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Legal fire protection requirements and standards for warehouse buildings

From the building code to various DIN standards

When building a high-bay warehouse, the risk assessment in terms of fire protection plays an important role. Based on the highest building law in Germany, the "Musterbauordnung" (MBO) is relevant here, which has now been transferred almost identically into state law in all German federal states. We will discuss this in more detail later.

Still relatively new is a guideline from the VDI entitled "Fire protection in high-bay racking systems" from May 2017 - VDI Guideline 3564, which provides fire protection recommendations for the planning and construction as well as the operation of high-bay racking system.

As early as 2008, the VdS published a guideline for the planning, construction and operation of such warehouses in Guideline 2032 on fire protection for refrigerated and deep-freeze warehouses. Among other things, this guideline presents a sample fire protection concept that provides planners and operators with concrete information on preventive, system-related and organisational fire protection. At the international level, these issues are regulated in CEA-4050 (Specifications for the Protection of cold Areas) from 2005.

Follow-up guidelines resulting from the technologies used in the fire protection solution are, for example, DIN EN 16750 (Fixed fire extinguishing systems - Oxygen reduction systems), which answers all questions regarding design, installation, planning and maintenance; among other things, it specifies the degree of oxygen reduction depending on the individual fire risks prevailing in the protected area. Furthermore, DIN EN ISO 4589-2 comes into play when plastics, such as in small load carriers and similar containers, are present in the warehouse: It regulates the determination of the burning behaviour by the oxygen index, the testing of the ambient temperature and the fire behaviour of building materials and components of the building.

But back to the "Musterbauordnung" (MBO), which states that if the top edge of the height of the stored goods is more than 7.50 m, it is a special building. As the word implies, special buildings are subject to rules that deviate from the MBO - in the case of high-bay warehouses, it is mandatory that an individual fire protection concept or verification tailored to the building project be submitted. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the fire protection concept is checked and approved - depending on the federal state - either by the building supervisory authority or by test experts for fire protection. Furthermore, the following applies to special buildings: The creator of the fire protection concept or the fire protection certificate defines the fire protection requirements.

The importance of an individual risk assessment of the high-bay warehouse in this context becomes clear when one realises that normative guidelines and standards first and foremost define measures for personal and environmental protection. These must be complied with in any case. However, they alone do not cover the risks and consequences that a fire in a high-bay warehouse can have. If a fire occurs, damage to goods and equipment is the direct result of fire and smoke. Consequential damage caused by extinguishing measures can make the extent even worse. Interruptions of the operating processes and the ability to deliver are then unavoidable.

These aspects must be taken into account in the fire protection concept or fire protection certificate. Last but not least: The best fire protection is the one that detects an emergency as early as possible so that its spread can be prevented as far as possible.