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By Max Tritremmel,International Paint LLC

Fire pro
he New York Times building stands as one
of the newest and most spectacular addi-
tions to Manhattans renowned skyline.
The 52-story tower on Eighth Avenue between ! !
40th and 41st streets, completed earlier this year,
has won plaudits around the world for its unique,
exposed-steel exo-skeleton design and energy-
efficient innovations such as the ceramic sunscreen in New York City to employ fire protection
of the buildings glass and steel curtain wall. that goes beyond the standard ratings for
But another, less obvious technology used in the buildings con- cellulosic fires. This technology provides
struction makes the building the first commercial high-rise structure protection against extreme-heat fires and

50 Journal of Architectural Coatings / August / September 2007

blast pressure generated by major cata- coatings technology as the basis for devel- operate in combination with more than
strophic events. This intumescent-coat- oping the next generation of epoxy-based 20,000 dimmable fluorescent fixtures.
ings technology is derived from an intumescent fire protection, designed for
International Paint LLC fire-protection use in the commercial building industry.
material initially developed more than 30 The formulation for the new coating pro- "
years ago for NASAs Apollo space pro- vides the same level of fire and anticorro- Intumescent fire-resistive coatings are
gram, where it insulated heat shields from sion protection as the companys pre- paint-like materials that are applied to
the extreme temperatures of re-entry into existing technology, but with the con- structural steel members and are
the Earths atmosphere. Soon after the structability and aesthetic versatility need- designed to provide an insulating barri-
success of that application, the oil, gas, ed for exposed steel designs and multiple- er between the steel and a fire. In a fire,
and petrochemical industries began using application environments. a chemical reaction causes the cured
the intumescent fire-protection technolo- In the NY Times building project, the coating film to intumesce, or expand
gy on offshore platforms and refineries to epoxy intumescent coating, combined rapidly to several times its original
protect steel structures from hydrocarbon with high-performance primer and top- thickness, and generate a foam-like or
and jet-stream fires, as well as 4-bar explo- coat materials, is being counted on to pro- char layer that acts as an insulating bar-
sions that can reach vide long-term protec- rier to prevent or at least delay failure of
temperatures of up to tion of the skyscrapers the structural steel.
2,000 F. structural steel. These formulations are typically com-
After the tragic The architectural firm posed of a film-forming polymeric
events of September for the Times building, binder, such as an epoxy or acrylic resin;
11, 2001, research the world-renowned a combination of chemical agents that
and development Renzo Piano, worked react to trigger the fire-induced expan-
teams at International in concert with FX sion of the coating film; pigments for
Paint used this Fowle Architects. The opacity and color; and other additives
proven intumescent- project is a joint ven- typically found in conventional coatings
ture of The New York to provide application, cure, and long-
Times Company and term performance and appearance prop-
Forest City Ratner erties.
Companies. The de- Some intumescent coatings require the
sign features a glass addition of a reinforcing mesh when
curtain wall screened applied on specific structural shapes to
by ceramic tubes, ensure the integrity of the insulating or
yielding an energy- char layer.
conserving structure Thanks to paint-like aesthetics of these
rising to 1,046 feet at relatively thin-film materials, the use of
the top of the mast. intumescent coatings has expanded sig-
The building is cur- nificantly in the architectural and design
rently tied with the communities, compared to mineral-based
landmark Chrysler spray-applied fire-resistive materials
Building as the second (SFRMs).
tallest in New York.
The Times build-
ings host of environ- The competitive bidding process for the
mentally sustainable Times building project began in 2003.
features includes a Very specific criteria were spelled out to
Facing page: Spray application of intumescent coatings to exterior
work environment coatings suppliers by New York-based FX
structural steel of New York Times Building.
(Top) Close-up of finish achieved by intumescent fire-resistive coating system. that maximizes natur- Fowle, which served as architectural spec-
(Bottom) Glass curtain wall screened by ceramic tubes. External structural al light and mecha- ifier for the project.
steel is also shown. Photos courtesy of International Paint. nized shades that The fire-protection material selected

Journal of Architectural Coatings / August / September 2007 51

without interfering with the sequencing ty, and cost benefits, it was evident that
of other sub-contractors at the site. the new technology could meet and
Cost, of course, was another decisive exceed the Times building owners criteria
factor considered by the developers. for fire protection. As a result, the archi-
When viewed in the context of the total tects specified the intumescent fire-protec-
expense of constructing a building the tive coating for use on the buildings
size of the Times structure, fire protection 250,000 square feet of exposed steel, cor-
represents a relatively small share, at ner columns, and cross beams.
about $8 to $10 millionno more than
1% of the estimated total building-project
price tag of more than $1 billion. Still, the Initial application of the intumescent
choice of fire-resistive materials can play coating began in the fall of 2005 after the
an important role in saving developers a first 10 floors of the mammoth 52-floor
significant amount of money long-term. structure had already been erected. An
In this case, use of the intumescent organic zinc-rich primer was shop applied
Spray application of fire-resistive system coating, combined with high-perfor- to the steel by two different fabricators,
onto structural steel mance primer and finish-coat materials, Owen Steel and AFCO Steel, and then
meant that this monu- transported to the con-
would have to carry a minimum guaran-
mental building could struction site for erec-
tee of a five-year lifecycle of performance.
be given a high degree tion. Technical-service
The application process would have to
of protection from fire support by the coatings
keep pace with an accelerated construc-
and corrosionand in supplier ensured thor-
tion schedule.
a cost-effective way ough training on the
The material would need to meet a mini-
when taking into application of the mate-
mum two-hour fire-protection rating,
account the long-term rial and proper repairs
preferably higher.
durability and perfor- of any damage to the
International Paint was not originally
mance capabilities of coated steel.
included on the short list of coatings man-
the fire-resistive coat- The application pro-
ufacturers bidding on the Times building
ing system. cess was fairly simple,
project, but the company took its case for
Most importantly, with one paint crew
the new intumescent technology to the
the technology met needed during a normal
projects contractor, AMEC Construction
the recommendations shift period. Painters
Management Inc. The developers agreed
made by the National spray-applied one coat
to conduct two separate offsite field tests
Institute of Standards of the epoxy intumes-
at the New York Times Companys Queens
and Technology (NIST) cent at 80 or 120 mils
facility, using steel mock-ups to assess the
in their September thickness, depending
application, performance, and aesthetic The New York Times Building prior to
2005 report on the on the density of the
characteristics of the coating. completion of the curtain wall.
Collapse of the World steel beam and/or col-
The new technology was found to offer
Trade Center Towers. umn, and then back-rolled the material to
construction advantages for the project
One of the recommendations made in achieve the desired aesthetic look speci-
developers, both in time and cost savings.
that report called for the development of fied by the architect. Wet film thickness
The two-component formulation could
new fire-protection formulations, includ- was measured regularly and adjusted as
be spray-applied in just one coat, rather
ing epoxy intumescents, that can with- needed to ensure quality application. In
than the typical six to eight coats needed
stand higher temperature fires to allow all, approximately 175,000 pounds of fire-
for many intumescent coatings, and mesh
building occupants and first-responders protective intumescent coating was used
reinforcement is not needed. In addition,
more time for evacuation. on the Times building. Application was
the material cures in less than 24 hours,
(NIST Report: completed in late 2006.
allowing paint crews from L & L Paint,
fire05/art119.html ) In addition to the organic zinc-rich
Hicksville, NY, to remain on schedule
After weighing these performance, safe- primer and epoxy intumescent fireproof-

52 Journal of Architectural Coatings / August / September 2007

ing coating, the coating system included
an acrylic-aliphatic polyurethane finish
coat, a high-performance material offering
long-term color and gloss retention in
exterior exposures. In this setting, the
acrylic-polyurethane topcoats primary
function is UV protection for the epoxy
intumescent fire-resistive coating. The
topcoat meets the performance standard
set by SSPC Paint 36.


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While the intumescent fire protection
for Times building project was selected
on the basis of its long-term perfor-
mance, safety, and aesthetic capabilities,
the technology also provides the build-
ing industry in general with the options
of field or fabrication-shop applica-
tionoffering building owners a choice
of installation environments.
Advantages associated with shop appli-
cation certainly should be given serious
consideration, as weather constraints
and other onsite issues and equipment
expenses can wreak havoc with field-
application scheduling, quality of appli-
cation, and throughput productivity.
Additionally, architectural and engi-
neering specifiers are increasingly seek-
ing materials that support sustainable
design methods. The fire-protective
intumescent coating applied to the
Times building is 100% solids, with zero
VOC content.
Upon the buildings grand opening,
scheduled for late fall 2008, project
developers and architects are certain to
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feel confident of achieving their goal of

providing The New York Times Building
and its roughly 2,500 Manhattan-based
employees a safe, comfortable, and ener-
gy-efficient work environment that only
advanced design technologies could
have provided.


Journal of Architectural Coatings / August / September 2007 53

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