Association for Specialist Fire Protection

Passive fire protection is a vital component of any fire safety strategy. It is built into the structure of a building to safeguard people’s lives and limit the financial impact of damage to buildings and their contents. It does this by:

  • Limiting the spread of fire and smoke by containing it in a single compartment
  • Protecting escape routes for essential means of escape
  • Protecting the building structure thereby ensuring it’s sustainability

Passive Fire Protection is built into the structure to provide stability and into walls and floors to separate the building into areas of manageable risk - compartments. These areas are designed to restrict the growth and spread of fire allowing occupants to escape and offering protection for firefighters. Such protection is either provided by the materials from which the building is constructed, or is added to the building to enhance its fire resistance.

Passive Fire Protection is built into the structure to provide stability and into walls and floors to separate the building into areas of manageable risk - compartments. These areas are designed to restrict the growth and spread of fire allowing occupants to escape and offering protection for firefighters. Such protection is either provided by the materials from which the building is constructed, or is added to the building to enhance its fire resistance.

Fire resistance

Most passive fire protection products are ‘fire resisting’. Fire resistance is the ability of elements of construction such as beams/columns, walls, floors and doors etc. to ‘resist fire’ for certain periods of time. A component with a fire resisting function operates in one or more of three ways:

  • It resists structural collapse
  • It resists the passage of smoke and hot gases (integrity)
  • It resists heat conduction (insulation). 

A structural floor in a multi-storey building will require all three. A non-loadbearing compartment wall will have to provide insulation and integrity. A steel beam or column will only have to provide structural stability.

Loadbearing elements such as beams, columns, walls and floors have to be able to support their load under fire conditions. Separating elements such as doors, walls, glazed screens and suspended ceilings have to stop fire passing through them either as flames or by heat conduction. Loadbearing and separating elements such as loadbearing walls and floors have to do both.

Any building services that pass through separating elements such as cables, pipes or fire resisting ducts need to be fire stopped to ensure that the service does not provide an easy route for fire. These are critically important since they are often located in concealed spaces, which means that fire can pass unnoticed. It is vital that all protection measures are correctly designed, specified and installed if the building is to behave as expected should fire break out.

Passive Fire Protection  

Many construction materials have some natural resistance to fire and as such already have built-in fire protection. An example of such a material would be clay bricks, which, when constructed to form a wall is fire-resisting in its own right. Other materials e.g. timber used in the construction of a timber floor may have little such built-in fire protection and may require additional protection e.g. in the form of fire resisting boards fixed to the underside of the ceiling below.

Fire resistance may be enhanced by the use of added materials or components that are known by the collective term passive fire protection (PFP).

PFP products include:


  • Fire protection to the structural frame of the building
  • Fire-resisting doors and fire door furniture
  • Fire shutters
  • Compartment walls and floors
  • Fire-resisting walls and partitions
  • Suspended ceilings
  • Fire-resisting glazing
  • Fire doors and hardware
  • Industrial fire shutters and curtains
  • Fire fighting shafts and stairwells
  • Fire-resisting dampers (mechanical or intumescent) used in horizontal or vertical air distribution ducts
  • Fire-resisting ductwork  
  • Fire-resisting service ducts and shafts  
  • Linear gap seals
  • Penetration seals for pipes, cables and other services
  • Cavity barriers
  • Fire-resisting air transfer grilles (mechanical or intumescent)  
  • The building envelope, e.g. fire-resisting external walls, curtain walls etc.
  • Reaction to fire coatings
  • Hydrocarbon structural fire protection systems