Why does a standard recessed downlight pose a fire risk?
Most premises have fire rated ceilings. Believe it or not, even old house ceilings are fire rated all be it with a single sheet of plasterboard, but this would still give a form of protection. This is the amount of time that a ceiling can hold back the fire before it spreads to the floor above. A fairly typical fire rating for a ceiling is 60 minutes. Of course, when you cut a hole in a ceiling to fit recessed lighting you immediately compromise that ceiling’s integrity. The gaps within the light fitting will now be the ceiling’s weakest point. Flames, smoke and heat will find that gap and pour through it, spreading the fire to the floor above.
Must a ceiling’s integrity be restored after lighting is fitted, or is it optional?
The answer put simply is yes! The Building Regulations 1991 Approved Document B Fire Safety 2000 Edition Section 11.2 (applicable in England and Wales) says: ‘If a fire separating element is to be effective, then every joint or imperfection or opening to allow services to pass through the element, should be adequately protected by sealing or fire-stopping so that the resistance of the element is not impaired.
What do the wiring regulations say?
The IEE Wiring Regulations 16th Edition BS 7671: 2001 Section 527-02-01 says: ‘Where a wiring system passes through elements of building construction such as floors, walls, roofs, ceilings, partitions or cavity barriers, the openings remaining after the passage of the wiring system shall be sealed according to the degree of fire resistance required of the element concerned (if any)’. In other parts of the UK The Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations 1990, Amendment 5, 1999, Technical Standard Part D or The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, Technical Booklet E would apply.
How can a ceiling’s rating be restored?
Ideally every luminaire in a recessed light fitting should be fitted with a fire protection cover to BS476: Pt.23.
How can a downlight restore a ceiling’s fire rating?
A fire rated downlight prevents both flames and heat being transmitted through the luminaire up into the ceiling void. Usually these downlighters have a 60 minute rating, which will be in keeping with a typical ceiling fire rating, although the best can last up to two hours.
Please be sure to check your local regulations when fitting downlights.