Building design – Structural beams and columns

Building design – Structural beams and columns

Date Published

16 August 2022

Document Type




Building Regulations require buildings to be designed and constructed in a way that they maintain their load carrying function for at least a minimum specified period of time if exposed to a fire situation. Where the design includes fire compartmentation, the elements forming the boundaries of the fire compartment, including the joints, should also be able to maintain their separating function for the required period of time.

Key Information

Under the Building Regulations, any building element with a fire specific purpose should comply with three main criteria (E, I and R).

It is the responsibility of the designer to understand the design criteria for fire and to design the building accordingly.

Exposed metal fasteners can be insulated from fire by insulating materials: wood-based panels, gypsum plasterboard and cork.

Exposed metal fasteners must be covered when a specified period of fire resistance is required from a joint.

Case studies

Acharacle is a small and remote community on the south-west tip of Loch Shiel, some 40 miles west of Fort William. For many years the village had campaigned for a new primary school and community space to replace the old Victorian buildings, which were becoming difficult and expensive to maintain.

The University Chaplaincy at the University of Edinburgh is in an elegant townhouse in George Square, the oldest Georgian square
in Edinburgh. The building form and materials, the use of a sedum roof covering and in particular the use of timber, contribute to a calm, peaceful space in a tranquil garden.