Effective Building Compartmentalisation: Increasing Energy Efficiency, Security and Fire Safety

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To stay competitive in today’s business environment, commercial property owners must find savings and efficiencies wherever possible. One effective way to achieve these goals is to divide your building into various zones. The process of physically separating zones is called compartmentalisation. It’s a strategic approach to building design that makes spaces more functional, improves security and fire safety, and increases energy efficiency savings. Since the rise in energy prices, many businesses have reported significant cost savings after implementing compartmentalisation.

What is Compartmentalisation?

Compartmentalisation involves dividing an area into smaller areas or ‘compartments’ or ‘zones’. This method facilitates superior management of environmental conditions within each segment, resulting in the benefits of enhanced fire safety measures, increased energy efficiency, and improved workflow:

  • Improved Fire Safety: Fire containment is essential to delay or prevent the spread of smoke and fire for a specified duration, based on the fire resistance level (FRL). You can limit the spread of fire, smoke and heat by dividing your building into compartments, separating plant and equipment from general areas, and creating a safe exit zone in an emergency. Using barriers like walls and floors that effectively resist the passage of smoke and flame provides occupants of high-risk buildings, such as hospitals, nursing homes and high-rise buildings, with valuable time to evacuate safely. In Australia, building owners must comply with the National Construction Code (NCC) when implementing fire compartmentation measures on their premises. Emergency evacuation maps should be produced for each building, clearly indicating the building compartments, fire equipment, doors, and emergency exits.
  • Energy Efficiency: By creating compartments, you can better regulate temperature and ventilation, leading to up to 40% lower heating and cooling costs. This division helps maintain consistent temperatures, reduce strain on heating and cooling systems, and ultimately reduce energy usage.
  • Improved Security: Enhanced workplace security is achievable by implementing access segregation between the public, general staff and employees with higher levels of physical access. The risk of unauthorised access and potential breaches can be minimised through swipe cards, ensuring that only authorised personnel can enter sensitive areas. Additionally, implementing monitoring systems to track employee entry and exit to specific areas further strengthens workplace security measures.
  • Enhanced Workflow: By compartmentalising your building, you can create physically separated areas for specific tasks or operations. This could increase productivity if employees can focus on their tasks without distractions from other departments.

How to Compartmentalise

It all starts with your building plan. Before you start, identify the purpose and function of each section in your commercial building. This will help you determine how many compartments you need and their size. Once you have a building plan, you can determine the best mode of action. Here are some ways you can create compartments in your building to save energy and reduce noise in your workplace:

  1. Install Partition Walls

Partition walls are another great way to create compartments. These walls act as physical barriers between different areas, preventing airflow and temperature fluctuations. They are instrumental in open-plan offices, where creating separate spaces can maintain individual room temperatures and reduce energy consumption.

Partition walls are vital in creating security zones within a workplace. Public access zones can include a reception area with access to restroom facilities. Different departments can have their own partitioned area, with access restricted to only those employees who require it. This could improve staff safety and minimise the risk of unauthorised personnel seeing confidential information. These walls can also act as sound barriers, reducing noise transfer between different areas and improving working conditions.

  1. Implement a Zoning System

A zoning system divides designated areas within a building into specific regions or zones designed to serve particular functions within the business. Within each zone, there can be different lighting and heating/cooling controls. These zones can have varying lighting and heating/cooling controls, enabling precise temperature regulation based on usage and occupancy.

For example, you can set a lower temperature in unoccupied zones or areas with lower usage, resulting in energy savings. Lighting can also be set on timers according to necessity.

  1. Seal Ductwork

Ducts are responsible for distributing air throughout a building. Leaky ducts can cause significant energy loss as the conditioned air escapes before reaching its destination. Regularly inspecting and sealing any leaks in your ductwork can prevent energy wastage and maintain consistent temperatures throughout the building.

A professional duct tester can help identify any leakages and determine the overall efficiency of your air-conditioning system. They can produce a report on your building detailing its air loss and associated costs. This information can assist in making informed decisions to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprint, and lower energy bills.

  1. Use Energy-Efficient Windows

Windows are a significant source of energy loss in buildings, especially if there are large glass panels or old windows without proper insulation or glazing. Replacing old windows with new energy-efficient ones can reduce heat transfer and save on heating and cooling costs.

Double-glazed windows have a layer of air or gas between two panes of glass that acts as an excellent insulator. This helps maintain consistent temperatures and reduces the load on heating and cooling systems, resulting in energy savings.

  1. Use Strip Doors

Strip doors provide a practical yet economical solution to separate spaces without impeding access. Strip doors are transparent plastic sheets hanging over doorways, acting as barriers between different building areas. They are commonly used in commercial and industrial settings to control airflow and maintain consistent temperatures. Made of clear or tinted plastic, strip doors allow visibility and light transmission while mitigating noise, dust, and drafts. They’re instrumental in areas requiring frequent access, such as warehouses or cold rooms. Cold room plastic door strips provide insulation and maintain different temperature zones, which is essential in businesses like food services where different temperature conditions are required.

One significant benefit of using strip doors is their ability to prevent energy loss. These doors act as a physical barrier, preventing hot or cold air from escaping through open doorways. This reduces the load on heating and cooling systems, leading to energy savings. They are also helpful in noisy environments such as manufacturing plants or warehouses, where they can help to create quieter working spaces.

Additionally, strip doors are easy to install and maintain. They are lightweight and can be easily replaced if damaged or worn out. This makes them the most cost-effective physical solution to create compartments and save energy.

  1. Install Air Curtains

Air curtains, also known as “air doors”, form an invisible barrier of high-speed air that separates different environments while allowing a seamless traffic flow. When installed over a door or passage, they blow a controlled stream that prevents outside air from entering and conditioned air from exiting.

By installing air curtains in strategic locations over doorways or passages, you can prevent temperature fluctuations and reduce energy usage. The curtain of air acts as an efficient insulator, separating different temperature zones within your building, thus providing energy savings.


In summary, compartmentalising your building is essential for cost-saving, improved security, fire safety and environmental reasons. You can benefit significantly by implementing strategies like partition walls, zoning systems, sealing ductwork, installing strip doors, and using energy-efficient windows. These simple yet effective methods can go a long way in making your building more energy-efficient and ultimately help you save on ongoing building costs.

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