Why is special inspection of firestop now required?

Are these building code changes going to impact your next project?

(Round 2 why the code changed)

Some of you are thinking, “ The building inspectors already look at the firestop.” Or maybe you are thinking, “It’s not that complicated.” If you look at ASTM E2174, which is the standard for third party inspection of firestop through penetrations and talk to an inspector about what is required to comply with an inspection at this level, most building officials will tell you they do not have the time for that. Some will even admit they don’t have the training to look at it adequately. Combine that, with the fact that some jurisdictions with strong local third party inspection firms have reported that the failure rate on most projects the first few inspections is generally around 50%. That is typical, which means of course some project teams are stronger, but it also means that some are failing inspections well over half the time. Now, to understand that better, you have to look at what goes into as ASTM E 2174 inspection.

 

First the inspector needs to do one of two types of inspection. They either need to witness the inspection on 10% of each type of installation type or they need to conduct destructive testing on 2% of each type. When inspecting a firestop installation the following items must be reviewed by the inspector and they must confirm that each item conforms to the submitted and approved firestop assembly. That assembly must be tested and listed with a third party agency (most commonly Underwriters Laboratories or UL). When conducting an inspection according to this standard all of these elements must be reviewed. Each line here could warrant a series of blog posts because there is so much more information that needs to be known than what is just written here, but this is a decent start at least:rated assembly-to ensure it conforms with what is allowed in firestop details:

  • rated assembly-to ensure it conforms with what is allowed in firestop details
    • stud depth is a critical often overlooked component
  • penetrating item- to ensure they match in material, size etc
    • changes in material or size can have a major impact
  • sleeve- is it allowed, required or optional
  • insulation- to ensure both material and thickness conform
  • type of firestop material – manufacturer and material name
    • not all firestop is the same, even from the same manufacturer
  • annular space- minimum and maximum
    • both are very important and must be conformed to
  • sealant depth and any required bead of sealant
    • this requires an entirely different discussion
  • backing material- type, depth and compression
    • all three can be critical
  • square ducts over a certain size require retaining angle
  • plastic pipe over a certain size it requires a firestop collar
    • collars require washers and anchor type will vary based on substrate
    • plastic pipe over another size requires all that plus foil tape

 

You want your project being inspected by someone who knows how to look at each of these elements to confirm it conforms to the firestop details. You also want them to know WHY each is critical to the life safety of a building. If they can share this information with the team during the mandatory pre-construction meeting it has a tendency to increase the perceived level of importance for the entire team and may even increase team collaboration.  HLS pre-con meetings have been called “A GAME CHANGER” by some of our project teams.

 

If your project is hiring a third party inspection firm who does everything under the sun, including firestop and you want to know whether or not you are getting what you are paying for, contact us and we will help you make sure that your project is actually complying with the requirements of the codes and standards. You may be surprised by everything they should be doing.

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Dear Architect- Why are you asking for a W rating

I have seen so many project specifications requiring a W rating. If you don’t know what a W rating is, please read this first.  If you are already familiar with a W rating, do you know if it a requirement on your project?  I recently looked at a wood framed project and there were W rating requirements. Clearly the architect has stock specifications that don’t take into account the fact that a wood framed project is NOT going to be capable of mitigating water movement in the way a concrete floor might.

 

But lets say you are dealing with a concrete floor, then W ratings are a viable requirement…except, when they are not.

 

Remember the test for a W rating is a three foot column of water that prevents even a single drop of water for 72 hours.   If the specifications say as a blanket statement that a W rating is a requirement of floor penetration firestop systems, then what about a bundle of cables? What about MC cables? What about insulated pipes, the brackets to support the weight of multiple floors of pipes will break well below the three foot mark and how might one maintain the W rating with a break in the insulation, or with insulation that can’t hold back water such as fiberglass or other field installed insulations?

 

If you have been in construction for a while I am sure you can think of other examples when W rated firestop is not a reasonable requirement.

Im not saying stop asking for W ratings, because they are amazing. I could tell you some stories where they were a HUGE success. But be aware of the limitations and if you specify it, know what you are asking for. If you have a project that has W ratings specified and no one is asking questions, then my guess is they are not conforming with the specification.

 

If you have any questions feel free to contact us. We are happy to help if we are able.

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More on patching rated walls (part 2)

Thanks for the great response on the last post related to patching rated walls. There is a lot more I want to share with you in the future but I have to find time to create the content. I heard back from so many of you that you liked the post I thought I would at least share some more information  that is already created so you can take it a step further.

Three key reasons the California patch will fail in a fire test scenario:

  1. It will fail at the hose stream test. For more information on this, check out this series we did a while back on Hose Stream and imagine that patch, or any patch you accept being able to pass the hose stream test as it is described in these posts from 2016.  https://halpertlifesafety.com/firestop-inspection-f-rating-hose-stream/
  2. It will fail when you try to achieve the T rating- which is required of all rated walls and floors. There is a bit of information in this article here.
  3. As the drywall patch (or GOD FORBID drywall tape and mud excuse for a patch) heats up in a fire it will shrink. As the existing wall dries up it shrinks as well. When this happens the gap between the existing wall and the patch material grows. This makes it easier for the patch to dislodge during the hose stream test and this gap will allow hot gasses through and that is how the T rating segment of the test will fail.

So, the next time you see a patch in a rated wall, please take a second look to ensure it is not creating a liability for your project and the community of people who will live work and play in the building when you are gone.

As always, thanks for taking the time to learn more about the industry I love. If we can help you on any project you are working on, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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Are you patching rated walls properly?

I have seen some creative ways of patching walls. Some are UGLY and some are invisible. Here is a great video of how to make an invisible patch BUT you can’t do this on a fire rated wall. This California patch or butterfly patch will not survive the rigors of the ASTM E119 fire test.

If you have been in one of our training classes where we discuss how rated assemblies are tested then you know the two biggest ways bad patch assemblies may fail are either because the fail at the hose stream test segment or even before that as the wall tries to maintain a T rating and the growing gap between the original wall and the patch material shrinks as the fire consumes its mass and the growing gap allows for hot gas to pass through and it will fail at this point.

So, how do you properly patch a rated wall? Check out this guide from US Gypsum association to see if you are doing it right. USGyp repair of wall

If you are looking at a repair of a one hour wall that is relatively easy. Properly patching a two hour wall is a whole different story all together. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are happy to help if we are able.

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A discussion of Cross Laminate Timber construction at UL Future Built Forum- Jan 2019

Thank you to UL, FDNY & IAFF for hosting the future build forum last winter. Today I would like to share with you a slide deck from a presentation by Susan Jones of AtelierJones Architects. While this is nothing more than the slide deck that she used for the presentation, it is nothing compared to what you would have heard if you were in the audience with me. She is passionate about the use to CLT (Cross Laminate Timber) as a way to build high rise structures and preserve the forests.

In this presentation you will see the home that she built with this material. She shared her passion and her story on this chilly January day earlier in the year and I hope you find value in getting a glimpse of what she share with us that day. You can view the presentation here. You will see photos CLT projects as well as of the fire tests where you will see “cribs” of wood to simulate additional fuel sources and explanations of the codes we will see in the 2021 IBC.

If you have any questions about CLT, I would love to be a resource for you but I am still learning about it myself and I am still on the fence in several ways. I hope to be able to share a stronger stance one way or another with you as things unfold more.

For now however, if you have questions about firestop on a project you are involved with do not hesitate to reach out to me. I am happy to support you if I am able.

 

 

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UL Future Built Forum Intro

January 2019 in the middle of a “Polar Vortex” I attended an event that was worth braving the cold for.

I wish I could take you back to the event so you could sit in the room and hear the presentations. The speakers were fantastic and the presentations were PACKED with information. I want to thank Underwriters Laboratories, Fire Department City of New York  and International Association of Fire Fighters for sponsoring such a great event and I hope to be able to attend the next one. I learned not only from the presentations but from conversations with others in attendance who were all eager to learn and share. Can you tell I was in fire geek heaven for two days?

I can’t wait to share all of this with you. UL has generously allowed me to share the slides. Here is what they covered int he two days

There were several discussions about Tall Timber construction. they were presented by architects and fire officials. You likely know that the 2021 code will allow Tall Timber, or cross laminate timber up to 18 stories. Many people think, “WOOD BURNS that is a horrible idea!”  Well, wood does burn, that is a fact. Lets look at a few there facts.

  • ICC has reviewed extensive fire test data provided by the industry and approved it.
  • These buildings are going up all over the world. A quick google search will give you an idea of where and how tall.
  • Steel is strong, but according to this article in Fire Engineers it will lose its structural stability at 1100F. The time temperature curve used by US fire tests will require the temperature to be 1000F at the five minute mark and 1300F at the ten minute mark. Without properly applied protection, steel is very weak in a fire.
  • Wood burns, yes. As it burns that char that is created insulates the inner layer of wood and the structural stability of wood is lost in stages rather than all together upon hitting a critical temperature.

Before you dismiss this  idea of tall timber buildings as crazy,  I encourage you to learn more about it. If you are curious about my personal opinion (or even if you aren’t, you are about to get it) I like what I have seen in the fire data that has been presented. It is impressive, but not yet extensive. I am still on the fence, but I am eager to be involved with a CLT project so I can learn more. One thing I have learned is that QA/QC will be CRITICAL. Not that it is unimportant in concrete buildings or wood framed buildings, but it could prove a greater liability to those contractors who are not completely educated or worse willing to cut corners. If you work on a CLT project you can NOT have someone with the “we have always done it this way” mentality, because this is all new.  If you are working on a CLT project and want help with the QA/QC please call me.

The second discussion was on battery storage inside buildings. I did not attend this segment because of other obligations. I was able to return in time for the discussions on exterior facades and high rise fire fighting challenges.

I will share all the slides and I may share some of my thoughts along the way.

I want to again thank all of those involved in this event, the sponsors, the speakers, the organizers and the attendees. I was honored to be among you all and grateful for all you shared with everyone.  I hope to be able to attend any future events you have.

 

 

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Hospital Fire- One Death

I just returned from Utah doing firestop training for a great group of guys. Installers, hospital facilities guys, GC’s, electricians and special inspectors. It was a long day, but I hope they learned a lot. Then I get home and hear about a hospital fire resulting in loss of life.

 

If any of you need help to ensure the life safety is done right on your projects, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Many of you know I don’t charge for simple calls to help get you on the right track. I always support those of you who want to do it right.

 

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