Partitioning requires walls, ceilings and structural elements that have tested fire resistance characteristics. It is vital that these compartmentalization elements ensure the necessary performance in real situations, not just in the simpler configurations of fire tests. For example, corners, connections to other walls or ceilings, suspension and hanging elements, fastening methods and joints are all critical points and should be analyzed and tested in real conditions.
All openings, joints, pipe or cable crossings must be adequately protected, as these penetrations can become a means of spreading fire and smoke and therefore undermine the principle of compartmentalisation.
Joints and openings in large areas, such as floors in ordinary utility windows, must be completely and correctly sealed, using the appropriate products and systems used to seal these joints and openings. Such gaps also include any joints or open spaces due to improper handling or joints left for the projected structural movement.
One of the most important design considerations is the inclusion of several escape routes and, in the case of tall buildings, at least two stairwells located at a great distance from each other. Stair houses must be under pressure, designed to be fire-fighting compartments that keep smoke out of them. Stair houses and, in general, the escape route should always be kept free of combustible materials and made, as far as possible, of non-combustible materials.
Some national regulations allow the construction of high-rise residential buildings with even a single staircase, provided that it is properly designed, while others allow a performance-based approach (so-called fire safety design), which requires designers to be the ones to evaluate the number of stairs and evacuation times.
The key passive protection measures are super-efficient safety zones or compartments – which are uninhabited floors or rooms, designed to withstand the spread of fire much longer than normal.
From the perspective of evacuation, the refuge floors have several advantages: they are a resting place for the evacuees; the possibility of having smoky stairs or elevator shafts is reduced; can be used to protect people with disabilities and/or injured evacuees; can be used as a command point for rescue teams to aid the evacuation action, and can serve as a basis for firefighting.
Of course, any passive fire protection system is as good as the installation process. In Romania, the systems must comply with European legislation and local design regulations P118.