So, I thought for this blog, I would do a little bit of research into how long passive fire protection has been used and I was very surprised. I guess I thought it would be something that had been around for the last 150 years maybe, but “The Act for rebuilding the City of London” was passed in 1667, some 356 years ago! This was to ensure that all new buildings were to be constructed from non-combustible materials such as brick and stone as a passive fire method, and that there should be a maximum of storeys per house to eliminate overcrowding, again, we learnt from a disaster.
It was after a great fire in Edinburgh in 1824 that they got strict urban planning laws for new build properties that meant passive fire protection had to be a lead consideration. This was an excellent start and thankfully, there have been many updates to worldwide legislation and testing that makes the fitting and inspection of passive fire protection materials compulsory.
In 1821 Joseph Louis Grey-Lussac discovered the ammonium phosphates and borax were capable of making textiles flame retardant and around that time discovery and invention in the fire proofing industry was gaining momentum. In 1904 in the USA Charles Dahlstrom invented the “Fireproof Door” and by the 1970’s sealants and wraps were being used after the need arose from the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant disaster, when at that time urethane foams were used as a fire stop.
One of the most commonly known fire proof materials is Asbestos, Greek sources mention its use around 400BC it being used in pots to give better resistance to the fires they were used on. The technique of melting the rock and making it into a fibre was at its peak in the 1950’s but there is documentation of this being done by the American Indians from way back in 1724. Of course, we’re now very aware that this can cause huge health problems and by the 1970’s work was done on finding replacement materials.
Ceramic fibre had been invented in the early 1940’s in America and was known to be much safer for human use than Asbestos, and was seen as its replacement in many applications. This has now been superseded by the use of bio-dispersant fibres such as Superwool which are proven to be safer again.
The use of intumescents is one of the key materials in building protection, from pipe collars,to door seals it is such a versatile material that is constantly being developed, from its use in the composite industry to textiles and
Passive fire protection is an industry that is constantly evolving along side the companies it’s involved with, from construction, to marine, to aerospace, wherever there is a chance of fire, this innovative industry will be there, developing products to protect lives, quietly, efficiently and professionally.