Understanding the Types of Fireproofing: Active vs. Passive

Fireman Standing on Ladder

Fireproofing is crucial for ensuring the safety and structural integrity of buildings during a fire, providing necessary protection to save lives and property. Fireproofing strategies are broadly classified into two categories: Active and Passive Fireproofing. Understanding the differences between these two types can help in choosing the right approach for your facility.


Active Fireproofing

Active fireproofing systems require human intervention or automated mechanisms to activate. These systems detect fire and react to suppress it or alert occupants. Examples include:

  • Sprinkler Systems: Automatically activated by heat, sprinklers release water to extinguish fires.
  • Fire Alarms: Detect smoke or heat and alert occupants through sound and visual signals.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Portable devices used by individuals to put out small fires.

The key characteristic of active fireproofing is that it engages only when a fire is detected, providing a direct response to the incident.


Passive Fireproofing

Passive fireproofing involves integrating fire-resistant materials and designs into the structure to contain and slow the spread of fire. This type requires no human intervention once installed. Common types of passive fireproofing include:

  1. Cementitious Fireproofing
    • Description: Gypsum-based, plaster-like coatings that look like white stucco when dried. These coatings are sprayed on the structural surfaces requiring fireproofing.
    • Application: Commonly used to keep structural girders and beams below 540°C to prevent steel from bending.
    • Advantages: Cost-effective and provides a thick, protective layer.
  2. Intumescent Fireproofing
    • Description: Paints that expand and form a heat-resistant barrier when heated. They usually contain sodium silicates.
    • Application: Used on metallic pipes, tanks, and valves to provide fire resistance.
    • Advantages: Easier to apply than cementitious coatings, provides a flexible and aesthetic finish, and offers advanced fire protection.
  3. Firestop Fireproofing
    • Description: Involves sealing openings and joints in walls and floors with fire-resistance-rated materials.
    • Application: Fire dampers are used to fill ductwork holes, and specialized seals are used for pipe and electrical wiring tray penetrations.
    • Advantages: Essential for maintaining compartmentalization, prevents the spread of fire and smoke through openings.

Cementitious vs. Intumescent Fireproofing

While both cementitious and intumescent fireproofing are used to protect structural elements, they have distinct differences:

  • Ease of Application: Intumescent fireproofing is easier to apply as it resembles traditional paint and does not allow moisture to settle inside.
  • Material Cost: Cementitious fireproofing is generally less expensive due to the low cost of materials used.
  • Fire Protection: Intumescent coatings offer advanced fire protection by expanding under high heat to create an insulating barrier.

From a technical standpoint, intumescent fireproofing provides more advanced and flexible protection, making it suitable for a wider range of applications. Cementitious fireproofing, though less advanced, remains a viable option for certain circumstances due to its cost-effectiveness.


The Importance of Both Fireproofing Types

Both active and passive fireproofing are essential components of a comprehensive fire safety strategy. Active fireproofing provides immediate response capabilities, while passive fireproofing ensures that fire is contained and structural integrity is maintained for as long as possible. Together, they form a robust defence against the dangers of fire, protecting lives, property, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations.

For more detailed information on fireproofing solutions and how they can benefit your facility, contact Martyn Young Fireproofing Consultancy on 07585 896648.