Codes and Fire Safety

SPONSORED CONTENT: With safety and quality firmly at the heart of the Hilti way, they take us through the origins of building codes.
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Codes and Fire Safety

SPONSORED CONTENT: Building codes are generally defined as a set of regulations or recommendations which describe the minimum level of a building’s design requirements. One of the first known building regulations can be found in the code of Hammurabi, which is the Babylonian code of law of the ancient Mesopotamia. This code was written around 1754 BC and consists of 282 clauses. Clause 233 of this code states “If a builder builds a house for someone, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means”. Despite it being a general statement, it helped to improve the quality of buildings at that time as builders faced penalties for non-compliance.

The Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) also triggered the creation of historical building codes. The fire started on 19th July and was brought under control after six days. The combination of narrow streets, combustible building materials and adjoining walls between dwellings resulted in a catastrophic fire.  In order to avoid future fire incidents, Emperor Nero enforced regulations such as applying restrictions on street widths to maintain fire escape routes and the use of non-combustible building materials, including stone and rocks instead of wood. These measures compare well with modern-day building codes such as the Australian NCC, which also promotes low-combustible building materials and safe exit routes for occupants in well-designed fire compartments within buildings.

Fire compartmentation means dividing a building into smaller compartments with fire-rated walls and floors to help trap fire and smoke and reduce possibility of uncontrolled spread for a specific time period. This subsequently provides enough time for occupants to escape and ensures protection to the rest of the building whilst the fire is being suppressed by the fitted fire protection measures or via fire fighter intervention. Compartmentation provisions are covered in the NCC code in part C2: Compartmentation and Separation. Walls, floors and any service openings between fire compartmentations must withstand fire and should have a fire resistance level (FRL) as specified in the code.

Passive firestopping means the use of specific firestop products to close service penetrations or construction joint gaps in fire-rated walls and floors. The products must be tested to testing standards as a full system, including the penetrating item, opening size, main based structure and movement capability (for dynamic joints).

Examples include:

  1. Through penetrations: openings in fire-rated assemblies where penetrants pass through a fire-rated element and where the integrity of the wall or floor must be maintained
  2. Fire resistive joints: any gap, joint, or opening between two fire-rated barriers, including top of wall to floor, wall edge to wall edge, floor edge to floor edge, and floor edge to wall configurations
  3. Perimeter fire barriers: sealing any gap, joint or opening between a fire-rated floor assembly and the exterior wall assembly.

Fire compartments are generally fitted with safety critical fire-protection measures such as fire/smoke alarms and sprinklers systems. It is important to ensure that anchorage of these components to fire-rated walls and floors are effective and can withstand fire well enough to allow these devices to operate at full capacity during a fire.

Safety and quality sit firmly at the heart of the Hilti way, which is why Hilti offers a wide range of solutions to cater for fire critical designs ranging from Passive Firestopping to Fire Resistant Anchoring. Hilti have solutions that are prequalified for fire, seismic and dynamic loading conditions, and the Hilti engineering team is committed to supporting the industry at both office and site level with adequate product selection and code compliant design.


  • Bonhomme Brian and Cathleen Boivin - Milestone Documents in World History: Exploring the Primary Sources That Shaped the World.
  • The Code of Hammurabi, Translated by L. W. King.
  • Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883); Grant, Michael (translator), Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, (1989)
  • National Construction Code NCC-2019 Volume One
  • UAE Fire and Life safety Code of practice-2018



Article and image supplied by Hilti