Security & Fire Protection Maintaining communal ventilation - a fresh look

Air quality and fire safety are now two of the most pressing issues in social housing, especially in multiple occupancy buildings. Much of the solution lies in compliant, competent cleaning and maintenance, says Gary Nicholls, Managing Director of Swiftclean Building Services.

Although multiple occupancy housing has been with us for well over a century, we have only had fire legislation for this type of housing since The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force in October 2006. But in just over a decade, we have acquired a great deal of experience and defined best practice.

Within multiple occupancy buildings, each dwelling is constructed as a separate compartment, in order to reduce the risk of fire spreading from one to another. However, the shared ventilation and extract ductwork system for kitchens and bathrooms effectively re-introduces a potential route for fire to spread from one apartment to another, or to a communal area.

Compartmentation is restored by installing fire dampers at the point where ductwork passes through a fire resistance-rated wall. These are essentially a set of steel louvres which remain open to allow free air flow under normal conditions, but which are triggered by sensors to close automatically in the event of fire. The closed louvres form a barrier within the ductwork which helps to delay the spread of fire and hot gasses.

Where fire dampers are fitted, they must be tested and cleaned annually in accordance with British Standard BS:9999 2017, using a method called drop testing, which checks that the louvres close effectively.

Kitchen extract fire safety cleaning should also be a priority, as airborne fat, oil and grease from cooking will deposit a thin, highly flammable film of grease in the ductwork. This must be removed on a regular basis, as laid out in tables within TR/19, the leading guidance document for ventilation

ductwork cleaning, issued by BESA. This requires ductwork to be classified as high, medium or low; multiple occupancy shared kitchen extracts will carry a high classification. Regular ductwork cleaning also promotes good, healthy air quality.

In many multiple

occupancy buildings, the ground floor is given to restaurants or fast food outlets. In these, regular kitchen extract fire safety cleaning in compliance with TR/19 is essential, in order to reduce the risk of the spread of fire to the floors above.

Regular cleaning and fire damper testing is not just required by law - the lives of residents and visitors may depend on it.

Fire dampers - open (above) and closed (below


TEL: 0800 243 471 41


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