Passive fire protection & its role in the construction of commercial buildings.

Based on the fact that commercial buildings are highly populated, whether constructed as a commercial business or a residential building, it is essential that commercial buildings are constructed with passive fire protection from the get-go.

Ensuring that passive fire protection is in place also brings down costs associated with insurance – with an excellent base of fire protection in place, spending less on fire insurance is going to make up for the cost of passive fire protection during construction.

These passive fire protection systems form part of the actual structure and fabric of the building, some of which include:

  • Fire resistant doors and floors
  • Fire resistant walls
  • Room compartmentalisation
  • Steel Intumescent Coatings


There are a variety of passive fire protection (PFP) solutions that can be used to suit specific requirements of the building plan, but they will include some, or more of the above.

The word ‘passive’ in PFP means that these are systems that you are not aware of in the course of day to day activities, but they are always on – these systems only kick into action once the presence of fire is detected.

On the other side of the fire protection coin is active fire prevention, which requires some type of action, whether it is setting the fire sprinklers in action or using a fire extinguisher.

Note that the average fire extinguisher is only going to be able to put out a small blaze, anything bigger means that anyone in the building should already be evacuating.

Active Fire Protection (AFP) is fire protection that is put in place once construction is completed, these systems are not part of the structure of the building.

If you’ve ever watched Chicago Fire, or watched your local fire department fight a fire, you will see prime examples of active fire protection in action.

How do some of the elements of passive fire protection work in commercial building construction?

  • Intumescent steel coating

Intumescent steel coating, in essence, chars and expands when steel in the structure is exposed to extreme heat, acting to slow the heating of the steel.  This is designed to prolong response times in case collapse.

  • Room compartmentalisation

Room compartmentalisation is another highly effective PFP measure that can prevent the spread of fire, keeping it contained in a specific area long enough to allow for safe evacuation or suppression.

  • Fire doors, walls and ceilings

Fire doors, walls and floors are also designed to limit the spread of smoke.  The fire-resistant coating on the inside and outside of these areas also play an important role in limiting damage to any critical infrastructure.

In the final analysis, Passive Fire Protection systems are meant to give enough time for Active Fire Protection systems to be used in order to extinguish the fire, or to give occupants valuable time to evacuate safely.

Good PFP systems can mean the difference between a damaged building and one that is completely destroyed.  From a financial point of view, investing in fire protection during the construction phase of a commercial business is going to be the best protection you could hope for against total destruction of the building.

Fire & Security Distributors are the leading suppliers of active and passive fire prevention products and systems in Southern Africa to major players in the fire protection industry.

Founded in 2011 in Cape Town, the FSD team has a wealth of knowledge you can rely on to ensure that the best in Passive Fire Protection for is used in the construction of commercial buildings.

Please contact FSD to find out more about their extensive range of fire prevention and fire stopping products. This is a friendly, professional team who will make sure that you have a fire protection system in place that won’t let you down.