Owners Beware: Building Modifications Can Void a Components’ Fire Rating

Modifications are a necessary consideration in real estate investments. Greater property optimization means a higher resale price. While building modifications have benefits on property value, property owners should be mindful of its potential risks, especially relating to fire safety.

Before engaging in any building modifications, building managers should understand and consider fire ratings. These measure the performance of various building elements during a fire. Fire-rated assemblies create compartmentalization, reducing the risk of spreading fire and allowing occupants to exit the property safely.

Building managers modify their properties to improve their appearance and functionality. However, they might not be aware that these alterations can unknowingly weaken the fire-resistant abilities of building components. Therefore, taking extra caution when upgrading building components is essential.

For example, fire-rated doors and windows are tested to endure fire, heat, and smoke. They serve as a barrier preventing fire from circulating to other areas. Substituting fire-resistant doors or windows with non-rated options diminishes the efficacy of the building’s fire safety system.

Moreover, ducts that run through fire-rated walls are typically equipped with fire dampers. Modifying these dampers or the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) arrangement may undermine the building’s ability to contain fires. Certain buildings incorporate smoke detectors in HVAC air handlers and mechanisms to halt fan operation and prevent smoke dissemination through the ductwork. When upgrading HVAC equipment, it is advisable to verify the proper functioning of these components with the help of a commercial building engineer NJ.

Property owners should identify the place of fire-rated components to know which location cannot be changed without voiding their fire-rating. They can spot fire-rated assemblies by reviewing building plans. Property managers can seek help from a building inspection engineer NJ if documents are unavailable.

To learn more about safe building modifications, read this infographic from Lockatong Engineering.