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Fire protection

Every second counts once a fire has started. Choosing the right building materials can delay the spread of fire and provide the vital extra minutes needed to save the occupants and limit the damage.

The materials used in building our homes, schools or offices are increasingly being chosen because of their environmental performance.

But we also need to prepare for when things go wrong. Security needs to be paramount as Europe develops its sustainable construction sector.

It is not simply household contents which allow the fire to spread. Once flame takes hold, the building itself can make the situation even more dangerous. A flashover(1) is when simultaneous ignition of all combustible material in the room takes place. It is provoked by hot smoke which results from fire. If the room’s surface temperatures reach 500°C, flashover can occur. Flashover takes less than fifteen minutes in a typical apartment fire and thereafter temperatures will quickly jump to over 1,000°C.

Materials are either combustible or not. But the protection provided by non-combustible materials varies considerably. The best materials do not burn. Nor do they shrink, become brittle or lose load capacity when temperatures rise dramatically.

Another key safety factor is whether the material creates smoke or toxic gases at high temperatures - as smoke can kill before fire. Low conductivity is likewise essential; non-combustible materials having high thermal conductivity will end up channelling heat, allowing fire to ignite in adjoining rooms.

EU standards set the benchmark when evaluating fire resistance capacity. Mineral wool insulation is in the top-ranked class of fireproof products. It acts as a barrier to fire.

Mineral wool is an ideal fire protection material as it neither burns nor propagates fire. It can resist very high temperatures. Its fire-retardant qualities are used in all types of buildings – from homes to schools to offshore oilrigs and petrochemical refineries.

The human, financial and environmental consequences of fire are devastating.  By choosing sensible building materials, we optimise fire resistance and risk can be reduced. Simply put, there will be a little more time to leave the building.