When is a fire-rated ceiling not a fire rated ceiling? When the installer cuts holes in the
ceiling and installs non-fire-rated light fittings, writes Mark Walshe, Technical & Quality Manager, LED Group and Lighting Association Ireland Technical Committee member.
Building Regulations Part B and Fire Rated Downlights (Updated 31.08.17
When you consider the regular pattern of recessed luminaires that is likely to greet you when you cast your eyes up to the ceiling in many new homes, the concept of a fire barrier may lose much of its integrity. How many perforations does it take for a ceiling to lose its fire rating? Facetiousness aside, non-fire-rated downlights will not provide the same level of fire protection as the ceiling in the event of a fire.
Fire-stopping of any openings in a fire barrier is a serious health and safety concern, as outlined in the Building Regulations 2017 Technical Guidance Document B – Fire Safety Volume 2 Dwelling Houses, updated earlier this year. Section 3.7 and particularly Section 3.7.5 in Volume 2 deals directly with the requirements of fires in dwelling houses.
Although you won’t find downlights mentioned explicitly in the document, it is clearly spelt out that any openings in a fire barrier element must be fire-stopped to ensure that fire resistance is not impaired. This would imply that there is a requirement for recessed lighting to have integral fire protection, or for non-fire-rated recessed lighting to be installed in conjunction with a suitable fire-hood.
Technical Guidance Document B – Fire Safety Volume 1 Non-Dwelling Houses is currently under review and expected for release in 2018 so, for now, the 2006 version of Technical Guidance Document B remains applicable. This document again sets out the requirement for all openings in a fire barrier to be fire-stopped.
However, there is a caveat in the case of timber-frame apartment blocks. These may use a compartment floor where the ceiling is effectively a sacrificial layer and does not constitute a fire barrier. There was a time when LED fittings with integral fire protection were simply not conducive to this application due to high cost, low performance and poor reliability linked to over-heating, but that day is well and truly over. A good quality LED FRD (fire rated downlight) such as the ROBUS Triumph would be an ideal choice in this instance as it, and similar high-quality products, tick all the relevant boxes. Features of the ROBUS Triumph include:
— Rated for 30/60/90 minute fire rated ceiling/floor constructions=> fire safe;
— It is eligible for the SEAI Triple E ACA Scheme => energy and cost incentives;
— It meets the acoustic testing requirements of the Building Regulations => insulates noise;
— It meets the air tightness test requirements of the Building Regulations => minimises air leaks;
— It has a quick-fix connector and insulation spacer guard => ease of install;
— It has a 5-year warranty => reliability and peace of mind.
Fire testing of LED FRDs to the relevant standard (BS476 Part 21) is an expensive business as it involves constructing suitable ceiling box samples (complete with fittings) to be tested in a furnace at up to 1000°C for 30/60/90 minutes duration. Then there is the specialist work of analysing the test results with consideration of load bearing in order to make a judgement on the overall fire rating of the fitting.
Proof of meeting these requirements should be requested as part of any fire safety certification or risk assessment. Generally, for new builds and refurbishments with material changes, the only situations where FRDs need not be considered as essential in the case of recessed lighting installations are in bungalows or in the roof ceiling of multi-storey dwellings.
It is the responsibility of the Assigned Certifier to ensure that a building meets the requirements of the Building Control Regulations as set out in the Building Control Act, 1990 by means of the signed Certification of Compliance on Completion. The most straightforward means to achieve this is to follow the appropriate Technical Guidance Documents, as otherwise, alternative evidence must be provided to prove that the regulations are met.
In addition, for non-dwellings the Building Control Authority must issue a Fire Safety Certificate. All stakeholders in the installation of recessed light fittings, from installers through to building control authorities, would do well to take note of the requirements as set out in Part B in relation to installation of recessed lighting.
If your home had a hole in the roof, you wouldn’t think twice about plugging it to prevent a leak. Shouldn’t the same consideration be paid to the holes in our ceilings in the event of fire?