Facades and fire safety: how do countries compare? 

Jun 28, 2017 | Facades, News

In the EU, the fire testing and classification standards for construction products have been harmonised for more than a decade under the Construction Products Directive, and subsequently the Construction Products Regulation. These standards have been implemented in all EU Member States.

However, whilst fire testing and classification methods for individual products are harmonised in the EU, building regulations for an overall structure- including fire safety requirements – are the responsibility of each individual EU Member State. In other words, Member States determine their own fire safety level and use a mix of products that –  used together – correspond to that level.

Depending on the building type and height, the requirements for the products used will vary. Because of the challenge of evacuation patients, a hospital will often have the strictest requirements. Next are buildings where people sleep: if a fire breaks out at night, escape times are slower and more people are on site. The taller the building, the more complicated it is to escape. High-rise buildings are therefore subject to stricter fire requirements than low-rise buildings or family homes.

The requirements for high rise residential buildings in 16 countries were analysed. Surprisingly it was found that three countries – The Netherlands, Belgium and Greece – have no requirements for individual products used in the façade system, focusing only on the performance of the entire system.  However, they do not have a fire-safety test for facades based on real-life, large-scale situations. Two countries – England and Sweden – allow the use of products not fulfilling the product requirement if the entire system passes a national large-scale test. The other 11 countries have strict requirements for the combustibility of the products used in the façade from limited combustibility (B s3, d0) to Non-combustible (A2 s1, d0) (see table below)

The requirements for construction products used in high-rise buildings are summarised in the table below. The most fire-safe products are classed A, with the most combustible products classed E.

Understanding the classification system

The harmonised European classification system used to classify the reaction to fire performance of products can be described in the following simplified terms:

[1] Test to LEPIR II if structural details deviate from prescriptive solution.