Author: Nikhil Narayan Sivadas
Since ancient times, people have been seeking news ways to protect buildings from fire. Here’s how Walki’s range of fire-retardant products helps.
From the Turning Torso in Sweden to the Guggenheim museum in Spain, and the Shard in London, Europe has always led the way in the construction of iconic, yet sustainable buildings.
In fact, over the past decade, there has been an unprecedented amount of innovation in the construction sector, with designs, construction methods and building materials changing. But even as this happens, experts claim that fire, that ancient scourge, has changed as well, with building fires developing faster and becoming more hazardous.
A fact, that they claim, has a lot to do with the introduction of more combustible materials in buildings. Over 2 million fires are apparently reported across the EU every year. On average, 90% of these are building fires that are estimated to have caused about Euro 126 billion in fire damage.
The fact is that there is no way to make a building completely fire proof. Materials like timber, steel and aluminium are known to catch fire or buckle and collapse at high temperatures. In the event of a fire, the key is to delay the spread of flames through the use of flame-resistant materials.
“Nothing is unburnable, you can always find a way to burn something" declares Olivier Lucas, Business Line Manager - Construction Facings at Walki. “What we need to do instead is to use fire-resistant or fire-retardant materials which slow down the spread of fire, allowing enough time for help to be called in to put it out."
In partnership with its raw-material suppliers and several universities, Walki embarked on a comprehensive 5-year R&D programme to develop a range of fire retardant, multi-layer products.
“Our product is like a film. But unlike most films which have a monolayer, our product can have multiple layers ranging from 3 all the way to 10," explains Lucas. “By combining different layers, we are able to modify it and imbue it with different levels of fire resistance to match our customer’s requirements.
Walki’s fire-retardant facings are typically used as insulation material in buildings. And since building materials vary from country to country, it comes in different forms including the Walki® Wool and Walki® Foam family of products to suit the needs of different markets.
“When we first developed this product five years ago, we used to deliver one truckload of fire-retardant product every quarter. Three years ago, we were delivering one truckload every month. This year, we are delivering one truckload per week," points out Lucas. “If the EU brings in new regulations, this will rise dramatically."
The development of these products come at a time when various organizations are urging the EU to revamp fire-protection standards for buildings. And if the demand seen by Walki is anything to go by, the use of fire-retardant materials is clearly on the rise.