What is Passive Fire Protection

Passive fire protection is about preventing, slowing or compartmentalising the spread of fire. This can be achieved through the installation of fire-resistant doors, walls, ceilings, floors or a combination of any or all. Torvac Solutions can thoroughly assess your building’s structure and layout to determine if the passive protection components of your building are in proper working order and are being maintained properly.

Passive Fire Protection - Fire Doors
Fire-resistant doors assist in compartmentalising the spread of fire.

Basic Passive Fire Protection services include:

• Inspection and testing of smoke curtains

• Fire Seals

• Fire dampers

• Lightweight construction

However, to make your Passive Fire Protection Strategy most effective as Chris Jelenewicz from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), suggest there are four main areas of Passive fire protection that need to be addressed.

Structural Passive Fire Protection

Structural fire protection guards essential structural components (such as structural steel and joint systems) from the effects of fire. This is accomplished with a fireproofing material (spray-on thin-film intumescents, endothermic materials like gypsum-based plasters and cementitious products, mineral wool wraps and insulation, and fireproofing cladding) or building the structure out of concrete products. “When structural fire protection is designed and applied properly,” says Jelenewicz, “the building’s structural integrity should be maintained when it’s exposed to fire.”


Fire barriers, firewalls, fire partitions, and smoke barriers are all needed to compartmentalise and essential to a Passive Fire Protection. Fire barriers include fire-rated walls, floors, and ceilings (often made of concrete, combination wood, gypsum, or masonry). These barriers are used to limit the spread of fire in a building and allow safe egress. Walls extend from a fire-rated floor to the fire-rated ceiling above, and continue into concealed spaces for full protection. In the event of fire, these walls when built structurally stable will remain standing.

Opening Protection

Fire doors and windows are installed in an opening of a fire barrier to maintain its fire resistance. Doors and frames work together to form an effective smoke and fire barrier. Fire-rated glass and framing are tested as a complete assembly that maintains the protection of the fire barrier. Additionally, fire and smoke dampers (often used in duct systems) are considered “opening protection” and complete the fire barrier where air ducts penetrate fire-rated and/or smoke-resistant assemblies.

Fire stopping materials

These materials are used to limit fire spread through penetrations in a fire barrier. It’s not uncommon to see a fire barrier penetrated during a minor building alteration, and then the penetrating item isn’t protected by fire stopping. Electricians, plumbers, communications engineers, etc. can leave hidden holes in the barriers as they perform their services.

Other areas of Passive Fire Protection that warrant mentioning are cable coating (the application of fire retardants to wire and cable), joint systems (which include changes in direction between fire-separating elements and the spaces surrounded by those elements), and perimeter fire barriers (which deal with the perimeter of the floor and the exterior curtain wall).

While Passive Fire Protection can successfully prevent the spread of fire, it’s important to note that most professionals recommend redundancy in fire protection. In other words, a fire-sprinkler system, alarms and detection systems, and occupant education, in conjunction with passive fire-protection systems, are a safer, more balanced approach to protecting your building and the people inside.

Vigilance is key to maintaining adequate Passive Fire Protection ask the following questions when assessing your fire protection strategy:

The bottom line: Know what’s going on in your building, and keep your eyes open for any changes in the fire-protection system that reduce it’s performance.

Source: Jenna M. Aker