In the design and construction of office pods, fire safety is of utmost importance. One essential component that architects, designers, and contractors need to consider is Approved Document B (ADB). ADB is an integral part of the Building Regulations in the United Kingdom and provides guidance on fire safety standards for various aspects of building design and construction. The role of ADB in ensuring fire resistance in wall linings Wall linings, which refer to the materials used to cover the interior surfaces of walls, can significantly impact the spread of fire, heat, and smoke within a building. ADB sets out specific requirements and recommendations for wall lining materials to minimise the risk of fire and enhance overall fire safety. ADB provides guidance on the fire performance of wall linings, including their reaction to fire, resistance to fire, and the classification of their surface spread of flame. It specifies the fire rating required for different areas of a building and the types of wall linings that can be used in each area. Adhering to ADB’s guidelines ensures that the materials used in building interiors meet necessary fire safety standards, protecting occupants and allowing for safe evacuation. Understanding the surface spread of flame The surface spread of flame is a crucial factor in assessing the fire performance of building materials, including wall linings. It refers to the rate at which flames spread across the surface of a material when exposed to fire. Standardised tests such as the British Standard BS 476-7 or the European Standard EN 13501-1 are used to measure the surface spread of flame. These tests subject a sample of the material to a controlled ignition source and observe and measure the progression of the flame across the surface. By considering the surface spread of flame, architects, designers, and contractors can select appropriate wall lining materials that meet required fire safety standards. Materials with a lower surface spread of flame provide better fire resistance and help limit the spread of fire within a building, allowing occupants more time to evacuate safely. Limitations of current testing methods Currently, fabric manufacturers often rely on calcium silicate as a reference substrate for spread of flame testing. However, this approach has its limitations. One limitation is the limited realism of using calcium silicate as a standardised material. While it possesses consistent properties, it fails to replicate the complex interactions textiles experience in real-world applications. Fabrics encounter various substrates, ranging from wood to steel, and exhibit different behaviours under these conditions. Another limitation is the variability in fire risk associated with different substrates. Textiles that perform well on calcium silicate may not provide the same level of protection when exposed to substrates with different flammability characteristics. This mismatch can result in a false sense of security. Additionally, relying solely on calcium silicate-based tests provides a limited understanding of a fabric’s fire performance. It doesn’t account for how textiles might interact with other materials, coatings, or finishes commonly used in construction and industry. The case for real-world spread of flame testing To address the limitations of current testing methods, there is a need for real-world spread of flame testing. This approach would involve exposing textiles to actual substrates and conditions they would encounter in buildings, vehicles, and other applications. Real-world testing would provide a more accurate assessment of a fabric’s fire resistance in practical scenarios. Real-world spread of flame testing can lead to enhanced realism, improved safety, and informed decision-making. It would enable architects, engineers, and safety regulators to make better choices in material selection, aligning with specific fire safety requirements and potentially saving lives and property. Mandating real-world spread of flame testing would also promote industry accountability, encouraging fabric manufacturers to invest in research and development for safer products. The importance of specifying fabrics based on ADB guidance In the context of office pods, it is crucial for manufacturers to correctly specify fabrics based on the guidance of ADB. Office pods are considered occupiable enclosures and must conform to the classifications specified in ADB. This includes considering the classification of wall linings within the pods. Manufacturers of office pods should carefully consider the available evidence of reaction to fire testing for the desired fabric products. Test reports provided by fabric manufacturers may not always be representative of the fabric’s performance in a composite wall construction. It is important to ensure that the fabric has achieved the necessary Euro classification for reaction to fire when mounted in the end-use configuration to the appropriate substrate. Specifiers should seek assurances from fabric manufacturers regarding the classification of the finish being proposed for use. They should consider the relevant Euro classifications and ensure that the finish has been tested in its intended end-use configuration and mounted on the appropriate substrate. This includes verifying that the fabric meets the necessary Euro classification when used as a wall lining in office pods. Combating misrepresentations and misunderstandings Misrepresentations and misunderstandings regarding fire safety standards for wall linings in office pods are prevalent. Manufacturers may provide test evidence data that is not representative of end-use applications in composite wall systems. Specifiers may rely on misleading statements or incomplete test data when selecting wall lining materials. To address these issues, there needs to be a collective effort to ensure accurate representation and interpretation of test data. Manufacturers should provide comprehensive and contextual test evidence, specifically related to the use of their products as wall linings in office pods. Specifiers should carefully evaluate the available evidence and seek clarification when necessary. The importance of compliance with ADB and testing standards Compliance with ADB and the relevant testing standards, such as EN 13501-1, is crucial in ensuring fire safety in office pods. It is essential to understand and adhere to the definitions and requirements outlined in ADB when classifying wall linings and selecting appropriate materials. Specifiers should avoid assumptions or shortcuts in meeting fire safety standards. Simply relying on the presence of a sprinkler system or using non-qualifying test evidence is not sufficient. The guidance provided in ADB should be followed, and any deviations from the standard should be properly documented and supported by an engineered approach. By prioritising fire safety in office pods and ensuring compliance with ADB, designers, manufacturers, and specifiers can create safer environments for occupants. This includes selecting wall lining materials that have been appropriately tested and classified for their intended use, contributing to the overall fire safety of office pods. Fire safety and testing top of the list with the Adaptable Meeting Room When it comes to our Adaptable Meeting Room systems and the wall linings we install, we take fire safety standards seriously. We ensure that the components meet all necessary regulations and collate all available test data from our supply chain to guarantee fire resistance and safety. We specify fabrics in our Adaptable Meeting Rooms based on ADB guidance and relevant Euro classifications and push our suppliers to conduct testing and share accurate test data that best represents the intended end-use configuration. By maintaining compliance with ADB and testing standards, we prioritise fire safety and aim to create safer environments for office occupants. So much more than an office pod, the Optima Adaptable Meeting Room is an innovative, comfortable and most importantly, a safe environment where users can work all day with peace of mind. Developed with the building and fire safety standards in mind, we conduct extensive fire testing on all our products, and it is no different with the Adaptable Meeting Room. We believe it is our duty as a UK manufacturer to provide established specifications and uphold the standards throughout the entire lifecycle of our products. At Optima, we are dedicated to improving construction standards especially when it comes to our fire safety. Conclusion Fire safety standards for wall linings in office pods are essential to protect occupants and prevent the spread of fire. ADB provides guidance on the selection and classification of wall lining materials to ensure adequate fire resistance. However, there are limitations to current testing methods, particularly in relation to fabric spread of flame testing. Real-world spread of flame testing is necessary to address these limitations and provide a more accurate assessment of fabric fire resistance in practical scenarios. Manufacturers of office pods should correctly specify fabrics based on ADB guidance, considering the relevant Euro classifications and ensuring testing is conducted in the intended end-use configuration. Combating misrepresentations and misunderstandings requires accurate representation and interpretation of test data. Compliance with ADB and testing standards is crucial to ensure fire safety in office pods. By prioritizing fire safety and following the guidance provided, designers, manufacturers, and specifiers can create safer environments and protect occupants from the risk of fire.