Standard for Fire Resistant Partition Systems Used in Cooling Towers


In cooling towers, there’s always a risk of a fire — it’s important to take proactive steps to prevent these disasters. One of the easiest steps to take is to ensure that the tower is designed with fire resistant partition systems in order to prevent fire spreading throughout the tower. In this blog, we’ll discuss:

  • What are fire resistant partition systems?

  • Standard materials and design

  • Standard installation

  • Fire testing

What Are Fire Resistant Partition Systems?

Fire resistant partition systems are used to prevent fires from spreading throughout cooling towers and into other areas. These units also help slow down the spreading speed of the fire to allow for additional time for workers to escape.

Standard Materials and Design

With new materials for fire resistant partitions being developed and entering the market, it’s important to remember that your chosen construction material must provide a 20-minute minimum Fire Barrier Requirement. This means that each partition is required to have a minimum fire-protection time of 20 minutes. Standard materials that meet this criteria include:

  • Fiber-reinforced cement board

  • Polymeric fire barrier panel

  • Plywood

Standard designs for fire resistant partitions take into consideration the following factors:

  • Weather

  • Tower elevation

  • Water absorption

  • Long-term service

These systems should be designed to be long-lasting, sturdy, and of course, fire resistant. Openings, joints, cracks, and penetrations should be made as narrow as possible in order to maintain a positive fire-retardant seal. The design of these panels should be similar to other structural framing members within the cooling tower, and should also maintain a comparable service life. A quality assurance assessment is needed to ensure all aspects of the fire resistant partition system are installed to match its design.

Standard Installation

Standard installation practices for fire resistant partition systems were created so each partition system can easily pass fire testing once installed. These practices include:

  • Sealing joints and seams to close openings

  • Cutting partition systems wide enough to ensure a tight fit

  • Securely fastening each panel to its framing

Fire Testing

Fire testing is important to determine if your partition system will actually function the way it’s designed to. There are two different types of fire testing — one for loadbearing walls, and one for non-loadbearing walls. In order to pass a non-loadbearing fire test, your partition system:

  • Must not be less than 100 square ft with neither dimension less than 9 ft

  • Must withstand the fire resistance test without passage of flame or gases hot enough to ignite cotton waste for a period of at least 20 minutes or more

  • Must not have raised temperature on the unexposed surface more than 250 degrees above its initial temperature during the test

In order to pass a loadbearing fire test, your partition system:

  • Must not be less than 100 square ft with neither dimension less than 9 ft

  • Must withstand the fire resistance test without passage of flame or gases hot enough to ignite cotton waste for a period of at least 20 minutes or more

  • Must not have raised temperature on the unexposed surface more than 250 degrees above its initial temperature during the test

  • Must pass the above qualifications while under a simulated maximum load condition

How Can CTI Assist With Your Cooling Tower Needs?

Cooling Technology Institute has published a plethora of papers about various cooling topics. CTI is also an advocate in promoting the use of environmentally responsible Evaporative Heat Transfer Systems (EHTS), cooling towers, and cooling technology for the benefit of the public. Additionally, CTI is an independent, third-party thermal performance testing to help participating manufacturers and owners/operators achieve the best performance from their cooling towers. Visit our website today for more information on cooling technologies!


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