Fire safety in steel halls
Why do industrial steel halls have to be protected against fire?
Builders and engineers often choose structural steel to build halls, and with good reason. The steel construction company prefabricates the steel frames in the workshop. On the construction site, the company erects the hall quickly and inexpensively. In addition, steel can be reused.
So much for some benefits. Unfortunately, steel behaves quite unfavorably in the event of a fire. It conducts heat particularly well. So that heats up quickly in the event of a fire. This leads to decreasing strength and rigidity of the structural steel. The steel halls then quickly collapse.
How quickly does the steel structure fail? That depends on how heavily the supporting structure is used. And also on the temperature in the fire room. Typical steel constructions can fail after 10 to 15 minutes. Steel halls must have a certain fire resistance class so that users can exit the building safely in the event of a fire.
When is fire protection required for steel halls?
According to the German so-called model industrial building guidelines (MIndBauRL), many steel halls may consist of unprotected structural steel. In single-storey halls, for example, this is possible up to a fire compartment area of 1800 m². However, there are some cases where fire protection is required for the steel hall, e.g.:
- The hall has fire-cut areas of more than 1800 m².
- The fire protection concept requires a fire resistance period (e.g. R30/F30) because, for example, the stored goods are highly flammable or the hall is used as a meeting place, for example.
- The distances to neighbouring buildings cannot be maintained.
How to achieve fire safety in steel halls?
Of course, the steel hall can be protected with the so-called constructive fire protection. There are different materials that protect the steel from heating up too quickly. These include gypsum plasterboard, mineral wool or intumescent materials.
Unfortunately, these solutions are expensive. The client then often opts for halls made of prefabricated concrete parts or in timber construction. Because in addition to the material costs, there are other costs. In the case of intumescent materials, for example, damage during transport and on the construction site must be repaired. The connections can also only be provided with an intumescent coating after assembly. Depending on the size of the hall, this leads to costs of several tens of thousands of euros.
Are there cheaper solutions than constructive fire protection?
However, many steel halls can be erected from unprotected steel! How is that possible? With the fire engineering methods. I first agree with my customers which fire loads are stored in the respective hall. With this information I can calculate the temperatures in case of a fire. I determine the so-called natural fire scenario.
Fortunately, these are often significantly lower than after the standard fire, the so-called ISO standard fire. For these temperatures, I design the steel structure in a so-called fire design. This can often save the builder a lot of money.
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