Preparing a Passive Fire Protection (PFP) specification is a little like buying a new car in that considerations are similar such as the environment in which it will be reside, the finish, performance, maintenance regime, warranty, special features etc. are all key criteria. However, to end up with the car that meets our exacting requirements, we need to ensure the specification is correct.
When it comes to intumescent coating specification, it is vital that Specifiers realise the importance of supplying the coating provider with as much detail as possible. It is this detail, on a range of factors, that will have an eventual result upon the performance of the coating itself. Factors requiring attention and careful consideration include the environment the intumescent coating will be subjected to. Questions such as; will it sit within a well-insulated, enclosed atrium or will it be applied to exposed structural steel in a coastal environment? – need to be asked to ensure the correct intumescent coating and accompanying primer and finish top-coat are specified.
The building location has implications upon the coating selection and places restrictions upon specification. Standards and rules such as the Eurocodes are obviously of increasing importance within the European Union, but when specifying intumescent coatings in North America or Asia, there are other guidelines that have to be considered before deciding which intumescent coating to specify.
Sustainability is also a key consideration because the appropriate choice of intumescent coating is frequently associated with the project-specific required levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) and the overall carbon footprint of the building.
Although the carbon impact of the type of fire protection material in use is negligible compared to the embodied carbon of construction materials such as concrete, steel, facades and other forms of construction materials, the choice of water-borne thin film intumescent coatings are becoming more popular within the industry. Much the same as low emission cars are fast becoming the vehicle of choice for the sustainability-conscious driver.
Where PFP boarding material was once preferred for aesthetic reasons, this continues to lose its appeal and feasibility as exposed structural steelwork, and the use of cellular beams, continues to increase in popularity. Cementitious spray coatings, whilst remaining popular in the oil and gas industry, are becoming less popular in the design of buildings as expectations for high levels of quality aesthetic finishes continue to rise. If the requirement exists for a high quality, smooth finish, then intumescent coatings are a good passive fire protection solution.
Intumescent coatings can be applied to curved substrates and finished to an extremely high standard, but they don’t come without their challenges. To achieve an exceptional finish, as is now often required, the application must be of an equally high standard to the product itself – making the choice of applicator almost as important as the choice of intumescent coating.
The chosen intumescent coating system will define the range of the finish that is achievable. A standard of finish should be agreed by all concerned parties prior to job start-up to ensure all are pleased with the end result. The aesthetic finish, as with any coating application, will depend upon many factors including the skill of the applicator, equipment used, application method and location etc. The size and shape of steel member may also influence the finish that can be obtained as it is more difficult to obtain a good finish on smaller steel members, complex designs and circular sections.
For Specifiers more familiar with coatings affording protection and aesthetics only, the specification of intumescent coatings is a minefield of uncertainty. It’s a science in its own right with more factors to consider than you can shake a stick at; much more complex than specifying protective and aesthetic coatings, and certainly more difficult than scoping out the specification of a new car.
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