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Fire Safe Insulation for Green Buildings

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Green Building concepts have grown wide and across under all segments of building construction in many developed countries. In India, Indian Green building Council (IGBC) was founded in early 2000, and today the country has 1.21 billion sqft of Green building footprint with 275 certified LEED buildings and over 1745 registered buildings. The numbers are expected to multiplex in next few years.

“How sustainable is the building if it’s not fire proof?”

FM global one of the leading research body has published a report “The Influence of Risk Factors on Sustainable Development”. The report provides two conclusions. First, efforts to improve sustainability solely by increasing energy efficiency (without consideration of risk) have the potential to increase risk factor by a factor of three. Second, without effective fire protection system, the risk of fire increases the carbon emission by 30-40kg of CO2 /M2 (an increase of 1-2%) over the lifecycle of a standard office building, and can add upto 14% to the carbon emission over the lifetime of a facility exposed to extensive fire hazard.

Based upon the information from FM global studies, NFPA and other supporting information, National Association of State Fire Marshals have reported in their book Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings, a fire and building safety guide to Green Construction.

  • Fires are contributing a significant volume of greenhouse gases, carbon particulate matter, and a host of other pollutants into the atmosphere.
  • Energy efficiency measure, critical components of green construction, may increase the risk of fire substantially.
  • Effective fire prevention and protection measure and system have the potential to reduce the effect of fire on the environment to a point that the impact is negligible.
  • Manual fire suppression efforts are using millions of gallons of treated water annually which is polluted with fire by-products and than running off into watersheds.

The insulation product is one of the key building materials used in the construction of Green Buildings. Insulation is mainly used for thermal insulation to reduce energy loss and for acoustic applications. Broadly insulations can be classified as Organic based and Inorganic based. Inorganic (mineral based) includes Rockwool, Glass wool, Slag wool, Ceramic wool and Organic (Plastic based) which includes rubber foam, EPS/XPS, PE foams.

Further the book, “Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings” mentions most of the foam based insulation are manufactured from petroleum derivatives. Untreated and exposed to high temperature or flame, these foam products will burn easy releasing large volume of smoke and can easy spread fire to other area. The graph below shows the performance of various insulation products when tested as per (ISO 834)

Many spectacular fires have occurred in foam systems applied to buildings, including the 2009 Monte Carlo fire in Las Vegas, Borgata Water Club Atlantic city in 2007 and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel fire in Beijing in 2009. These events are worth reviewing regarding the use of foam materials on the exteriors of the buildings. Interestingly, in two of these fires, the buildings’ interiors were not severely impacted, but the exteriors suffered extensive damage.

Rockwool India Ltd, a member of Green Building Council, supports LEED programs. It offers Rockwool insulation products for Thermal insulation and for acoustic and Fire resistance applications. Rockwool products are FM approved and Warrington Fire certified. The products are classified as A1 as per EN ISO 13501-1, highest European System of reaction to fire properties and it does not release large volume of smoke under fire.

Green Building with Fire resistant insulation is very critical in avoiding fire accidents and Rockwool insulation products provide those extra vital minutes to rescue life and reduce property loss.

Kevin Pereira
Head Stonewool Sales
Rockwool India Limited

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