Protecting buildings against fire damage

Fire protection products are not only used to promote safety in buildings, they also fulfil asset protection requirements. CW spoke to Andy Holt, international market manager at Leigh’s Paints to find out about the latest trends in the market.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  July 2, 2005

Protecting buildings against fire damage|~|Holt200.jpg|~|Andy Holt, international market manager at Leigh’s Paints: “Awareness of fire protection products is growing, but it is still an emerging market.”|~|What is your main focus in this market at the moment?

Our main focus at the moment is fire protection products. We manufacture a range of intumescent coatings, which are for structural fire protection.
The steel work on steel frame buildings needs to be insulated to ensure that in the unfortunate event of a fire, the structure will remain stable for a given period of time. And that can range from 30 minutes to two hours.

What is the general level of awareness when it comes to fire protection?

Awareness is growing, but it is still an emerging market. We are, of course, bound to steel construction, and the more steel fabrication there is, the more likely people are to utilise intumescent coating technology.

How interested are specifiers when it comes to fire rating structures?

Very interested. Because of the obvious construction boom here, you can’t build prestigious buildings like hotel chains and shopping malls without taking fire protection into consideration.
Many specifiers come from Europe, where every building — with the exception of domestic housing — has fire protection requirements that have to be met by law. In some cases there may be a bit of education needed on the finer points, but the principals of fire protection, whether it be active or passive, are definitely familiar.

Are project managers aware that fire protection is needed?

One of the things that is not considered is the additional cost of adding fire protection to a steel frame building. So when it comes to work on site, the project managers need to find an amount of money that hasn’t necessarily been budgeted for.
I have travelled fairly extensively and it’s a global issue. It may be accounted for at the design stage, but during the
design process it somehow seems to get lost.
And like all things in construction, when sufficient budget hasn’t been allocated, quality concerns will arise.

What type of structures do you tend to work with?

There are certain guidelines that dictate where and when you would use fire protection. It goes into all the shopping malls and airports, for example. Most of the phases at the Dubai International Airport expansion have some degree of passive fire protection, the majority of which is intumescent coatings.
Some cementitious fire protection is also used, but that is only used in areas that are not visually exposed.

Are these products used on steel framed warehouse buildings?

It is sometimes used on steel frame buildings, but it all depends on the usage and the requirements. Some engineers require it, some don’t.
It is predominantly a life safety issue in most buildings, but
it is also asset protection because you are looking to minimise the likelihood of structural collapse and damage to the building and the asset.

How significant is the cost of fire protection?

I can’t give an exact value on a square metre basis, but for two hours of fire protection you are probably looking at somewhere in the region of AED70-100/m2.
For application costs, you can add about another 25% on top of that figure.

Does the end use of the building make a difference to
whether fire protection is used or not?

You would have thought so. You would also think it would be insurance-driven, because normally in those instances, the building’s insurers would be looking after the building, whatever it may be.

What are the building codes like in the UAE?

They are very applicable. Broadly speaking you can go down two routes, either the American Standards (UL) or the British Standards (BS). Both are highly applicable.

Is there an issue with substandard products coming into the market?

To be honest, not really, however it would be unfair to say that there isn’t any. The biggest area of concern isn’t the products themselves, but the knowledge and understanding of test data and how that information refers to a building that is being built. It’s all about utilising that information and explaining what it means.

What is a test report and how useful a tool is it?

A test report is simply a statement of fact. It doesn’t say whether a product has passed or failed, it just says ‘this test was done in this way and these are the results’. But from the test report there is an assessment which can tell you how to use that product.
What we are keen to do is correctly present the information we give.
Extrapolation of data is where passive fire protection can come into problems, since people may extrapolate beyond the capabilities of the material. This could be because they
lack sufficient knowledge in order to interpret the data in the correct way.||**||

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