Spotlight on the No Fly Zone

Lately, there has been great concern regarding the number of penetrating items near fire-restrictive construction joints. This presents a problem because penetrating items that pass through joints can inhibit the ability of the joint to allow for movement. Construction joints allow for the various building movements that can occur due to live or dead-load deflection, thermal cycling, wind sway, or even seismic activity. Some examples of construction joints include the top-of-wall between a fire-rated gypsum wall and a concrete floor slab or steel deck or an expansion joint between concrete floor slabs or walls.

In order to allow for movement, most fire-resistant joint systems feature highly flexible, elastomeric firestop sealants or sprays. Some other systems such as STI’s Track Top Gasket (TTG) do not use sealants or sprays at all, but rather feature a more mechanical approach to provide the required movement. Regardless of which method is being employed, penetrating items routed through the void areas will either prevent expansion and contraction of the joint or create a stress point that can lead to joint system failure.

Building codes are very specific to the installation of fire-resistant joint systems.

For example, the 2009 IBC (the basis for NJ’s Building Code) details the requirements for fire-resistant joint systems in Section 714. One of the most important areas is Section 714.2, which states the following: Fire-resistant joint systems shall be securely installed in or on the joint for its entire length so as not to dislodge, loosen or otherwise impair its ability to accommodate expected building movements and to resist the passage of fire and hot gases.

The next important code reference is Section 714.3, which outlines the test criteria for fire-resistant joint systems. It states the following: Fire-resistant joint systems shall be tested in accordance with the requirements of either ASTM E1966 or UL 2079.The ASTM E1966 and UL2079 standards place very strict temperature limitations on fire-resistant joint systems. Quite often, a metallic pipe or conduit or a bundle of copper conductor cables can conduct heat through the joint system that would exceed those limitations. Therefore, one will find very few fire-resistant joint systems that include penetrating items in the description. Penetrating items through fire-rated construction are evaluated to different fire test standards (i.e. ASTM E814 or UL1479).

The fact is that joints and penetrations, generally speaking, require completely different firestop products and tested UL systems. So when a pipe is run through a joint, the life-safety assurance that a tested UL system affords is compromised. Often the protection of these conditions will necessitate engineering judgments (EJs) since they have not been tested and do not comply with a published design listing.

That’s why we recommend instituting a No Fly Zone (NFZ) for all of your construction joints…simply a rule that states: Penetrations may not come within 6” of any construction joint.

At Specified Technologies, Inc. (STI), Firestop is all we do. We have the ability to take your CAD files, assign specific UL systems, and drop them directly onto your drawings. This way there will be no mistaking your new No Fly Zone (NFZ). We have developed many barrier management program options, including our state-of-the-art eBMP where you can digitally map all of your firestop systems… ensuring a smooth firestop landing on your next project.

I invite you to contact me to set up a “Key Points in Firestop Systems” presentation. This is a one-hour course (AIA/CES accredited course#FS070) and in this seminar, I teach the basics of life safety design and how to design a code compliant firestopping installation into you project. Further, this course covers major issues in design such as coordination for the trades, data cabling, plastic pipes, “simple” through penetrations, construction joints and curtain walls. What you learn in this course will save you time, money and quite possibly, someone’s life.

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