To accomplish these aims, many different types of materials are employed in the design and construction of systems. For instance, common endothermic building materials include concrete and gypsum wallboard. During fire testing of concrete floor slabs, water can be seen to boil out of a slab. Gypsum wall board typically loses all its strength during a fire. The use of endothermic materials is established and proven to be sound engineering practice. The chemically bound water inside these materials sublimes. During this process, the unexposed side cannot exceed the boiling point of water. Once the hydrates are spent, the temperature on the unexposed side of an endothermic fire barrier tends to rise rapidly. Too much water can be a problem, however. Concrete slabs that are too wet, will literally explode in a fire, which is why test laboratories insist on measuring water content of concrete and mortar in fire test specimens, before running any fire tests. PFP measures can also include intumescents and ablative materials. The point is, however, that whatever the nature of the materials, they on their own bear no rating. They must be organised into systems, which bear a rating when installed in accordance with certification listings or established catalogues, such as DIN 4102 Part 4 or the Canadian National Building Code.
Passive Fire Protection measures are intended to contain a fire in the fire compartment of origin, thus limiting the spread of fire and smoke for a limited period of time, as determined the local building code and fire code. Passive fire protection measures, such as firestops, fire walls, and fire doors, are tested to determine the fire resistance rating of the final assembly, usually expressed in terms of hours of fire resistance (e.g., 1/3, 3/4, 1, 1 1/2, 2, 3, 4 hr.). A certification listing provides the limitations of the rating.
Contrary to active fire protection measures, passive fire protection means do not typically require electric or electronic activation or a degree of motion. Exceptions to that particular rule of thumb are fire dampers (fire-resistive closures within air ducts, excluding grease ducts) and fire door closers, which must move, open and shut in order to work, as well as all intumescent products, which swell, thus move, in order to function.
PFP in a building can be described as a group of systems within systems. An installed firestop, for instance, is a system that is based upon a product certification listing. It forms part of a fire-resistance rated wall or floor and this wall or floor forms part of a fire compartment, which forms an integral part of the overall fire safety plan of the building, which, as a whole, can also be seen as a system.
The most important goal of PFP is identical to that of all fire protection: life safety. This is mainly accomplished by maintaining structural integrity for a time during the fire, and limiting the spread of fire and the effects thereof (e.g., heat and smoke). Property protection and continuity of operations are usually secondary objectives in codes. Exceptions include nuclear facilities and marine applications, as evacuation may be more complex or impossible. Nuclear facilities, both buildings and ships, must also ensure the nuclear reactor does not experience a nuclear meltdown. In this case, fixing the reactor may be more important than evacuation for key safety personnel.
Examples of testing that underlies certification listing:
Each of these test procedures have very similar fire endurance regimes and heat transfer limitations. Differences include the hose-stream tests, which are unique to Canada and the United States, whereas Germany includes a very rigorous impact test during the fire for firewalls. Germany is unique in including heat induced expansion and collapse of ferrous cable trays into account for firestops, resulting in the favouring of firestop mortars, which tend to hold the penetrating cable tray in place, whereas "softseals", typically made of rockwool and elastomeric toppings, have been demonstrated in testing by Otto-Graf_institut to be torn open and rendered inoperable when the cable tray expands, pushes in and then collapses. Spin-offs from these basic tests cover closures, firestops and more. Furnace operations, thermocoupling and reporting requirements remain uniform within each country.
In exterior applications for the offshore and the petroleum sectors, the fire endurance testing uses a higher temperature and faster heat rise, whereas in interior applications, such as office buildings, factories and residential, the fire endurance is based upon experiences gained from burning wood. The interior fire time/temperature curve is referred to as "ETK" (Einheitstemperaturkurve = Standard time/temperature curve) or the "building elements" curve, whereas the high temperature variety is called the hydrocarbon curve as it is based on burning oil and gas products, which burn hotter and faster. The most severe, and most rarely used, of all fire exposure tests is the British "jetfire" test, which has been used to some extent in the UK and Norway but is not typically found in common regulations.
Typically, during the construction of buildings, fire protective systems must conform to the requirements of building code that was in effect on the day that the building permit was applied for. Enforcement for compliance with building codes is typically the responsibility of municipal building departments. Once construction is complete, the building must maintain its design basis by remaining in compliance with the current fire code, which is enforced by the fire prevention officers of the municipal fire department. An up to date fire protection plan, containing a complete inventory and maintenance details of all fire protection components, including firestops, fireproofing, fire sprinklers, fire detectors, fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers, etc. are typical requirements for demonstration of compliance with applicable laws and regulations. In order to know whether or not one's building is in compliance with fire safety regulations, it is helpful to know what systems one has in place and what their installation and maintenance are based upon.
Changes to fire protection systems or items affecting the structural or fire-integrity or use (occupancy) of a building is subject to regulatory scrutiny. A contemplated change to a facility requires a building permit, or, if the change is very minor, a review by the local fire prevention officer. Such reviews by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) also help to prevent potential problems that may not be apparent to a building owner or contractors. Large and very common deficiencies in existing buildings include the disabling of fire door closers through propping the doors open and running rugs through them and perforating fire-resistance rated walls and floors without proper firestopping. Example pictures of code violations can be seen here.
-Testing: Efectis Nederland
Generally, one differentiates between "old" and "new" barrier systems. "Old" systems have been tested and verified by governmental authorities including DIBt , the British Standards Institute (BSI) and the National Research Council's Institute for Research in Construction These organisations each publish in codes and standards, wall and floor assembly details that can be used with generic, standardised components, to achieve quantified fire-resistance ratings. Architects routinely refer to these details in drawings to enable contractors to build passive fire protection barriers of certain ratings. The "old" systems are sometimes added to, through testing performed in governmental laboratories such as those maintained by Canada's Institute for Research in Construction, which then publishes the results in Canada's National Building Code (NBC). Germany and the UK, by comparison, publish their "old" systems in respective standards, DIN4102 Part 4 (Germany) and BS476 (United Kingdom). "New" systems are typically based on certification listings, whereby the installed configuration must comply with the tolerances set out in the certification listing. The United Kingdom is an exception to this, whereby certification, although not testing, is optional.
Fire tests in the UK are reported in the form of test results, but contrary to North America and Germany, building authorities do not require written proof that the materials that have been installed on site are actually identical to the materials and products that were used in the test. The test report is also often interpreted by engineers, as the test results are not communicated in the form of uniformly structured listings. In the UK, and other countries which do not require certification, the proof that the manufacturer has not substituted other materials apart from those used in the original testing is based on trust in the ethics or the culpability of the manufacturer. While in North America and in Germany, product certification is the key to the success and legal defensibility of passive fire protection barriers, alternate quality control certifications of specific installation companies and their work is available, though not a legislative or regulatory requirement. Still, the question of how one can be sure, apart from faith in the vendor, that what was tested is identical to that which has been bought and installed is a matter of personal judgment. The most highly publicised example of PFP systems which were not subject of certification and were declared inoperable by the Authority Having Jurisdiction is the Thermo-Lag scandal, which was brought to light by whistleblower Gerald W. Brown, who notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the inadequacy of fire testing for circuit integrity measures in use in licensed nuclear power plants. This led to a congressional enquiry, significant press coverage and a large amount of remedial work on the part of the industry to mitigate the problem. There is no known case a similar instance for PFP systems which were under the follow-up regime of organisations holding national accreditation for product certification, such as DIBt or Underwriters Laboratories.