Putting safety first

Energy efficiency continues to be at the top of the agenda and with lighting alone accounting for around 20% of the total amount of electricity used in the UK this is a good place to start making savings. Mervyn Carter of Paviom UK explains why choosing the right fire rated downlights can really make a difference.

Whether you are involved in the construction or refurbishment of commercial premises there are two things which need to be at the top of your list of priorities – fire safety and energy efficiency. While some people may think that these are two totally unrelated subjects, there is an argument which says that by choosing the right products at the outset you can in fact satisfy both of these requirements.

Safety first

If we take the issue of fire safety, there is a whole host of legislation contained in Part B of the Building regulations which relates to fire safety. As well as the usual issues of fire escape routes and emergency lighting, Part B also covers the spread of fire in a building and in particular the fire resistance of a ceiling.

Put simply, Part B states that the fire resistance of a ceiling must not be compromised in order to protect against the spread of fire in a building. This may seem fairly obvious but in the past it has often been overlooked – with very serious consequences.

One area where there have been issues is with downlights. They are now a common sight in most commercial buildings due to their aesthetically pleasing nature, but when a hole is cut into a fire rated ceiling to fit a downlight, the fire stopping ability of the ceiling is impaired and in the event of a fire, flames could penetrate through the light fitting and spread to the floor above with the subsequent risk to life and property.

The downlight itself can also be a source of fire due to the high temperature of lamps and the proximity to flammable material. It is therefore imperative that any downlights which are fitted into a ceiling are fire rated.

New technology

Most fire rated downlights currently on the market use a traditional intumescent strip which, in the event of a fire, expands to fill ventilation holes in the downlights and any gaps around the fitting itself. However, intumescent strips are expensive and can degrade over time affecting the original fire performance levels.

At Paviom we have always held great pride in the technology which we use and because some of the current fire rated products may not always live up to expectations, we have come up with an alternative approach which has been designed to offer an effective alternative to the intumescent strip.

The new range of Fire Rated Downlights incorporates our patented UTEKTON system which uses a spring shut fire seal system that includes a sealing plate and sacrificial spacer. Under normal conditions, this sacrificial spacer provides a platform for a sealing plate to sit on, keeping the ventilation holes clear and allowing the lamp to offer its optimum performance. However the difference is that in the event of a fire, the sacrificial spacer melts allowing the sealing plate to drop down and block these holes to halt the spread of fire.

The new range is fully BRE tested and approved to 30, 60 and 90 minute ceilings and consists of three sizes, FRD80, FRD120 and FRD170 in 13W to 32W lamp options including a twin horizontal version. An 8W PAR 20 LED reflector lamp version with an emergency option is also part of the range, which is complemented by seven alternative bezel glass options for aesthetic appeal.

Installation

Whether you are working on a new-build or a refurbishment, the time spent on site is crucial and as project timescales continue to be cut you need to be certain that any products which you specify will not cause any issues during the fit-out.

Taking this on board we have made sure that the new range is simple and quick to install using a patented ceiling clamp fixing system where a hole is cut into the ceiling and an upper plate fitted through the hole and slotted into place. A lower plate is then positioned and screwed to the upper plate through the ceiling and once this is in place the structural integrity of the ceiling is restored.

While this in itself means that the installation is quick and easy, the additional benefit is that this provides a ‘first fix’ option of securing the clamp in the ceiling whilst wiring and decorating continues. Once the decorating is complete it is simply a matter of fitting the lamp with a simple twist and lock mechanism, helping to save time on site. The heat diffusion of the lamp and its ventilation also negates the need for a fire hood.

Not just fire safety

While fire safety is obviously the crucial element with any fire rated downlight there are numerous other benefits as well. For example this particular range is constructed in such a way that they conform to Building Regulations Part C (Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture), Part E (Resistance to the passage of sound) and Part L (Conservation of fuel and power) and therefore they are resistant to moisture, resistant to the passage of sound, and they stop the air leakage.

One of the main issues here is Part L and this is one area which we must all be aware of to meet the Government’s targets for carbon reduction. Sadly it is not something that we can ignore and therefore it makes sense to simply embrace it with the new technology which is on the market today.

It makes business sense to consider issues such as carbon emissions, heat and energy efficiency when specifying products for any commercial property whether it is a refurbishment or new-build. Sustainable buildings will help to cut your utility bills and with fuel prices continuing to rise this is not to be sniffed at.

Demonstrating your commitment to sustainability is just as important and with many companies asking you to prove your environmental credentials it pays to know that you are doing your bit. As a company we are committed to being an environmentally responsible manufacturer which is apparent in our new range of downlights which provide an energy efficient solution that meets the needs for fire safety and the need for energy saving.

With budgets being cut at all levels it would be very easy to cut corners and therefore costs but ultimately you have to ask yourself whether you are happy that the products which you have specified would really live up to expectations if they had to.

Wouldn’t it be better to use a product which you can trust, and know that in the event of a fire they will help to protect the people within the building? The fact that this can also be an aesthetically pleasing solution which will meet your energy efficiency targets is just another reason to provide the confidence that you made the right choice.

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