The regulations regarding fire safety of external walls have been revised to ensure the safety of all residents living in high-rise buildings. With the rise in balcony fires around the UK, it is essential to ensure that balconies, as well as the external wall systems of buildings, are built to stop the spread of fire. Being fire resistant is not enough; all materials used to build the external wall systems of buildings must be non-combustible and fireproof in order to prevent tragedies. This standard also applies to the decking on your balcony, and fire-resistant decking and fireproof decking is required for balconies on high-rise residential buildings for them to be compliant with the latest regulations. Based on the latest regulations balcony decking needs to be Class A1 or A2 fire rated in order for it to comply. Let’s take a look at what this means so that you know what to look for when selecting the right decking for your project.
Understanding the Euroclass System
The Euroclass system is the leading standard for fire safety classification that consists of seven levels - A1, A2, B, C, D, E, and F. Of these seven levels, materials classified as A1 and A2 are non-combustible whereas the others listed in levels B-F are combustible.
In order for the materials to be classified in any of the levels, specifiers need to check the fire performance by testing them. The compliance rules for each level of the Euroclass system are more stringent as you move up. For building materials and components, classification rules are based on the following test evidence:
- Resistance to Fire (stopping the fire from spreading) and
- Reaction to Fire (smoke and heat emission)
The materials are awarded a grade based on their performance against fire. Products that have not been tested or have failed to meet any of the requirements are classified as Class F. Class E consists of products that have a significant contribution to fire, and resist a flame for a short period only. Products that contribute to fire, but have a greater resistance to a flame are categorised as Class D. Products with limited contribution to fire fall under Class C whereas products that are highly resistant to fire are classified under Class B. Products that have no contribution to fire but have the potential to produce some flaming droplets or smoke fall under Class A2. Finally, products that cannot contribute to fire at any stage are classified as Class A1.
Additionally, decking products made from materials falling under Class A2 are further graded according to the level of smoke emission and flaming droplets they produce. Under the Euroclass system, ratings s1, s2 or s3 indicate the highest to the lowest performance during combustion with relation the smoke emission. Additionally, d0, d1 and d2 are used to classify products based on flaming droplet emission with d0 being products with no burning particles or droplets and d2 being products with unlimited burning particles and droplets.
What to Look for When Selecting Your Fireproof Decking Solution?
When selecting the decking for your balconies, you must ensure that the product you choose falls under Class A2 – s1, d0 or Class A1 of the Euroclass system as these are not just fire-resistant options, they are completely fireproof decking products, as required by the latest regulations (Approved Document B, November 2018. You should ask for the relevant certification to ensure that the product complies with the latest fire safety standards.