Section 12 Construction of external walls

Construction of external walls

  1. Introduction
    1. Fire resistance standard
      1. Portal frames
        1. External wall construction
          1. External surfaces
            1. Insulation Materials/Products
              1. Cavity barriers


              12.1Provisions are made in this Section for the external walls of the building to have sufficient fire resistance to prevent fire spread across the relevant boundary. The provisions are closely linked with those for space separation in Section 13 which sets out limits on the amount of unprotected area of wall. As the limits depend on the distance of the wall from the relevant boundary, it is possible for some or all of the walls to have no fire resistance, except for any parts which are loadbearing (see paragraph B3.ii).

              External walls are elements of structure and the relevant period of fire resistance (specified in Appendix A) depends on the use, height and size of the building concerned. If the wall is 1000mm or more from the relevant boundary, a reduced standard of fire resistance is accepted in most cases and the wall only needs fire resistance from the inside.

              12.2Provisions are also made to restrict the combustibility of external walls of buildings that are less than 1000mm from the relevant boundary and, irrespective of boundary distance, the external walls of high buildings and those of the Assembly and Recreation Purpose Groups. This is in order to reduce the surface’s susceptibility to ignition from an external source and to reduce the danger from fire spread up the external face of the building.

              In the guidance to Requirement B3, provisions are made in Section 7 for internal and external loadbearing walls to maintain their loadbearing function in the event of fire.

              Fire resistance standard

              12.3The external walls of the building should have the appropriate fire resistance given in Appendix A, Table A1, unless they form an unprotected area under the provisions of Section 13.

              Portal frames

              12.4Portal frames are often used in single storey industrial and commercial buildings where there may be no need for fire resistance of the structure (Requirement B3). However, where a portal framed building is near a relevant boundary, the external wall near the boundary may need fire resistance to restrict the spread of fire between buildings.

              It is generally accepted that a portal frame acts as a single structural element because of the moment-resisting connections used, especially at the column/rafter joints. Thus, in cases where the external wall of the building cannot be wholly unprotected, the rafter members of the frame, as well as the column members, may need to be fire protected.

              Following an investigation of the behaviour of steel portal frames in fire, it is considered technically and economically feasible to design the foundation and its connection to the portal frame so that it would transmit the overturning moment caused by the collapse, in a fire, of unprotected rafters, purlins and some roof cladding, while allowing the external wall to continue to perform its structural function. The design method for this is set out in the SCI publication P313 Single storey steel framed buildings in fire boundary conditions, 2002 (ISBN: 1 85942 135 0).

              Notes:The recommendations in the SCI publication for designing the foundation to resist overturning need not be followed if the building is fitted with a sprinkler system in accordance with paragraph 0.16.
              Normally, portal frames of reinforced concrete can support external walls requiring a similar degree of fire resistance without specific provision at the base to resist overturning.
              Existing buildings may have been designed to the following guidance which is also acceptable:

              • athe column members are fixed rigidly to a base of sufficient size and depth to resist overturning;
              • bthere is brick, block or concrete protection to the columns up to a protected ring beam providing lateral support; and
              • cthere is some form of roof venting to give early heat release. (The roof venting could be, for example, PVC rooflights covering some 10 per cent of the floor area and evenly spaced over the floor area.)

              External wall construction

              12.5The external envelope of a building should not provide a medium for fire spread if it is likely to be a risk to health or safety. The use of combustible materials in the cladding system and extensive cavities may present such a risk in tall buildings.

              Externall walls should either meet the guidance given in paragraphs 12.6 to 12.9 or meet the performance criteria given in the BRE Report Fire performance of external thermal insulation for walls of multi storey buildings (BR 135) for cladding systems using full scale test data from BS 8414-1:2002 or BS 8414-2:2005.

              The total amount of combustible material may also be limited in practice by the provisions for space separation in Section 13 (see paragraph 13.7 onwards).

              External surfaces

              12.6The external surfaces of walls should meet the provisions in Diagram 40. Where a mixed use building includes Assembly and Recreation Purpose Group(s) accommodation, the external surfaces of walls should meet the provisions in Diagram 40c.

              Insulation Materials/Products

              12.7In a building with a storey 18m or more above ground level any insulation product, filler material (not including gaskets, sealants and similar) etc. used in the external wall construction should be of limited combustibility (see Appendix A). This restriction does not apply to masonry cavity wall construction which complies with Diagram 34 in Section 9.

              Cavity barriers

              Diagram 40

              12.8Cavity barriers should be provided in accordance with Section 9.

              12.9In the case of a an external wall construction, of a building which, by virtue of paragraph 9.10d (external cladding system with a masonry or concrete inner leaf), is not subject to the provisions of Table 13 Maximum dimensions of cavities in non-domestic buildings, the surfaces which face into cavities should also meet the provisions of Diagram 40.