Articles | Technical

Behind the Scenes of Fire Tests

Friday, 14 December 2018
By Hans Gerlich

Fire testing is a fickle and expensive business, and once a positive result has been achieved there is little incentive to test again. This in turn means that fire test data can sometimes be rather dated.

But one of life’s certainties is change; things never stay quite the same. For example, gypsum is a natural resource and although supplied from the same mine, extraction location and depth inevitably change. Similarly, and despite careful control of incoming goods, additives may subtly change with time. On the other side of the equation fire test standards, furnaces, and data acquisition methods evolve. For instance, the main fire test facility in New Zealand recently converted furnaces from diesel to run on gas.

We must accept that ‘creep’ occurs and that subtle changes can combine to cause larger effects over time. With this in mind we have, over the last 2 to 3 years, invested heavily in a ‘refresh’ fire testing and development programme of work, which has culminated in the release of our new Specification and Installation Manual ‘GIB® Fire Rated Systems, 2018’.

Here at Winstone Wallboards we do not miss an opportunity to get down and dirty as we involve ourselves with construction and instrumentation of specimens, observation of tests, and subsequent  data gathering and analysis. We do not simply adhere  to minimum test standard requirements and include additional temperature measurements (thermocouples) to find out what is going on in the framing cavity and between layers. This allows us to determine the effect of variables such as framing type, cavity insulation, type and thickness of linings, and any composite actions. The in-depth knowledge gleaned by our team of engineers from extensive data analysis allows us to respond quickly to customer enquiries and, where appropriate, assist with finding project specific solutions.

The new ‘GIB® Fire Rated Systems, 2018’ Manual contains, in printed and easily digested form, our most common fire-rated construction elements and gives details that aim to ensure construction of reliable passive fire protection in New Zealand buildings.

In an ever evolving world, printed literature is out of date the moment it hits the market, but our commitment to ongoing development continues.

Acknowledging this, we intend to use our website for future ‘live’ updates and to post regular outputs as common threads emerge from market enquiries.