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Jul 19, 2021

This Episode is sponsored by Wachter.

Welcome to episode 12 of Fire Code Tech! On this episode we are talking about passive fire protection.  This episode explores the differences and similarities around fire walls, barriers, and partitions. This episode I discuss common misconceptions and the very difficult topic that is proper application of fire separations. Don’t forget that you can get two more solocasts a month at


What are Fire Walls, Barriers and Partitions?

What are the codes and standards surrounding fire walls, barriers and partitions?

What is a firestop?

What are fire protection ratings?



Hello. Welcome to the solo cast of fire code tech in these episodes. It's just gonna be me, your host, Gus Gagliardi. There's gonna be a range of topics, but I'm gonna talk about specific technologies, installation, standards, codes, and how they work as well as some other interesting topics that don't neatly fit inside of the context of a normal interview.

Hello, all welcome to episode 12 of fire code tech, the solo. On this episode, we're talking about fire barriers, fire, partitions, and firewalls. Wanna take a moment and thank our sponsors for this episode. Waner but we will be giving more information about Waner and the opportunities associated later on in this episode.

Yes. I wanted to talk about fire and smoke dampers, but I realized that you can't very well. Talk about fire and smoke dampers. If you haven't laid the groundwork for. What the different types of rated separations are in construction. So on today's episode, we're gonna talk about what are firewalls barriers and partitions, how are they rated?

What are the codes and standards surrounding firewalls barriers and partitions, and answer the question. What is a fire? Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media. Oh. And if you could give us a five star rating on apple podcast, it would be a big help to the show.

Let's get into the show. So I wanna start with what are firewalls barriers and partitions. And so I'm gonna go through these in order of, um, most complexity to least complex. So we're gonna start out with firewalls. Another reason why I thought it was important to go over this subject is people frequently, uh, exchange the terms, um, firewalls barriers and partitions synonymously, and they are anything, but, um, synonymous in the building code or the standards, which address these rated separations.

So. As always, we're going to, you know, start with the basis of our discussion in, you know, the codes and standards surrounding the subject. And, and, you know, as always, we're going to discuss it through the lens of the United States codes and standards, even though the approach may be similar despite your, um, geographic location, um, to understand these terms, they are, uh, likely going to be, uh, very similar, but always remember to base your interpretation of the subject.

In the codes and standards that apply to your jurisdiction and then to seek in those codes and standards, the definitions and criteria as they are defined in the document that is adopted by law. So for the purposes of our discussion today, I've pulled some. Definitions out of the 2015 international building code, which is what, um, Oklahoma as a state adopts and what Oklahoma city adopts.

But, um, they'll be very similar in other versions of the international building code are the I B C and um, other versions of. Different, uh, guiding fire and life safety documents. So let's start with firewall. Firewall is defined in chapter two of the international building code as a fire resistance rated wall, having protected openings, which restricts the spread of fire and extend continuously from the foundation to, or through.

Without either collapse of the wall with sufficient structural stability under fire conditions to allow the collapse of construction on either side, without collapse of the wall. So this is the most important part of firewall and why my ears always perk up when people toss this term around, um, just kind of nonchalant or casual.

Uh, a firewall means this rated separation is structurally independent from the rest of the building. So that means, um, through the, the slab, you know, um, and then also penetrating extending through the roof. And so this is a, a considerable, um, construction. And, uh, considerable cost. So anytime I hear people say firewall, my, my ears perk up and I, you know, I ask, do you really mean firewall?

Um, oftentimes they don't, but, um, I think it's very important. Firewall is the most, um, I don't know if intense is the right word, but, um, it's the most expensive. It is the, um, most challenging to design, uh, around. And so it's, uh, it's a good one to start with because it is probably the most difficult one to accommodate in the building code.

There are only a couple ways in which you can define a building, uh, you know, like two separate buildings within one larger building, or, you know, the, the question is commonly asked to me, how do we determine. You know, these two structures are the same. So in the eyes of the fire and life safety tabulations of the building.

And so there are two common ways for you to determine if these buildings are sufficiently separated. One of 'em is if you have a firewall between the two buildings, then this is a way in the eyes of the building code to. Separate these. Uh, so if you have building a separated by a firewall from building B, these are two separate buildings and two separate fire and life safety calculations.

Um, in regards to the building code, this is an important distinction because neither a fire barrier nor a fire partition have this effect. So the definition we just read was in chapter two, section 2 0 2 and definitions of the international building. but more specific requirements for firewalls can be found in chapter seven, fire and smoke protection features, and more specifically section 7 0 6 for firewalls.

So now that we've touched on a firewall, uh, let's talk a little bit about, um, how these firewalls barriers and partitions are rated. Um, before we move on to barriers and partitions, and there's a lot more to cover on firewalls. Um, we'll see how this episode goes. And, um, there could be a situation in which I dedicate an entire episode to firewalls.

They're so challenging and, uh, important to the building code and the way that we construct buildings, the fire protection rating is defined as the period of time that an opening protective, it will maintain the ability to confine a. As determined by the test specified in section seven 15, furthermore, it states ratings are stated in hours or minutes.

So further on our discussion of, uh, this fire protection rating. Um, w let's talk about NFPA 2 21, which is a very important document when talking about fire walls, fire barriers and fire partitions. NFPA 2 21 is the standard for high challenge, firewalls, firewalls, and fire barrier walls. So NFPA 2 21 is a great document.

If you are confused about firewalls, fire barriers and fire partitions. It goes in depth more into this subject than the building code does. Um, the building code will tell you when you need these, um, how to construct them and, uh, some of those requirements. But I feel like if you are just diving into this subject and having a little bit of difficulty.

Understanding the differences between the three, um, N FPA 2 21 is great for, um, providing a little bit more information on the subject. Wanna take a moment to talk about our sponsor today? Waner Waner is a family owned business to provide services in many commercial and industrial market sectors, including electrical and fire alarm.

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That's w a C HT E Let's get back to the show. Another great note about N FPA 2 21 is it is a reference standard in the building code. So depending on what version of the building code is adopted. You can go take a look and see what version of NFPA 2 21 is adopted. So this standard does have the, um, effect of law, depending on what portions are adopted in your, uh, applicable building code.

So I bring up NFPA 2 21 because I wanted to talk about the standards, which describe the fire protection rating. So what standard do you have to test your listed assembly or structure? Um, to get it rated at a certain, um, hour rating or minute rating. So you can find these, uh, standards, these listing standards, um, in both NFPA 2 21 as well as the international building code.

So the first one is. C slash UL 2 63, which is the standard for safety of fire tests of building construction materials. And the second one is a S T M E one 19 standard test methods for fire tests of building construction materials. And then, and if you look at MF B a 2 21, it also says any other approved test methods, um, in regards to a section 4.3 point.

4.3 0.2 describes the analytical methods, which are acceptable in order to evaluate a rated separation. Just a bit of example, information, or I guess, exposition on the subject. Firewalls and fire barriers are generally in ratings of 1, 2, 4, so that's hours. So generally, uh, most of what you will see is probably in.

Uh, one to, to two, and, and sometimes you will get in the extreme scenario in which you see a three or four hour, um, firewall. And so, yeah, these are these start to get very expensive firewalls are, um, very difficult for structural engineers to design and, um, it, it presents a lot of. Difficult, um, design and construction, uh, dilemmas.

So these are really things that unless they are extremely necessary are to be avoided. Let's move on to a fire barrier. A fire barrier is described as a fire resistance rated wall assembly, a materials designed to restrict the spread of fire in which continuity is maintained. Fire barriers is addressed in section 7 0 7 in the international building code.

We want to talk about this, uh, topic of continuity. It's mentioned in the definition of fire barrier and fire partition. So these firewalls barriers and partitions are listed and rated assemblies. So we want to keep the integrity of these listed and rated. So when we penetrate these assemblies or when we have an opening in these assemblies, we need to protect these, uh, openings slash penetrations.

Say you have a piece of duct work going through a rated assembly. Or a piece of pipe that is going through a rated assembly. You need to provide a listed fire stop product in order to, um, retain the continuity of this listed assembly. All the different rated separations we've talked about today. Are a component of passive fire protection.

Fire barriers are much more common than firewalls as, uh, most, uh, facilities or buildings are not large enough or of significant of enough, uh, fire and life safety challenge to need the use of a firewall. There's a list at the beginning of 7 0 7 that describe some common places where you might find fire barriers.

I'll just list a couple shaft enclosures, uh, interior, exit stairways and ramp construction. Um, exit passageways, horizontal exits, uh, atriums atriums, incidental uses control areas. All these are examples of, um, places which have fire barrier requirements. And so, uh, all these things are a lot more common than needing to provide a totally separate building.

At least I guess I should say these are more common in the, in the occupancies, in the. Types of buildings that I'm used to dealing with maybe in large cities or in, um, exceedingly high hazard. Um, if you did business in a lot of just extremely hazarded locations, then you would, um, be more, uh, have more frequent use of firewalls, but they're expensive.

So owners typically don't want em, so there's mixed use, not separated, which I was speaking with the fire Marshall justice last. He's saying that, uh, 95 plus percentage 95, plus percentage of all the buildings that he deals with are, uh, mixed use, not separated, but, um, if he did have a, uh, mixed use separated, um, occupancy, then fire barrier would be the way that you split up your building in order to, um, give yourself a larger building allowance.

We could do a whole episode and probably will do one over occupancy and, and use it's a very, uh, deep topic. But, uh, I thought I'd offer that up for another area in which these listed separations are common. The last one on the list is fire partitions. Fire partitions is described in the building code as a vertical assembly of materials designed to restrict the spread of fire in which openings are protect.

So here's the big misconception point. Here is the difference between fire barriers and fire partitions. Here's a good excerpt out of the 2021 edition of an FPA. 2 21 says fire barrier wall shall be continuous from one of the following or combination thereof, an exterior wall to an exterior wall, a floor below to a floor or roof.

One fire barrier wall to another fire barrier wall firewall or high challenge firewall, having a fire resistance rating of not less than that required for the fire barrier wall. So these are, uh, a list of ways in which you have to have continuity for, um, fire barrier walls. Um, fire partitions are. A little bit less restrictive as far as where they can terminate fire partitions are listed in chapter seven, said chapter chapter seven, section 7 0 8 in the international building code.

Here are a list of a couple different areas in which you can find, uh, the requirements for fire partitions. Separation in walls as required by four 20.2 for groups I one R one R two and R three walls separating tenant spaces and covered and covered in open mall buildings as required by 4 0 2 0.4 0.2 0.1 corridor walls as required by 10 20.1.

Elevator lobby separation is required by section 3006 0.2. RIS balconies is required by 10, 19.2. So as you can see that these are not as common of, um, types of partition, so specific occupancy. So they have a list of institutional and residential occupancies, where you would have these, uh, separations around, uh, different spaces within the building.

And then, uh, yeah, so this, uh, illustration of where you would find these, these partitions, and for me, the location in which these separations are used is the most telling part of how they differ between each other. And also the, the continuity where these, um, Listed separations start and stop are also a huge way to determine how to, uh, describe and differentiate between these two.

Just a recap here at the end of this episode, we discussed what are firewalls barriers and partitions? What are the codes and standards surrounding firewalls barriers and partitions? What is fire? And also we spoke about how these systems are rated and listed. That's it for this episode, don't forget if you are liking this content and you want to hear more solocast episodes.

You can go check out code tech. That's Patreon, Dott com slash fire code. For two more of these episodes a month for the price of a cup of coffee. We'll see you next time on fire code tag. Thanks for listening everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business.

The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life. Thanks again, and we'll see you next time.