1) Legislation – 2) Building classification – 3) Fire resistance and reaction to fire – 4) Fire resistance – 5) Reaction to fire

1) Legislation

Based on the risks inherent to each type of building (height, number of people, activity, etc.), the legislation classifies buildings and indicates the fire provisions to be respected for each type of building.
The legislation constitutes the only reference documents and these must be fully consulted.
Buildings are classified into the following categories:
– Public establishments (ERP): Amended Decree of 25 June 1980
– High-rise buildings (IGH) Amended Decree of 18 October 1977
– Residential buildings: Amended Decree of 31 January 1986
– Environmental protection installations (ICPE): Law of 19 July 1996 and decrees for any installations subject to declarations
– Workplaces: Employment Code and Amended Decree of 5 August 1992

2) Building classification

2-a) Public establishments (ERP)
Public establishments are classified into 5 categories and types. The building type depends on the nature of its use. The categories are determined by the number of staff and public visitors.
– more than 1,500 persons -> 1
– from 701 to 1,500 persons -> 2
– from 301 to 700 persons -> 3
– 300 persons and below, with the exception of the establishments included in the 5th category. -> 4
– establishments that are subject to Article R123-14 in which the numbers of public visitors do not reach the figure set by the safety regulations for each category of use -> 5
The classification below applies only to establishments in categories 1-4.

“Establishments within a building”:
L: Auditoriums, conference rooms, meeting rooms, performance spaces or multiple-use rooms
M: Shops and shopping centres
N: Restaurants, public houses
O: Hotels, guest houses
P: Dance rooms, games rooms
R: Educational establishments, holiday camps
S: Libraries, documentation centres
T: Exhibition rooms
U: Health centres
V: Places of worship
W: Administrative buildings, banks, offices
X: Covered sports halls
Y: Museums
“Special Establishments”:
EF: Floating establishments
GA: Stations
OA: High-altitude hotels/restaurants
PA: Open-air establishments
PS: Covered car parks
SG: Inflatable structures
CTS: Marquees and tents
REF: Mountain refuges

2-b) High-rise buildings (IGH)
A high-rise building is one: whose height is greater than 50 m for residential buildings, or greater than 28 m for other types of buildings. The amended decree of 18 October 1977 includes general measures common to all classes of high-rise building and specific provisions for various categories of building. The different categories are defined as follows: GHA: Residential buildings GHO: Hotel buildings GHR: Education buildings GHS: Archive deposit buildings GHU: Sanitation buildings GHW1: Office buildings: 28 m < floor level of top floor* < or = 50 m GHW2: Office buildings: floor level of top floor > 50 m GHZ: Mixed use or public buildings.

3) Fire resistance and reaction to fire

Fire protection aims to ensure the safety of the persons directly threatened, fire rescue staff and indirectly threatened external persons, as well as to limit material damage.
Great importance is given to evacuation routes and the compartmentation of a building (Amended Decree of 25 June 1980).
Compartmentation is even more important when the volume of the building is large. Compartmentation of a building means dividing it into a certain number of independent units whose surface area is determined by the total size of the building, its activity and the content.
Inside these compartments, the development of a fire should not be aided by the composition of the walls or their cladding. As well as surface propagation which may occur, the fire can spread from one wall to another, resulting in a larger fire.
This notion of combustibility and flammability of the materials that make up the building walls is known as “reaction to fire”.
When the fire continues to develop within the compartments, the walls of each area must provide sufficient resistance to contain it.
This notion is called “fire resistance”.

4) Fire resistance

Fire resistance, just like acoustic and thermal insulation, is a construction feature.
The test methods and the resulting fire classifications are defined in the decree of 22 March 2004 (replacing the decree of 3 August 1999).
Three criteria are used for the evaluation of varying degrees of fire resistance for the tested structures.
4-a) Mechanical resistance (European classification R)
For horizontal structure features, this criteria is considered to have been met if the point reached does not exceed 1/30 of the scope or if the speed of deformation does not exceed 3 mm/min. per metre of scope.
For vertical structure features, if the melting speed does not exceed 3 mm/min. per metre of scope or if the subsidence does not exceed 1/300 of the height.
4-b) Resistance to flames, hot gases and inflammables (European classification E)
This criteria has not been met if the following can be seen:
. the combustion of a piece of cotton wool placed near the sample
. the combustion of gases emitted in the non-exposed side when exposed to a pilot flame
. the transit or production of sustained flames in the non-exposed side
4-c) Thermal insulation (European classification I)
This criteria is considered to have been met when the heating of the surface not exposed to fire does not reach 140 °C on average or 180 °C at a single point.
4-d) Classifications
The various fire classifications are:
. SF: (fire stable), when criteria R has been met
. PF: (flame retardant), when criteria E has been met
. CF (fire resistant), when criteria E and I have been met

5) Reaction to fire

Reaction to fire is an intrinsic property of the material. It includes all of the characteristics of a material in relation to its influence on the origin and propagation of a fire.
In accordance with the decree of 21 November 2002, the Euroclasses are determined by new test methods which are harmonised at European level.
The table below presents the equivalence between the Euroclasses (A1 to D) and the former classifications of reaction to fire (M0 to M4).

Euroclasses for construction products other than floors (NF EN 13 501-1) Regulatory requirements
A1 Incombustible
A2 S1 d0 M0
A2 S1 d1 M1
Combustible non inflammable
A2 S2 d0
S3 d1
S1 d0
B S2 d1
C S1 d0
Combustible difficilement inflammable
D S1 d0
Combustible moyennement inflammable
S2 M4
Combustible facilement inflammable

The Euroclasses give additional classifications:
s (1, 2, 3) for the production of smoke, d (0, 1, 2) for the falling of droplets and debris.