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Advanced Systems for Wood Fire Protection

Final Report Summary - REACTAFIRE (Advanced Systems for Wood Fire Protection)

Executive Summary:
Wood is an important construction material (over 70% of people in the developed world live in timber frame housing) as it performs well as an engineering material and compared to other commonly used construction materials it is more sustainable. However, timber is combustible, unlike concrete or steel, and this has significant implications for how it is used within the construction industry as the fire performance (surface spread of flame and structural integrity) must be considered for all building applications.

In Europe there have been a number of serious fires involving buildings based around structural timber frame (~2.5 million reported fires p.a. causing 20-25,000 deaths and 250-500,000 injuries of which over 50% is attributed to fires in timber frame buildings in Europe at a cost of between 0.2-0.3% of GDP or ~€100 billion in Europe).

There is significant industry concern that existing protective wood coating products do not provide the levels of performance (fire resistance) needed to satisfy the increased use of timber for structures and its sustainability benefits. Therefore the Reactafire project set out to develop a protective coating system with enhanced fire resistance which would help to maintain or prolong structural integrity of timber in a fire situation, thus increasing time available for safe evacuation and increased potential to keep the stability of the structure and buy vital time for the fire services..

The ReactaFire project aimed to overcome the limitations associated with currently used fire protection coatings by developing a unique advanced timber coating which would act to provide at least 60 minutes resistance to fire. The technical objective of the ReactaFire project was to create a system that formed a durable wood char which in a fire situation would provide a char layer and create sufficient insulation to prevent the ongoing charring damage to the initial timber.

The Reactafire project set out to establish whether improving charging or delaying the onset of char had a beneficial effect in the insulation and extended the period of fire resistance and increase the time to failure with a target of 60 mins fire resistance.

The Projects Technical objective was to examine two innovated steps;

(i) Accelerating char formation
(ii) Combining this technology with the latest advances in geo-polymer coatings technology.

Project Context and Objectives:
Summary Description of Objectives

1. To establish Market and Regulatory Requirements
2. Develop Char Promoters using Geopolymer Technology
3. Achieve 60 mins Fire Resistance by increasing char by 10% compared to untreated wood.
4. Produce a unique coating which could have IPR potential through Novel chemistry.
5. To establish an application methodology.
6. Establish a formulation commercially suitable to utilise commercially available raw materials and manufacture to meet environmental and hazard regulations.
7. To demonstrate application of a regulatory compliant coating.
8. Fully Test Project to Regulatory Requirements
9. Establish a cost and performance benefit to the market place.
10. Create a robust plan for Dissemination and Exploitation.
11. Establish a Consortium Agreement to enable SME’s to work together in promoting the product.

Project Results:
Analysis of Results and Achievement against Objectives

The ReactaFire technology has been developed by the RTD performers and provided to and owned by the SME’s in accordance with the Consortium Agreement; based on the nature of their business activity and their capacity to protect and exploit the IPR for their own and the benefit of the consortium.

The following is a description of the project results which have been used or will be used by the SME’s to generate foreground IP or secret know how, subject to the terms of the Consortium Agreement and defined later in the Interim Plan for Use of Dissemination of Knowledge (PUD) and the final plan for PUD.

1. A full market and regulatory review was completed which highlighted the necessity for a new advanced method of protecting timber both for Reaction to fire and Fire Resistance for periods of 60 minutes and beyond. The review demonstrated that designers demanded better protected timber to enable them to construct higher buildings with timber as an alternative sustainable product to steel and concrete. It also identified that there is a problem with buildings during the construction phase which are at risk both from the construction trades and arson. A number of fires have occurred during this project notably Nottingham University’s new building in the UK.

2. The RTD researchers worked extremely hard with Geo-polymer technology establishing a number of candidate solutions. The Cerium Oxide was also introduced to try to improve char promotion. Samples were produced in Laboratory conditions and applied to timber. Initial tests conducted in a small furnace at moderate temperatures indicated a potential for improvement for fire performance. A larger scale test was therefore undertaken and a series of samples with different compositions and thickness were prepared and submitted to the test laboratories at SP. Unfortunately, in a test under a simulated EN Test regime the samples did not show any improvement to the performance against a reference sample of plain wood. However, one sample that had utilised a silicate in its formation did show some promising signs. Further investigate was carried out on Geopolymer research to an end. A technical discussion took place and it was agreed that the silicate raw material manufactured by Van Baerle showed promise as an alternative main ingredient for the ReactaFire product and our research resources were diverted to this formulation. In addition because of its moisture absorption it was deemed necessary to have a robust and durable topseal. This was also examined by the RTD’s and Cerium Oxide was directed to this area as it provided good UV protection.

A project amendment was submitted and approved and subsequently 2 candidate formulations were successfully developed and produced.

3. Trial batches were produced and applied to timber panels and submitted to SP for fire testing. The tests were successful achieving the highest EN standard for Reaction to Fire B-s1;d0 when tested in accordance with EN 13823 (SBI) and EN ISO 11925-2.

Indicative tests were also carried out on Fire Resistance and showed an improvement of 11% in char over timber alone which achieved our original objective but needs further testing and ratification.

4. At the conclusion of the project it is too early to say if we have met our objective of a unique product. At this point in time we have achieved Reaction to Fire and have some interesting benefits like low smoke and toxicity, but do not have the uniqueness for a patent application and therefore we will protect the formulation by ‘secret know how’. Further work capitalising on the indicative Fire Resistance Test may give us additional unique characteristics which may lead to patent application possibilities.

5. Application trials have been carried out both utilising brush and spray techniques. The product although able to be applied in a workshop has high loadings and dries too quickly for practical site application. It is also susceptible to moisture and needs to be top coated as soon as the basecoat is dry otherwise powdering is experienced.

These issues are not insurmountable and should be solved with further work on the formulation during production trials.

6. The formulation has been established using Silicate technology as the main ingredient. Further work will be carried out to adjust the viscosity and drying times using binders and fillers to arrive at a product that can be applied in one or two coats by brush or airless spray. This work will need to continue post project.

7. Application trials were carried out and proved successful in a controlled factory environment. Loadings with spray equipment were low, but brushing proved more successful. Further work with the reology of the product to improve application and delay drying times will need to be carried out to enable the ReactaFire product to be used on a construction site, but does not cause concern to our manufacturing partners.

8. The ReactaFire product has achieved the highest European Test accreditation and fulfilled our objective of a Euro Class B product; In indicative tests it has also achieved our objective of 10% improvement in char. Some further testing will be needed on reduced loadings.

9. A very thorough examination of the market place has been undertaken and a detailed assessment of our raw material costs undertaken. Our target price to the market place, providing loadings can be reduced to 3/4 coats in total; will be extremely competitive.

10. A robust plan for dissemination and exploitation has been written, but it has proved difficult to finalise because full product parameters have not been finalised. A business plan has been written and a route to market has been drawn up, but it has only been possible to complete our plan generically. Exhibitions have been attended and a sound database of interested parties established. A calculation methodology has been created to enable quick calculation for designers.

It has been difficult to produce articles other than in a generic format; therefore our objective of 6(?) technical articles has not been achieved. They have been re-scheduled to be produced once product details have been finalised and are planned post project. (see annex 1 & 2).

11. A Consortium Agreement was successfully drawn up and signed by the SME’s. A new agreement will be drawn up and agreed post project to enable the product to be taken to market (see annex 2).

Potential Impact:
Potential Impact & Further Actions

The potential market for Reactafire is substantial (detailed in DUDC) and the demand for a high quality Fire Protective product for timber has grown since the start of the project with designers wishing to use a sustainable wood option to conventional steel and concrete materials.

A route to market has been established and the Construction Industry has been targeted as the main user of the Reactafire product. Preliminary work has been conducted to establish key players in the industry and the following plan has been drawn up to deliver the Reactafire Product to the market.

• Further work to improve stability, weather ability, viscosity and drying times.
• Produce a 3 coat system comprising primer, basecoat and topseal.
• Application Trials of finished system.
• Fire Test to EN 13501-1 and achieve test classification to B-s1; d0
• Establish Production and Availability of stock and all necessary literature and paperwork.
• Promote Reactafire in accordance with the D + E Plan.
• Launch Euro Class B Product, International Timber Building Show 2016 and through Trade Association. Complete all Technical Articles, press, internet activities, Launch to Key Applicators and Distributors.
• Continue research work of a Fire Resistance product.
• Produce a multicoat system, 3-5 coats comprising, primer, 1-3 coats basecoat and topseal. Formulation maybe modified for this product version.
• Application Trials of finished System.
• Fire Test to EN13823 + EN ISO 11925-2 Fire Resistance and achieve minimum 10% improvement to char with minimal number of coats.
• Introduce to Production System.
• Promote in accordance with the D + E plan
• Utilise established customer base to promote product.
• Launch and write technical articles. (see Annex 3)

List of Websites:

Darren Atkins (