Fire Protection Solutions for Historical Buildings and Heritage Sites

Traditional building methods, materials and electrical installations can pose a host of fire risks. When working with a historical or heritage property, there is a fine line to be walked between offering optimal fire protection and preserving the historical integrity of a structure. These considerations can make selecting the correct fire safety measures challenging when dealing with historical properties. In this blog from, we offer a guide to fire protection solutions for historical buildings and heritage sites – noting common causes of fire, methods for fire detection and Fire protection. We will also discuss some important things to consider when creating a fire safety plan for any historical or heritage site.


Fire Risk Assessments for Heritage Sites

Fire Risk Assessments are a vital part of any fire prevention strategy. However, their importance is even greater when dealing with a historical building or heritage site. It is a legal requirement for all property managers overseeing a historical or heritage site to organise regular fire assessments for their premises – ensuring that up-to-date records are on hand at all times.

While the principles of fire assessment can be maintained across building types, historical and heritage buildings do pose additional challenges. Features such as old doors and hidden voids can make conducting a thorough assessment difficult. For this reason, employing the help of a competent assessor is advised. Effective fire assessments play an important role when building a fire strategy, including a salvage plan. The unique contents of heritage buildings often call for a more bespoke fire management plan – as it is common for items within a premises to be of notable value.

Fire Assessments and fire plans must be simple and easy to follow by property managers in the event of an emergency. It is also essential for a property to be re-assessed whenever there is building work or changes in legislation.


Common Causes of Fire & Fire Challenges

  • Arson
  • Renovation work using hot tools
  • Electrical faults or short circuits

In addition to having a number of risks associated with the initial starting of fire, many historical properties also have features that allow fire to spread easily throughout it. These might include open and ill-fitting floorboards, think wall construction, unknown wall or floor voids, open staircases and lack of compartmentalisation to name a few. For this reason, having extinguishing equipment on site is essential.


Fire Detection

Fire alarms offer a discreet but effective method to help optimise fire safety. The small size and simplistic design of many alarms allow them to fit into historical or heritage buildings without compromising the look and feel of a space. Fire alarms offer an ideal choice for larger buildings due to their early smoke detection capabilities. Many alarms are able to detect smoke before it becomes visible and allow emergency response and salvage plans to begin as quickly as possible.


Fire Prevention Techniques

Fire Doors

Fitting fire doors in historical buildings can be a challenging task – but there certainly are benefits. Fire doors help reduce fire damage by reducing the movement of fire from one part of a building to another. Luckily, heritage doors can be upgraded by a competent joiner using specialist products that help them withstand greater temperatures as well as flames and smoke. In order to be upgraded, existing doors must be solid and fit well into their frames.

Hidden Voids

Historic buildings can undergo a number of changes over their lifespan. As a result, large void spaces may become present, within which it would be challenging to detect the outbreak of fire. Regularly conducting compartmentation surveys helps ensure any new land or property owners have an accurate understanding of the property and the challenges that should be addressed.

Hot works

There are always risks associated with using open flame tools – these risks are especially so when working in a building of historical value. In order to reduce risk of fire from these tools, their use should be avoided where possible. In instances where their use cannot be avoided, the conditions of the relevant permit should be adhered to.

Lighting and Electric

As previously noted, it is important that lighting and electrical fixtures are checked regularly to assess their associated fire risks. To limit fire risk from these sources, lower voltage lighting can be used throughout the building. In addition, carrying out thermographic testing of electrical installations can help detect areas of high heat.

Emergency Response & Salvage Plans

Every building of historical or heritage significance should have an emergency response plan. This plan is produced and routinely updated by a nominated individual with expert knowledge of a property and its contents. Amongst other documents, this plan will contain hat is referred to as a ‘salvage plan’. Salvage plans detail any particularly high-value/historical objects that may be present in a building. The plan will map out which items must be removed with urgency in the event of fire and how this should be done. These plans aim to minimise the loss of valuable material from a historical or heritage building.


Additional Things to Consider

Essential Only

When planning fire protection measures, historical or heritage sites should be considered on an essential only basis. Managers must only install systems that are central to meeting objectives regarding the protection of the building itself, the lives within and its material contents.

Upkeep Aesthetics

 When implementing a new fire prevention system within a heritage property, it is essential that maximal effort is made to upkeep aesthetics. Project managers must select installations that are suited to the existing look and feel of a building.

Minimally Invasive

It is also of vital importance that any work completed has a minimal impact on the overall fabric of the building.


Passive Fire Protection with CPFP

Here at CPFP, our expert team are certified through third-party accreditation with IFCC. Our services are designed to offer support to a range of contexts, including historical or heritage properties. With the guidance of our expert team,  managers have peace of mind that the supply, installation and reparation of your passive fire protection adheres to the latest standards and building regulations – using only approved materials and expert installation. For more details, look at our range of passive fire protection services or speak to a member of our team today.

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