Eco-grid on a fire road and biologically active surface – legal opinion.

How does the law regulate the requirements regarding the biologically active surface on fire roads reinforced with geoSYSTEM grids? Check the legal opinion regarding the use of eco-grids on fire roads in the context of recognizing the surface as biologically active.

Legal definition of a fire road

According to the Regulation of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration of July 24, 2009, regarding fire water supply and fire roads, a fire road with a hardened surface, enabling the access of firefighting vehicles to a building at any time of the year, should lead to:

  • a building containing a fire zone classified into the human hazard category ZL I or ZL II;
  • a building belonging to the height group: medium-high, high, or height, containing a fire zone classified into the human hazard category ZL III, ZL IV, or ZL V;
  • a building containing a production or warehouse fire zone and an area outside the building, including technological devices, a storage yard, or a shed, if the heat load density of the mentioned fire zones exceeds 500 MJ/m2 and at least one of the following conditions is met:
    – the surface area of the fire zone exceeds 1,000 m2,
    – there is a room at risk of explosion;
    – a building containing a production or warehouse fire zone with a heat load density below 500 MJ/m2 with an area exceeding 20,000 m2;
  • low-rise building:
    – containing a fire zone classified into the human hazard category ZL III with an area exceeding 1,000 m2, covering a floor above the ground floor other than the first, or
    – containing a fire zone classified into the human hazard category ZL V and having over 50 sleeping places;
    – a building other than a building, intended for public use or collective housing, where simultaneous presence of over 50 people in the fire zone is anticipated;
    – firefighting water intake points.

The fire road should allow passage without reversing or should end with a maneuvering area measuring 20 m x 20 m, or alternative solutions enabling vehicle turnaround should be provided. A section of the fire road with a length not exceeding 15 m, from which vehicle exit is possible only by reversing, is allowed. The minimum radius of the external curve of the fire road must not be less than 11 m. The minimum width of the fire road should be at least 4 m, and its longitudinal gradient must not exceed 5%. Within the city and on the plot, the fire road should allow the passage of vehicles with an axle load on the pavement of at least 100 kN, and its minimum width in places other than those mentioned in paragraph 1 cannot be less than 3.5 m. In areas other than those mentioned, the fire road should allow the passage of vehicles with an axle load on the pavement of at least 50 kN, and its minimum width in places other than those mentioned in paragraph 1 cannot be less than 3 m.

Fire road as a biologically active area – requirements that a grass fire road must meet to be recognized as a biologically active area.

According to the provision of § 3 point 22 of the Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure, in the wording after January 1, 2018, which introduced a legal definition of the concept of “biologically active area”, it should be indicated that this area should be understood as: “an area with a surface arranged in a way ensuring natural plant vegetation and rainwater retention, as well as 50% of the surface of terraces and roofs with such a surface and other surfaces ensuring natural plant vegetation, with a surface area of not less than 10 m2, and surface water on this area;”.

It should be emphasized that the literal interpretation of the aforementioned provision § 3 point 22 of the Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure leads to the conclusion that for the determination of whether an area constitutes a biologically active surface, it is necessary only to assess whether the surface that has been classified as a biologically active surface meets the condition of ensuring natural plant vegetation. Therefore, based on the aforementioned provision, there is no basis for indicating additional conditions forming the basis for such an assessment – especially an assessment considering the manner of using the given area. Therefore, if a given surface has been arranged in a way that ensures natural plant vegetation, then regardless of the way it is used, it should be classified as a biologically active surface.

Also, in the case law of administrative courts, it is accepted that it is permissible to arrange biologically active surfaces also on areas designated as parking spaces, access roads (maneuvering lanes), or fire roads within the land development plan, provided that they are covered with so-called eco-grids. However, it is important to ensure the possibility of water circulation in the natural layers of the arranged area (fire road), especially since it guarantees the maintenance of this area in a way that ensures natural plant vegetation.

The use of grids must therefore enable “natural vegetation,” considering the pressure of the vehicle’s wheels on the grid material, rather than on the grass surface. The substrate prepared for laying the grid should ensure not only water infiltration and root penetration (none of the layers can be impermeable), but also must meet the load requirements for the fire road.

To sum up:

  1. According to the literal interpretation of provision §3 point 22 of the Regulation, if the surface has been arranged in a way that ensures natural plant vegetation, then regardless of its use, it should be classified as an active biological surface.
  2. For the assessment of whether the area covered with “eco-grid geoSYSTEM” can be considered as an active biological surface, the crucial aspect is the type of material used for the grid substructure and its layers – this assessment depends on whether this material is characterized by permeability, enabling natural water circulation, and consequently, natural plant vegetation by ensuring soil penetration, water, and sunlight penetration, as well as, after January 1, 2018, an additional condition must be met to recognize the area as biologically active – ensuring natural retention of rainwater – this condition is also dependent on the type of material used for the grid substructure, its layers, and the location of the area (whether it is flat or sloping).
  3. “eco-grid geoSYSTEM” is installed using a lower layer mixture of crushed gravel fraction 0-31.5 mm (at a level from 10 cm to 55 cm) and an upper layer of sand bedding (3-5 cm), with a runoff coefficient when using the above fill for a flat surface ranging from 0.18 to 0.27, therefore, these are parameters enabling recognition of this area as an active biological area, both in terms of this term before January 1, 2018, and after the change that came into effect on that day.
  4. The use of eco-grids is a solution allowing to increase the share of biologically active areas, e.g., for making driveways to garages, external parking spaces for cars, or parts of the area providing access to buildings for the fire brigade (fire roads), because permeable materials overgrown with grass or other plants are used.
  5. Installation of “eco-grids geoSYSTEM”, especially by using permeable materials for the substructure (which should also be indicated to the authorities) or access roads, including fire roads, and also considering the low runoff coefficient of the materials used, may justify recognizing the area covered by these grids as an active biological area in the sense of provision § 3 point 22 of the Regulation both before January 1, 2018, and after that date, because such prepared area meets the conditions for natural plant vegetation.
  6. A lawn arranged on a driveway or parking spaces, with the conditions mentioned above, made using eco-grids, constitutes an active biological surface.

DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE DOCUMENT – Legal opinion – the possibility of classifying a grass fire road made of “eco-grids geoSYSTEM” as an active biological surface.

Legal opinion prepared by lawyer Marcin Piekarski, law firm GWP

 

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