Fire and Building Codes

Construction must also address the requirements of any building codes and fire strategy adopted for the building containing the clean rooms. Such buildings often have a complex of rooms, linked with air locks and clean corridors. Fire protection of the structure and personnel escape routes must be compliant with statutory regulations and codes, and individual company standards. Specific periods of fire resistance and compartmentation of the building may be required to isolate areas of special risk or particularly hazardous materials or operations.

Very often, particular codes cannot be complied with. In these cases, detailed discussions and explanations must be given to the authorities. Typically

• Step-over benches in changing airlocks would not normally comply with safety codes if these were also designated as emergency escape routes

• In emergency escape routes, single swing doors opening against the direction of escape for operational or air pressure regime requirements would again not normally comply

In such cases, it is common to obtain a waiver or relaxation to allow the infringement. However, experience shows that this is never guaranteed and each individual application will be evaluated against the particular circumstances of the design.

It is worth noting that any extenuating circumstances, such as fully automatic alarms or sprinkler protection, can often be taken into account to compensate for any waiver requirement.

Alternatively, if the authorities respond negatively, then other options, such as proprietary sealed push-out panels, could be integrated into the clean-room walls. These panels are normally fitted with easily removable or pull-out retaining gaskets to facilitate the emergency escape.

Where possible fire extinguishers and hose reels should be outside but near the entry to the clean room. Where equipment has to be inside the clean room, then it must be contained in a recessed box, finished flush with the wall and fitted with a solid door of glass or metal to achieve a good airtight seal with the frame of the box.

Finally, the spread of fire, smoke and hot gasses must be controlled in any voids in clean-room walls or above clean-room ceilings must be controlled by suitable fire and smoke cavity barriers.

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