New guidelines on building greater fire safety into houses and other structures will reinforce plasterboard’s leading position as a safe, reliable building material, says James Leaning, Technical Services Manager at Knauf Drywall. Changes to Approved Document B (fire safety) of the Building Regulations come into force in April as part of the government’s drive to reduce the number and consequences of fires through a strategy of fire prevention and protection. James Leaning says the new AD B is expected to focus attention on best practice in building design and construction, but the impact on drywall specifiers or installers is likely to be minimal.

“Plasterboard-based drywall systems are already fire-tested to British and European standards, so they are still right for all applications,” he says. “However, there is greater emphasis in the new AD B on compartmentation of buildings. As a result, design of fire-stopping cavity barriers and deeper deflection head detailing will become more important in maintaining the integrity of compartments. Similarly, the treatment of service pipes and ducts penetrating compartment walls will require more attention. These issues are already within the scope of best practice and the comprehensive technical advice we can provide, so they should present no real problems for specifiers or installers.”

James Leaning says with revised terminology for greater clarity, some slightly higher specifications are expected. In firefighting shafts, for example, this may lead to increased demand for high-performance plasterboard products such as Knauf Fire Moistureshield, which is formulated for superior fire protection and moisture resistant qualities.

The new AD B follows a recent Department of Communities and Local Government report showing a decline in accidental deaths by fire in 2005 – but UK fire services still dealt with 428,000 fires: 57,400 “in the home”. The latest review of technical elements of fire safety in the Building Regulations is in line with the government’s aim to cut accidental deaths by fire in dwellings. The Building Regulations are seen as a key strand for delivery of this strategy, in terms of designing fire safety into new and altered buildings.

“Plasterboard is non-combustible and all modern plasterboard-based drywall systems will provide at least 30 minutes’ fire resistance,” says James Leaning. “Following the government’s recent initiative to make fire safety a defined personal responsibility in virtually every type of building apart from private homes, this A1 rating means that the responsibility can transfer from person to person, or from seller to purchaser without problems.”

Knauf Drywall manufactures a full range of plasters, plasterboards, insulating laminates, drywall accessories, metal sections and steel building systems, for domestic and commercial applications, from factories at Sittingbourne in Kent and Immingham on Humberside.