Fire barrier penetration
Fire stopping materials are used to retain the integrity of fire rated construction by maintaining an effective barrier against the spread of flame, smoke, and hot gases through penetrations in fire rated walls and floor assemblies. Penetrations include electrical conduit, duct work, cable trays, sprinkler piping and steam pipes. Furthermore, the intersection where two fire-rated assemblies meet also creates a joint through which fire can spread. As with openings, the fewer the penetrations in a fire wall, the greater the reliability.
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Forty years ago, when I started practicing engineering, through penetration firestops were very simple. Once the opening through the fire barrier was made, and the pipe or other item was installed, the annular space was "stuffed" with a non-combustible material such as mineral wool, fiberglass, or heaven forbid, asbestos this was before asbestos was known to be a carcinogen. In , a fire at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant demonstrated that it was not only important to seal penetrations to limit the spread of fire, but also to limit the spread of smoke. Previously used materials were found to be inadequate for this purpose. As a result of the fire, Dow Corning Corp. Subsequent to this initial development, a series of tests were developed for testing these materials in combination with various fire barrier constructions, resulting in the Underwriters Laboratories UL Fire Resistance Directory, containing 1, pages of through penetration firestop systems.
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Penetration firestopping systems and fire resistive joint systems are a passive means of fire protection. There is no movement or activation required. These passive systems are mainly used to compartmentalize a fire and keep it from spreading for a period of time long enough that occupants can evacuate the building and so firefighters can perform initial lifesaving tasks. Modern buildings are full of various services that travel from room to room throughout a building. Electrical cables, data cables, and plumbing pipes are few of the items that pass through walls as they travel through a building.
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