By: Rodney Zubrod, Geopolymer Solutions, LLC
Fireproofing building structures is performed in order to protect humans from fire events. Most typically, fire protection is either applied to structural members to provide rescuers with valuable time to save occupants, the structures are constructed with a sprinkler system, or both. During earthquakes, explosions, and other emergency events, water and electrical supply are many times damaged and sprinkler systems don’t work.
For structural steel members, approximately 50-percent of the load carrying capacity is compromised when the steel reaches 538o Centigrade (1,000o Fahrenheit). Materials such as gypsum wall board, intumescent paint, and spray applied cementitious fireproofing is applied to structural steel members to provide rescuers with time, between one to four hours to put the fire out, or to get humans out of the structures before a catastrophic failure occurs.
CFC FP250 has achieved Underwriter Laboratories UL263 and UL1709 designs, Jet Fire 3-Hour exposure compliance, UL2431 Category I-A 5th Edition exposure compliance, and 10,000-hour ASTM B117 Salt Spray exposure compliance. All this has been completed with thin or thick design lifts, one-lift application regardless of hourly rating, no lath required, no prime coat required, and including acid, solvent, alkali, and hydrocarbon resistance.
What’s it all mean?
A lot of folks have UL or ICC (International Code Conference) designs and Jet Fire certification. UL2431 Category I-A 5th Edition compliance isn’t even required yet, but, we have it all. A few other folks even have UL1709 Portland based designs that don’t require lath.
So what’s the big deal?
Cold Fusion Concrete contains two materials that are offered in the corrosion resistance market as inhibitors; these materials are sodium metasilicate (sodium silicate), and sodium tetraborate. Sodium metasilicate is a dry/anhydrous version of liquid glass. Liquid glass has an elevated pH that aggressively attaches itself to various objects including metal, concrete, and wood. Sodium tetraborate, better known as Borax enhances the penetration of liquid glass into the surface of various objects; similar to how it makes your whites whiter and colors more vibrant in the laundry by enhancing the cleaning action. Liquid glass, just like any other glass, is an exceptional electrical insulator. Corrosion on steel elements is largely an electro-chemical reaction which is mitigated with electrical grounding, sacrificial layers (galvanizing), or coatings. A glass coating is an exceptional electrochemical corrosion inhibitor. Another form of corrosion occurs chemically. Glass is an exceptional chemical corrosion inhibitor.
Another many times forgotten positive attribute of Cold Fusion Concrete is the green posture; the quality level is so high, many times folks forget that CFC production requires from about 5 to 10 percent of the green house gas emissions required for Portland production. Even more, CFC FP250 contains a majority volume of environmentally palatable minerals consisting of vermiculite and perlite.
Some of the problems with Portland based SFRM’s (Sprayed Fire Resistive Material) and intumescents is cracking, particularly in extreme cold or hot weather climates. One of the reasons for lath or other reinforcements in fireproofing is to reduce the amount of cracking, or when cracking occurs, to reduce the amount of material that falls off the protected element. Thermal coefficients are used to evaluate the amount of movement during variable thermal events. Intumescents are notorious for having undesirable thermal coefficients, many times exceeding 1 X 10-3 inches per degree Fahrenheit. Portland based product thermal coefficients are usually better than intumescents with thermal coefficients of around 3 to 5 X 10-6 inches per degree Fahrenheit. CFC FP250 regularly achieves thermal coefficients of less than 1.5 X 10-6 inches per degree Fahrenheit. The thermal coefficient of steel, wood, concrete, or other materials is dependent upon the grade, density, and internal dynamics of the material itself. It is safe to assume that few materials have exactly the same thermal coefficients, which means things move differently during thermal variance. CFC bonds to substrates and moves with the material it’s bonded to. Therefore, there is no cracking from variable temperature events and no need for reinforcement. Portland based products do not bond like CFC.
Quality integrity is a fickle beast to some SFRM’s, when there are large markets involved. Even still surprisingly, today there are Portland based SFRM designs that approve the use of galvanized metal lath as the reinforcement. Moreover, there are thousands of projects constructed with Portland based SFRM that utilize galvanized metal lath. Galvanizing contains zinc. Zinc reacts with any elevated pH to form carbonates and hydrogen gas; zinc and elevated pH materials are not compatible. Zinc and the elevated pH of Portland are not compatible. Galvanized metal lath’s purpose is to reinforce the SFRM layer, but in-fact is contributory towards the degradation of the layer. CFC FP250 is designed for longevity induced by the integrity used in the design. There doesn’t seem to be any logical integrity in using materials in a life safety coating that degrade each other. We use a spray-on liquid to separate our elevated pH CFC from all galvanized metal.
SFRM design technologists have become experts at testing. For decades now it’s been a competitive race to achieve the thinnest layers for hourly ratings. Of course, the competition includes the price of a bag of SFRM, not necessarily making the ingredient quality a big deal. Although galvanizing contains zinc which reacts poorly with Portland Cement, galvanized metal lath reduces the design thicknesses in the test so somehow it became an accepted approach. It became an accepted approach even to those responsible for qualifying the technical prowess of the materials and design. As long as the material passed the test, the chemistry and long-term effect must be redundant; right?
The competition in price per bag and price per project has produced a couple of really large and desirable markets. One of the markets is SFRM maintenance on projects where the fireproofing is falling off the protected element as a result of corrosion, cracking, or just poor workmanship and/or materials. The other much larger market is identifying and mitigating CUF (Corrosion Under Fireproofing). There is a similar market relative to a similar material called CUI (Corrosion Under Insulation). Both CUF and CUI have incorporated innovative and specialized consulting processes like Eddy Current to analyze the amount and areas of corrosion under the layers, so they can be repaired or replaced before catastrophic failure of the structural steel occurs. As a result of the yearly expenditure of billions of dollars mitigating CUF and/or CUI, these specialized consulting processes have become extremely valuable.
Galvanizing structural steel is an accepted process for inhibiting corrosion in structural steel. A typical ASTM B117 Salt Spray exposure specification is a 5,000-hour exposure to determine the efficacy of galvanizing. Galvanizing is a sacrificial layer. Galvanizing contains zinc, which reacts poorly with elevated pH materials and expedites the “sacrificial” characteristic. Intumescent’s are assessed regularly with a minimum 10,000-hour salt spray exposure specification. CFC FP250 is the only cementitious SFRM to have passed the 10,000-hour salt spray exposure; at all thicknesses tested.
When structural steel is fabricated, the first stop in the construction process is the galvanizing plant. From the galvanizing plant the structural steel will either arrive at the fireproofing applicator, or the fireproofing is applied in the field. Imagine for a moment the time, money, and carbon footprint savings if the first stop were removed from the program in order to achieve even better corrosion inhibition.
We began our development of Cold Fusion Concrete in an attempt to save the world by reducing the carbon footprint of construction and cleaning up industrial waste materials stored in landfills and produced daily. What we learned was that few picked up on our cause; we just weren’t melodramatic enough. We achieved our initial goal by giving the world a tool to dramatically reduce the production of greenhouse gases, and to use waste materials produced from steel and power generation. Still, we just weren’t loud enough; no melodrama.
We tweaked our material a few times and produced one of the most advanced cements on the planet; we started to get a little attention. When we demonstrated how our product provided a life cycle well beyond any other material, thereby saving lots of money; people listened. When we developed the most advanced spray applied fireproofing on the planet; intellects began understanding.
Based upon a scoring system of 1 to 10 and 10 being the best score, the following table presents some benefits of CFC FP250.
Most fireproofing materials have some deleterious issues. Intumescent applications expand during fire events and protect the elements as a result of the insulating qualities of the expansion. Intumescent materials are expensive and environmentally unpalatable. Many times, the expanding material is washed away by the hose stream of a fire fighters water hose and the underlying substrate is exposed to heat.
Portland Cement is used as the binding agent in most all cementitious fireproofing. Portland Cement has significant weaknesses including a low resistance to weathering, a relatively high-water permeability, and, Portland Cement has very low resistance to chemical attack. These weaknesses cause a reduction in layer thickness and respective hourly rating; corrosion attacks steel substrates due to water permeation; and chemicals erode the fireproofing and increase steel corrosion. CFC FP250 contains no Portland Cement.
The benefits of using FP250 on any project are extra-ordinary to those forward-thinking individuals who are able to consider benefits in and out of the box, unrestrained by archaic repetitive habit. The cost of doing nothing is not just represented in monetary value, but fireproofing is a life safety material. Not only in a fire event, but over time the structural steel plant will erode from corrosion and risk the safety of every employee. Relationships are extremely important in every aspect of business, but when those relationships demand that the safety of the employees and profit and loss statements are risked by continuing with the same processes that don’t work, it’s time for a change.