Nov 152011

What SANS 10400: Part T 
– Fire Protection Says

Nobody wants to see their house or business premises go up in flames. That is why there are very strict Regulations when it comes to Fire Safety in any building in South Africa.

Nobody wants to see their house or business premises go up in flames. This is why there are very strict Regulations when it comes to fire safety and protection against fire in any building in South Africa.

What the Act Says

Essentially the legislation is concerned quite simply with the need for all buildings to be designed, constructed and equipped so that in the event of fire:

  1. the occupants or people using the building will be protected – including persons with disabilities;
  2. the spread and intensity of any fire within buildings, and the spread of fire to any other buildings, will be minimized;
  3. sufficient stability will be retained to ensure that such building will not endanger any other building: provided that in the case of any multi-storey building no major failure of the structural system shall occur;
  4. the generation and spread of smoke will be minimized or controlled to the greatest extent reasonably practicable; and
  5. adequate means of access, and equipment for detecting, fighting, controlling and extinguishing such fire, is provided.

The requirements of the Act will be deemed to have been satisfied if the design, construction and equipment of buildings complies with SANS 10400 Part T and satisfies the local authority.

The Act also specifies several offences that owners of buildings need to avoid, including the need for fire extinguishers that comply with SANS 10105. Also, if people do anything to obstruct escape routes in buildings, they will be guilty of an offense.

What the Standard Says

The regulations for Fire Protection are contained in a 91 page document published by the SABS, SANS 10400: Part T Fire Protection. Much of the information is the same as that published in the 1990 version of the Standard that you can download from this site.

SANS 10400 Part T is broken down into several parts:


The bulk of the Standard is made up of a vast number of different “requirements” that relate not only to dwelling houses, but to every other possible type of building, from hospitals to parking garages.

The requirements for effective fire protection include:

  • general requirements,
  • regulations relating to safety distances,
  • fire performance,
  • fire resistance of occupancy-separating and division-separating elements,
  • fire stability of structural elements or components,
  • tenancy-separating elements,
  • partition walls and partitions,
  • protection of openings (Note that the drawings in SANS 10400 – 1990 that illustrate this have not changed),
  • raised access and suspended floors of combustible material,
  • roof assemblies and coverings  (the drawings remain unchanged in the new version of the Standard) including thatch,
  • ceilings,
  • floor coverings,
  • internal finishes,
  • provision of escape routes,
  • exit doors,
  • feeder routes,
  • emergency routes,
  • dimensions of components of escape routes,
  • width of escape routes,
  • basements,
  • stairways and other changes of level along escape routes  (the drawing that shows the position of doors in relation to a change in level has not changed),
  • ventilation of stairways in an emergency route,
  • pressurization of emergency routes and components,
  • openings in floors,
  • external stairways and passages,
  • lobbies, foyers and vestibules,
  • marking and signposting,
  • provision of emergency lighting,
  • fire detection and alarm systems,
  • provision and maintenance of fire-fighting equipment, installations and fire protection systems,
  • water reticulation for fire-fighting purposes,
  • hose reels,
  • hydrants,
  • automatic sprinkler and other fixed extinguishing systems,
  • portable fire extinguishers,
  • mobile fire extinguishers,
  • fire-stopping of inaccessible concealed spaces,
  • protection in service shafts,
  • services in structural or separating elements,
  • smoke control,
  • air-conditioning systems and artificial ventilation systems,
  • lift shafts,
  • lifts,
  • firemen’s lift,
  • stretcher lift,
  • stage and backstage areas,
  • eating arrangements in auditoriums or halls and on grandstands,
  • parking garages,
  • operating theatres and intensive, high or critical care units,
  • installation of liquid fuel dispensing pumps and tanks,
  • installation of other tanks,
  • warehousing of dangerous goods,
  • dangerous goods signage,
  • access for fire-fighting and rescue purposes,
  • resumed fire resistance of building materials and components,
  • building materials,
  • guest houses and bed and breakfast accommodation (this is completely new),
  • health care facilities (this is also completely new).

Safety Distances

Although there are other provisions, including the classification of the type of external wall, the table below may be used to establish safety distances where walls do not contain windows or other openings. For ordinary “dwelling houses” where the area of elevation facing any boundary is not more than 7,5 m2, such safety distance may be reduced to 0,5 m.

Fire safety distances

Fire safety distances

Fire Resistance

There are several tables (five in all) that indicate requirements for compliance with “Presumed fire resistance of building materials and components”.

This table shows what is required for “structural walls”.fire protection

This table shows what is required for “non-structural walls and partitions”.fire protection

Rational Designs

The design requirements include the need for a competent person to ensure that the level of fire safety is adequate. This is particularly important in large and public buildings.

This drawing shows the basic fire safety engineering protection



Refuse Disposal



  238 Responses to “Fire Protection”

Comments (232) Pingbacks (6)
  1. Hi,

    I’m battling to find specific details regarding fire doors in the SANS 10400. This is regarding a Fire Door that is positioned internally in a fire wall separating a garage and living area of a small house.

    My client did the alteration some years ago, however the door is currently a standard hollow core non-fire rated door. I’ve advised them that in this application they require a 30min fire rated door. So I need some clarity on the spec of the door and frame?In other words, can the existing timber frame suffice, and can a new solid timber fire-rated door leaf now be installed with in this frame in order to comply?

    We’re in the process of submitting plans to the local council, and I’d prefer this to be corrected prior to the building inspector’s visit.

    Thanks for any help…

    • Matt I think you need to refer to SANS 1253 Fire-doors and fire-shutters. SANS 10400-T: 2011 has a table (7 – page 30) that gives the “class” of fire doors/shutters. Looking at it, I think this would, in terms of type of wall, be “occupancy separation”, in which case if the minimum fire resistance of the wall is 60 min, a class A fire door is required; and if the wall is 120 min, a class B fire door may be used. It doesn’t give a classification for 30 min except for protected corridor and protected stairs, in which case the fire door should be class E; and for “openings in all walls” = class F. I presume that these classifications will be found in SANS 1253.
      10400-T has a section on partition walls and partitions and this states that in dwelling houses and domestic residences, any separating elements (walls and floors) “between any garage that is not large enough to be classified as J4 [which is a parking garage] and any habitable room shall have a fire resistance of not less than 30 min and the wall shall extend to the underside of the roof”. And “any door between such garage and any such room shall have a fire resistance of not less than 30 min and such doorway shall require a threshold of not less than 10 mm” It also states that any “solid timber door constructed with double rebated joints, that have a thickness of not less than 40 mm, shall be deemed to comply with the requirement” (above) for a rating of 30 min.
      This link might be helpful as it has specs of a wooden door and wooden frame that comply with 1253. Swartland is a highly reputable company too. And here’s a test report from the SABS.
      Hope that helps.

  2. Hi Penny, maybe Rudolf Opperman can weigh in here as well. I see he is from the the NRCS.

  3. We have hostels at our schools do they require fire detection equipment by law? ( Smoke detectors )

    • Mark, SANS 10400-T, Fire Protection, states that
      “Any building containing an occupancy classified as
      a) F1, with a floor area of more than 500 m2; or
      b) H1, H2, E2 or E3, irrespective of height or floor area,
      shall be equipped with a fire detection system and alarm system that is designed, installed and maintained by competent persons in accordance with SANS 10139.
      NOTE 1 The term ‘‘fire detection system’’ is used here to describe any type of automatic sensor network and associated control and indicating equipment. Sensors may be sensitive to smoke, heat, gaseous combustion products or radiation. Normally the control and indicating equipment operates a fire alarm system and it may perform other signalling or control functions as well. Automatic sprinkler systems can also be used to operate a fire alarm system.
      NOTE 2 The factors which have to be considered when assessing what standard of fire alarm, automatic fire detection or voice alarm or communication system is to be provided will vary from one set of premises to another. Therefore, the appropriate standard will need to be considered on a case by case basis.”
      F1 occupancy = a large shop
      H1 = a hotel
      H2 = dormitory “Occupancy where groups of people are accommodated in one room.”
      E2 = hospitals
      E3 = Other institutions
      So the short answer is YES!

      • Hi Penny

        Thank you , just for clarity does this apply to new buildings only or existing building as well , these hostels were built 1996 – 2010.
        Would stand alone smoke detectors suffice for installation in these hostels.

        • Mark, the previous version of this part – in relation to H2 – stated that if it had a height of more than 8 m then it should be “equipped with a fire detection system and an emergency evacuation system complying with SABS 0139” (which is now SANS 10139). So it seems that it will depend on the height of the building. The new legislation came into effect in 2008, though Part T of SANS 10400 was only published in March 2011. Since the Standard states “the appropriate standard will need to be considered on a case by case basis”, I think you need to query this with someone who is considered a “competent person” in terms of fire protection. Perhaps the local authority can advise.

  4. Hi Penny
    The definition of “safety distance” ( see definitions in the beginning of SANS 10400-T:2011) states that whenever they use the term safety distance, then safety distance means “distance provided BETWEEN ANY BUILDING AND THE LATERAL BOUNDARY of the site or, ….etc”.

    That means that the safety values given in the table above are the minimum BOUNDARY DISTANCE between a house and a boundary wall and not the MINIMUM DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO BUILDINGS/HOUSES . In other words, those values given in the table above have to double and not divided between two adjacent dwellings.

    I have come across other tables and graphs of fire safety that showed the safety distances in more detail (values doubled-up as well )than the current table of SANS 10400-T: 2011, which is reflecting only one half of the overall distance.
    What is your opinion, please?

    • Jan I presume you are referring to Table 2 that gives minimum safety distances in metres?
      A couple of comments.
      I agree with your interpretation/understanding of the definition. As I understand it, it is then up to the person drawing the plans to ensure that the distance is doubled if there are two buildings on the same site. And this distance will depend a) on the fire load; and b) on the occupancy class of the building.
      I assume that the “other” tables you have seen have been developed by people who believe it makes it easier to interpret than having to do a simple times-two mathematical sum. The table in SANS 10400-T: 2011 is the table that applies. And if there are two buildings on one site, the distance must be doubled.

      • Hi Penny

        The definition of “safety distance” clearly states that when they use that term in SANS 10400-T:2011, that safety distance always means wall-to-boundary i.e. in the case of a real boundary or, in the case of a notional (denkbeeldige) boundary.

        The values reflected in table 2 have to be doubled in both cases, otherwise roofs on either side of a real boundary (real boundaries between neighbouring properties do not reach past the roof overhangs, they are much lower and do not provide a fire break) would have a 1 meter – 1,2 meter gap (or even less) between roof overhangs, which is not nearly enough to satisfy the fire regulations.

        Roof overhangs are sitting ducks when a fire breaks out and are also always the point of entry for fire….long before anything else catches fire.

        If the fire regulations are applied correctly, (doubled) the distance between roof overhangs would increase and the chance of fire spreading from property to property would be reduced.

        I’m not saying you cannot build 1 meter from your boundary, for instance, a neighbour’s house might be 7 meters away. In such a case the fire safety regulations would clearly be met, even if you build 1 meter from the boundary wall.

        Safety trumps everything else. “Nobody wants to see their house or business premises go up in flames.”

        • Jan – I get your point, but you are only concerned with your property and not the neighbours, so surely you don’t double the distance if it is house to common boundary? You BOTH ensure that the specified distance is allowed. And there are other factors that need to be taken into account that may lead to a greater distance being required.
          But you’ve just opened a can of worms because local authorities do allow people to build ON their boundaries and this seems that they are allowing a contravention of the fire regulations! What do you think? In fact the City of Cape Town’s new zoning by-laws – which came into effect in March this year – allow people to build on the boundary without neighbour’s consent. The smaller the property, the closer to the boundary they can build.

          • Hi Penny

            Thanks for responding.

            Yes, in a perfect world both sides would have at least 2,4 meters between their property walls and the lateral boundary. As you know, that is not always the case, especially with the older houses.

            My house is 100 years old and protected by the Heritage Committee. It has only one meter between the wall and the lateral boundary. The law accepts that those houses are legal and have to stay put until they are destroyed by fire or demolished, after that, when re-building takes place, I shall also have to comply with the new building rules and would not be allowed to put the same structure in the same place. Until then and in the meantime, fire safety regulations HAVE to be satisfied as my home is a legal structure.

            Existing legal structures takes preference over new structures in the eyes of the law.

            Can of worms indeed! The fire safety regulations, based on empirical data that had been collected over years of trial and error, HAVE to be implemented. The fire safety regulations still stand and haven’t been relaxed. Only the building regulations have been relaxed.

            It’s a case of misinterpreting the existing strict fire regulations by only applying one half of it….

            In a court of law, your right to safety trumps your right to build next to the wall or 1,5 meters from the wall.

  5. Hi my name is Rudolf Opperman and is employed by the NRCS as Technical advisor for Architecture and the National Building Regulations. I find your web page very informative and would like to engage you on some of the finer technical information at my disposal. I believe that it should become part of your information. This I would like to provide free of charge as it should be available for all within the building industry.
    Please provide me with your contact details.

  6. Hi,
    I would like to know whether all flues have to be enclosed/encased in a brick chimney? Many fireplaces like the pot bellied ones, and variations of the Queen Ann are installed with just a flue through the ceiling and roof cavity. Is this illegal? Does one have to employ an engineer to sign off the installation of a fireplace?

    • No they don’t have to be enclosed at all. And the SANS (Part V) say nothing about needing an engineer. A built-in brick fireplace and/or brick chimney that is part of the structure would need to be on the plans, and so the “competent person” responsible for the build as a whole would be in charge. And if a brick chimney was added at a later stage you would need plans. I have added content to the page on Space Heating – this might be helpful to you.

  7. Hi Penny,

    Thanks for the information, very helpful indeed.

    • Hi Jan and Penny

      What is the regulations regarding firewalls in the roof of the buidling? In old buildings that do not have these firewalls as the legislation was not in place then, what does the law say now?

      • Shawn the retrospective stuff isn’t clear. I don’t think we have the manpower in SA to even consider ensuring that all old buildings comply with the “new” regulations. I have had a look at the section of Fire Protection (Part T) but it isn’t clear to me. I think you need to talk to someone in your local authority and/or the fire department.

  8. Hi there, can someone please tell me what the minimum spatial separation regarding fire safety between two buildings (houses) on adjacent erfs must be? My house was built in 1918 and there is only a space of one meter beween my house and the boundary wall.
    My neighbour now wants to build 1.5 meter on the other side of the boundary.

    My house has windows just over 9.7 square meters facing the boundary wall. ( boundary wall not a fire break, as windows are above the boundary wall) Windows are “openings” as you know, so how much must my neighbour allow from wall to wall (not boundary wall, but building to building) or eave to eave to satisfy the minimum safety rules regarding fire safety? Thanks.

    PS Neigbour also wants to put windows on his side facing the boundary.

    • Jan, I have added to this page. But in addition, here is some more information.
      Part T of SANS 10400 (2011) has guidelines for “safety distances” based on the classification of the external walls of the building (which is rather technical) – and for a building classified H4 (a dwelling house) it should be resistant to fire for 30 minutes.
      Here are a few extracts that might help:
      eg “Type F, which has a fire resistance of less than that given in table 1, is constructed with non-combustible external cladding and, when tested in accordance with SANS 10177-2, complies with the requirements for stability and integrity for a period of not less than that given in table 1 for the occupancy in question.” [NOTE: Table 1 is where the 30 minutes comes from.]
      “4.2.3 Where any external wall of a building is of type F and such wall does not contain any windows or other openings, the safety distance required shall be not less than the relevant values given in table 2, provided that” [NOTE: I have added Table 2 to the page – safety distances].
      “b) for any building classified as H4, where the area of elevation facing any boundary is not more than 7,5 m2, such safety distance may be reduced to 0,5 m.”
      “4.2.4 Where any external wall of any building is of type N, or where any building is provided with external walls containing windows or other openings, such building shall, subject to the requirements of 4.2.8, be so sited that a circle of radius equal to the safety distances given in table 2 for the window area and occupancy concerned, drawn from any point on any such window or other opening in such exterior wall, shall not intersect any lateral boundary of the site;”
      “4.10 Protection of openings
      4.10.1 Where an opening in any external wall of any division is less than 1 m measured horizontally or vertically from an opening in another division, a 500 mm projection from such wall shall be constructed between such openings. Such projection shall have a fire resistance of not less than half that required for the element separating the divisions concerned, provided that any other equivalent means of fire protection which ensures that the flame travel path from one opening to another is not less than 1 m shall be permitted.”
      Your local authority will be able to advise how close to the boundary wall your neighbour may build. This does vary. For instance the City of Cape Town has just changed its zoning by-laws and now people in residential areas are permitted to build right ON the boundary without getting neighbors consent. But there are restrictions, including not being allowed to have windows right on the boundary. If you happen to be in the CT area, let me know the size of your plot and I can give you more information about this. Otherwise go directly to the local council in your area.

  9. I own a townhouse in a two storey building. What must the dimensions be of the fire break wall at the windows between me and my neighbour?

    • Part T – fire protection – states that where there are two or more buildings on the same site:
      “where any external wall of such building or division is of type N or contains windows or other openings, any circle of radius equal to the safety distance given in table 2 for the occupancy concerned, drawn from any point on any window or opening in the external wall of one such building or division, shall not intersect any circle of radius equal to the safety distance given in table 2 for the occupancy concerned in the external wall of such other building or division, drawn from any point in any window or opening in the external wall of such other building or division; provided that the intersection of such circles shall be permitted where
      1) the included angle between such walls is more than 135°, or
      2) the included angle between such walls is more than 90° and the distance between the nearest points on such windows or openings is more than 2 m.”
      NB A type N wall is a combustible wall with full fire resistance.
      Table 2 shows the safety distances. For a residential dwelling (classified as low fire load), if the area of the openings “in elevation” are less than 5 sq m then the distance is 1 m. The distance then increases according to the area of the openings. So if they are 10 sq m the distance increases to 2,4 m; if they equal 210 sq m, the distance increases to 6,3 m. Nothing less than 1 m is allowed.
      I hope this helps.

  10. Can anyone please tell me what the regulations are for using gas
    cylinders in a kitchen for gas stove cooking? What is the maximum size
    that can be used in a kitchen, what is the minimum distance the bottle
    should be away from the stove (Can it be placed directly under the
    stove or should it be in a cupboard next to the stove.) And any other
    important info.

    • Hi Divan,
      You are not allowed to put the cylinder under the stove or hob, it can be put into a cupboard within 1 metre either left or right. With domestic regulations you can have any size, I guess the size of your cupboard will determine the size of the cylinder. If you want to keep it outside then it must be at least 1 metre away from a door or a window and 2 metres away from a drain or a gulley. Many people enclose the cylinder to prevent theft and to stop children tampering with them.

  11. Hi, Please advise on the following:

    Escape route, whats the distance from the building before one can design the first step

    • It depends on the slope of the ground. It probably also depends on the type of building and whether you need facilities for persons with disabilities. There is no quick, easy answer I’m afraid.

  12. i love your blog, i have it in my rss reader and always like new things coming up from it.

 Leave a Reply


(required but will remain confidential and not be published)