For any fire protection plan, a fire barrier and fire partition are vital. Far too often, the terms used for fire partitions and fire barriers are interchanged. To maximize the benefits of these elements, it is important to understand the differences between the two.
A firewall subdivides a building into separate areas. One goal of this type of system is to restrict the spread of smoke and fire within one building. Based on the type of separation that is present, the walls may need to be constructed of fire barriers and fire partitions, according to the International Building Code.
Minimum Rating Requirements
There are unique rating requirements for a fire barrier and fire partition. The term “fire barrier” refers to a structure that has, at minimum, a one-hour fire resistance rating. Based on the occupancy type for that particular building, the rating can extend to a four-hour rating. By comparison, a “fire partition” must have at least a 30-minute rating for certain types of occupancies. Otherwise, a fire partition must have a one-hour rating.
Fire partition has become an industry phrase synonymous with fire barrier, but, as you can see, the two are not the same. In developing a fire plan, it is important that you understand which type of structure is necessary to meet fire resistance requirements for the occupancy of your building.
Understanding the Different Types of Firewalls
There are three primary types of firewalls, including regular firewalls, fire barrier walls, and high challenge firewalls. A regular firewall, which separates structures, transformers, or buildings, prevents the spread of fire. A fire barrier wall refers to a type of fire-rated wall assembly. This type of structure is not self-sufficient. In fact, it will rarely extend through the roof or the underside of the floor below the structure.
In looking at the code requirements for fire barrier and fire partition, the code for fire partitions is less strict. Fire barriers may be used for separating different occupancies, protecting exit stair enclosures, or limiting the size of fire areas.
The most common applications for fire partitions include shopping malls, dormitories, hotels, and other types of multi-dwelling units. Any openings that are present in a fire partition and fire barrier must be restricted in size, as well as closed with fire-rated glass or fire doors.