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Top ten tips for sourcing fire-safe buildings


Using the Joint Code of Practice guidelines as a starting point, we have put together our top ten tips for choosing site buildings that offer maximum fire safety for your site. Your choice of on-site buildings plays an important part in safeguarding your site against fire and its spread, helping to protect your people, property and the building under construction.

1. Carry out a detailed risk assessment of your site and site buildings

You should conduct a detailed fire risk assessment of your site, taking into account its size, layout and the proximity of neighbouring buildings. From this, you should develop a site fire safety plan that includes a fire risk assessment for all temporary buildings.

Simply choosing site buildings that have been fire engineered to meet current legislation and minimise the risk of fire and its propagation will go a long way towards meeting the best practice guidance set out in the various regulations.

2. Maintain a clear fire break between your buildings

Site office and welfare buildings should be separated from any building under construction by a clear fire break of at least six metres – preferably considerably more. This fire break should be kept clear of combustible materials at all times. 

If a six-metre fire break is not possible on your site, due to space limitations, it becomes even more important that buildings are manufactured from non-combustible materials.

3. Choose buildings constructed from fire-rated materials

Site cabins should be constructed from materials that do not significantly contribute to the growth of fire or the propagation of smoke or toxic fumes. Check that materials used in the construction of all exterior cladding and interior wall and ceiling linings, as well as in the structural framework of your site buildings, are designed to minimise potential fire load.

The Joint Code of Practice on the Protection from Fire of Construction Sites and Buildings Undergoing Renovation specifies that temporary buildings should be designed and constructed to meet as a minimum criteria Class 1 to limit the spread of flames.

Class 0 is an even better classification as it means that not only are the spread of flames limited, but also that the amount of heat released from the surface during a fire is limited.

Therefore, when possible it is advisable to choose site buildings that have walls and ceilings with a class ‘0’ rating for spread of flame and fire propagation, in accordance with Standard Building Regulations 2000 (Approved Document B).

Look for roofs that are designated FAA when tested in accordance with BS 476: Part 3 –‘External Fire Exposure Roof Test’. This means that, under test conditions, the flat roof is not penetrated by fire within one hour, and causes no spread of flame.

4. Specify buildings with half-hour fire resistance

The Joint Code of Practice states that, where possible, fire exits from temporary buildings should lead directly into the open air. Buildings should provide at least 30 minutes’ fire resistance in single and multi-storey mode to contain fire and allow people to pass safely to a place of safety.

A range of fire-safe site cabins is available for hire from various suppliers. Look, in particular, for buildings that have been independently tested and certified by recognised organisations, such as Warringtonfire. Ensure that any claims of half-hour fire resistance are backed up by evidence of testing in accordance with BS 476: Part 20, 21 and 22.

5. Fit fire-detection and intruder alarm systems

The Joint Code of Practice advises that portable buildings located inside or within ten metres of any building under construction should be fitted with fire-detection systems that comply with BS 5839-1.

Your site building supplier should be able to fit your building with suitable alarm systems. Fire-detection and alarm systems of varying degrees of sophistication are available, including those linked to the emergency services. Intruder alarms are equally important, as early detection of a break-in may help to prevent arson.

6. Install safe heating systems

Faulty or poorly positioned heaters pose a major fire risk in any building. Make sure the heaters supplied with your building are in good working order and are safety checked. Ideally, heaters should be securely fixed above floor level, and fitted with safety guards.

Thermostatically controlled convection heaters are a good choice, since they will not overheat if left on and will create a comfortable room temperature all year round.

7. Ensure your buildings are well ventilated

Buildings that contain heaters or cooking appliances must be adequately ventilated. Look for buildings fitted with sufficient wall-mounted, louvre-style vents, which provide effective passive ventilation.

Underfloor ventilation is also important. Make sure that no combustible material is stored underneath your buildings, which could restrict air flow and create a fire hazard.

8. Ensure drying rooms are designed for fire safety

Any coat hooks and clothes drying racks in your drying rooms must be positioned at a safe distance from heaters, which should be thermostatically controlled and have enclosed elements.

You need to balance the requirement to provide plentiful coat hooks and changing benches for your workforce, with the need to ensure that no hooks are positioned directly above heaters. Ask your supplier to provide layout diagrams of its buildings before you hire.

9. Ask for evidence of electrical safety testing

Electrical installations in your buildings should be designed in accordance with BS7671 Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (IEE regulations, 17th edition).

Prior to delivery, your buildings should also have been electrically tested under the MPBA (Modular Products and Building Association) Electrical Pre-Delivery Inspection and Test, which is supported by the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA). Ask your supplier for evidence of this.

10. Minimise combustible furniture and fittings in your buildings

The Joint Code of Practice advises that site buildings should not contain more than the minimum of combustible furniture and fittings.

Don’t clutter the interior of your buildings with unnecessary furniture, which could pose a fire risk. Choose sufficient good-quality, robust and heard-wearing furniture that is low-maintenance and easy to clean. Try to minimise fabrics and soft furnishings.

If you’d like to find out more about the high-quality, regulations-compliant Konstructa Fire-Safe buildings available, please call 0845 355 3443 or visit https://www.portakabin.co.uk/site-accommodation/konstructa-fire-safe-buildings.html

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