We wanted to test our balcony system to the highest possible degree. We therefore over exaggerated some typical house fire conditions.
The standard height between building floors is 3 meters, our balcony was set 1.5 meters above the fire – 100% closer than it would be in a standard building fire.
A house fire burns at circa 600 degrees Celsius. An average bonfire similar to ours burns at approximately 1100 degrees Celsius – 85% hotter than a standard house fire.
Prior to our fire test, we had a few theories
that we wanted to confirm or disprove:
- Does the addition of a balcony soffit reduce the spread of fire?
- Does Class A decking reduce the spread of fire?
- What would happen to our balcony system under such strenuous circumstances?
Does the addition of a balcony soffit reduce the spread of fire?
Under the extreme circumstances of our test. As you can see on our video, the aluminium soffit only withstood the heat for 11 minutes before it began to melt and drop to the ground.
Does Class A decking reduce the spread of fire?
Absolutely, yes! Our Class A fire rated decking withstood the fire from beneath for over an hour without being structurally affected and didn't spread the fire at all. It only began to melt when we added combustible materials on top of the balcony.
Even then after 2 hours of being on fire, parts of our decking were still in place. Traditional timber or composite decking would have set alight in minutes and spread the fire up the building.
What would happen to our balustrade under such strenuous circumstances?
With regards to the mild steel vertical infill balustrade, the answer to this is simply – nothing! Our balustrade did not alter structurally in any way.
The 100mm maximum gap in between the balustrade infills remained and it was still perpendicular to the balcony structure.
While our aluminium panel balustrade support structure did remain in place and still prevented a fall from height, the aluminium cladding itself did melt in places when subject to direct flames.
BEFORE BALCONY FIRE TEST
AFTER BALCONY FIRE TEST
Health, Safety and Environmental Information
All precautions were taken when setting up and during the filming of this event. The process was risk assessed and suitable control measures were put in place and implemented. The relevant bodies were consulted, informed and notified of this planned controlled burn event including the local Fire Department, the Environment Agency and neighbouring businesses. No injuries were suffered, no damage was incurred to anything other than the intended balcony structure and there was a very minimal short-term effect on the environment.
Mark Eagle (Grad-IOSH PIEMA)
Health, Safety and Environmental Manager