Fire Rated Walls and Barriers

Q: Are fire rated walls the same thing as fire rated barrier? And are smoke compartment barriers actually fire rated walls?

A: As it has been explained to me, a fire rated wall is used to subdivide a building into separate areas and they extend from an outside wall to another outside wall, and from the floor of the lowest level up through the roof of the highest level. A fire rated wall is structurally self-sufficient and acts as a block in the event a fire develops on one side, to prevent the fire from spreading to the other side. Fire rated walls are specified by building codes, and are not addressed by the Life Safety Code for healthcare occupancies. On the other hand, a fire rated barrier is not a fire rated wall, and are used extensively in healthcare occupancies. A fire rated barrier extends from the floor to the deck above. Examples of a fire rated barrier would be the walls surrounding a hazardous room; a vertical shaft (such as a stairwell or elevator shaft); and a separation between different occupancies or construction types. All opening in fire rated walls and fire rated barriers (such as doors, dampers, access panels, etc.) must be fire rated and equipped with fire rated frames and hardware. To be sure, smoke compartment barriers are not fire rated barriers; however they are similar. The barrier itself is constructed with fire rated materials however the doors in the smoke compartment barriers are not required to be fire rated, nor are they required to have positive latching hardware. They only have to self-close. Smoke compartment barriers are required to extend from the floor to the deck above. Another barrier that you may need to know about are smoke resistant barriers, which have no fire rating, but are required to extend from the floor to the deck above, and resist the passage of smoke. Corridor walls in a non-sprinklered smoke compartment are required to be smoke resistant barriers.