China develops fire-resistant building material
- Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China have unveiled a new fire-resistant material, capable of standing up to temperatures exceeding 2370 F, according to Xinhua Net.
- The material, which could be used to insulate existing structures, provides a buffer against fire damage in reinforced concrete structures, allowing more time for evacuation.
- Made up of phenol-formaldehyde-resin and silica, the composite is highly porous and has low heat conductivity, making it better able to resist fire than popular insulation materials like expanded polystyrene and glass wool.
Finding ways to build more resiliently has become increasingly important to a number of AEC industry stakeholders following a recent spate of natural and human-induced disasters.
In January, global reinsurer Munich RE estimated that natural disasters had cost global economies $330 billion last year — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria alone are estimated to have cost $215 billion. Of the $330 billion in damages, only $135 billion were insured.
Fire resistance, in particular, is becoming a topic of interest as more builders experiment with mass timber high-rises in the wake of London's deadly Grenfell Tower fire. Although the incident was likely exacerbated by improperly used flammable cladding, the fire and its aftermath will likely continue to weigh on project teams' choice of materials.
Associations, too, are looking into ways to better mitigate risk through building resilience. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat announced in September that it had formed a working group to test building façades' fire resistance. Comprising representatives from around the world, that group is offering $20,000 to support fire performance research and to create a high-rise fire database with the goal of encouraging new fire-prevention solutions.
Building resilient doesn't just benefit those who live and work in those spaces. A recent study from the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) found that every federal grant dollar used for disaster resiliency and mitigation amounts to an average of $6 saved for the U.S. The organization also noted that every dollar spent on building beyond building code standards could save the U.S. $4.
Building to higher standards also stands to be a boon for job growth and the nation's economy. According to NIBS, such practices and the implementation of resiliency measures could produce 87,000 new long-term jobs and boost U.S.-produced construction materials by 1%.
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