Businesses are anticipating a year of growth in 2022. The world is starting to move on from the lockdown era of COVID-19. This past year was a relatively good year for the global fire protection system market as it was valued at $72.72 billion (USD) in 2021, according to the “Fire Protection System Market Share, Size, Trends, Industry Analysis Report, By Product, By Service, By Application, By Region; Segment Forecast, 2021—2028” report.
The pandemic presented a number of problems worth noting, reports Andre Floriddia, a fire protection specialist at Westinghouse Electric Canada, Inc. “The supply chain was heavily affected and slowed down by the pandemic, which slowed down the process for new construction, retrofit and general repairs.” She also adds that, “The pandemic has potentially affected the frequency of inspection, maintenance and testing procedures to businesses. These are required to ensure the functionality of a fire protection system.”
Despite the pandemic, the report suggests that the fire stopping industry is expected to grow another 6.7 per cent from now until 2030.
According to David Succurro, chief executive officer at Reliance Worldwide Corporation (RWC), there has been several improvements made to products in the fire stopping market. “The industry has come a long way. In the past, architects and engineers struggled with balancing the approach to complete fire protection, which includes detection, containment and fire suppression. These are all very important but I believe that fire containment which is commonly referred to as firestopping is most important of all, as we’re dealing with the human element.”
Currently, the focus has been on complete firestop solutions in the fire stopping industry. Succurro adds, “Complete firestop solutions seems to be the way of the future, and when we say complete, we mean an engineered solution.” Engineered solutions are something that all manufacturers have been focusing on, with Sameer Agrawal, general manager of global fire software and services at Honeywell, adding, “Today’s global environment requires the fire and life safety industry to innovate with solutions that enable facility managers and system integrators to monitor their systems and diagnose issues anytime, from anywhere.”
As the industry moves towards complete engineered solutions, this allows for more effective fire containment. “Proper fire containment limits the movement of smoke and toxic gases, thereby containing the damage to property and human life,” said Succurro.
There are two categories related to fire-stopping products — conventional products (sealant, collars, wrap strips, putty pads, and so on) and then there are engineered products (this includes products like firestop sleeves).
Like so many other aspects of the industry, fire stopping systems have gone smart. They now have the ability to collect data, which will indicate potential adverse system conditions such as freezing pipes, pressure imbalances or pipe leaks.
One innovation that the industry is seeing more of is the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT is a wood panel construction material that is manufactured through the gluing of layers of solid-sawn lumber together. It is a relatively light building material and it is “used in floors, walls, roofing and core construction. It offers great strength and design flexibility that allow longer spans to be created with fewer supports,” said Succurro. CLT has been around for some time but the adoption of the material has been slow, add Succurro. He does acknowledge that the next iteration of the building code is expected to cover requirements for emerging technologies such as CLT.
In addition, the industry may see an increase in the use of video analytics. As explained by Floriddia, “Video analytics are an alternative technology that detects smoke and flame at the early stages of fire development by analyzing livestream video through a software based detection system.” She adds that the use of this technology may become more available to the general public in the future.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been a driving force behind recent innovations to the fire stopping industry. “Looking ahead to the future, there could be a push for fire stop products to be produced without VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). These products can be made with more environment friendly materials which also won’t contain health risks upon short-term exposure,” said Floriddia.
Eliminating human error
Tried, true and tested engineered solutions are critical in the fire prevention and fire stopping industry as it helps maintain a level of consistency and safety. Succurro highlights that several people are using makeshift methods, which aren’t entirely correct or ideal in the industry. “When we mention makeshift methods, we refer to people using a tin can to cast in place so they can pour the concrete that leaves the hole and then they just stuff it with mineral wool material and install fire cault. It’s all legit but it leaves room for human error.”
A common mistake made by contractors is to leave the tin can in a conventional firestop method. This is only allowed if the tin can is a part of the UL list system, explains Succurro. He adds that “One example is someone using caulking that’s not UL approved and some might not know any better because caulking is caulking, right? So all they are doing is sealing up the hole, but you can’t use window caulking or exterior caulking because it is not fire rated.”
Understanding fire rating
When it comes to fire rating, this means the time in hours or fraction of time material will withstand flame and the transmission of heat. This is determined using specified conditions of tests and performance criteria. Two important types of fire-stopping ratings are — F-rating and FT-rating. F-rating is the duration of time the system remains in the opening during the fire test. The FT-rating refers to a measure of thermal conductivity of fire stopping system. “Everything about fire rating is not about stopping it completely. It’s about slowing it down and giving people an opportunity to get out,” explains Succurro.
Floriddia also adds that when working in the residential and commercial sectors, each are categorized as a separate occupancy classification which drives different requirements across the building code.
Contractors are required to follow the building code requirements for fire stopping. Yet, there isn’t just one solution that will result in a safe building that meets the building code requirements. “You may go to 10 different buildings in Toronto, and every hole is fire stop different, and it’s left to the individual’s decision to do something,” says Succurro.