Birmingham Library. Anodised aluminium rainscreens were used due to their non-combustibility benefits to provide a fantastic place for students to research and work in without any threat of fires occurring.
Maintenance and Inspections
Although aluminium facades are designed to withstand the elements, without proper maintenance they can deteriorate quicker, putting them at more risk of being damaged in a fire. Also, when damaged or improperly sealed, it may compromise energy performance, leading to increased heating and cooling costs.
Routine inspections can stop all these issues, allowing them to be fixed before an issue occurs.
Tips for Building Owners and Managers
If you’re a building owner or manager, there are a few tips that you can use to ensure your facades stay in tip-top shape:
Maintenance Schedules: Create a detailed maintenance schedule that includes regular cleaning, inspections, and necessary repairs.
Hire Professionals: It's advisable to contact professionals experienced in aluminium rainscreen systems, such as the people at Built with Bailey. They have the expertise to identify and address issues effectively.
Future Trends in Fire Safety
With recent trends and innovations heading towards finding options that are more environmentally friendly, aluminium will likely stay as the number one choice for rainscreen facades in the decades to come.
One of the biggest issues that many new facades have suffered from recently is inadequate sealing of the facades. One innovation to curb this issue is the Effisus ProFlex FR. This is a multi-layered weatherproofing membrane with a 200% elongation capacity and a Class B fire reaction rating, making it the perfect combination with aluminium facades for ensuring there is the highest amount of fire safety possible.
Talk to Our Experts Today
If you want to find out more about how aluminium rainscreen facades can help your building be protected from fires, talk to our experts at Built with Bailey today.