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An Interface with Donald Townley, the Global Codes and Approvals Manager with TempRite Engineered Polymers of Lubrizol. Don has a vast experience of more than 25 years related to design and installation of CPVC pipes & fittings. He is currently a member of NFPA Technical Committee on Residential Sprinkler Systems. Don has been active in code development activities, presenting numerous code/standard changes to organizations such as NFPA, ASTM, and IAPMO.


Why has fire safety become a rising concern today?

With huge constructions and a rising urban population, any fire incident can be fatal. It can cause costly business downtime, result in loss of the corporate image and spring up complicated legal issues.

Further, high rises are important features in major Asian cities today. Incidents of fire in high rises are very dangerous, as it is challenging to fight fire manually on the higher floors.

We are seeing very frequent occurrences of fatal fire in residential highrises, hotels, hospitals which could have been prevented if the right fire fighting system was in place to immediately fight the fire.

In such a scenario, fire safety is a very pertinent concern, which has to be addressed on priority.


Mr. Townley, what are different ways to protect against fire?

Hand held extinguishers are the most basic fire fighting system. However, they do need manual intervention.

Next, there are fixed systems, where pumps drive water through rings and networks of pipes and in case of fire, trained personnel operate Hydrants (located all around a building) to suppress the fire.

Then you have a fully automatic water based system, where fire is automatically detected by Quartzoid sprinklers and this triggers sprinklers to get self-actuated in locations where fire has occurred.

Most of the fire protection system falls in the last two categories.

Beyond this, there is an entire paraphernalia of fire suppression system based on classes of fire and application, which we shall discuss later.


Are the Fire Protection Method fail safe, or are they also liable to fail? How can we avoid such failure?

No system is fail-safe, same applies to a fire protection system.

However, one has the choice to opt for the right material which is approved by global agencies like Underwriter Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) to ensure that a system is robust and practically fails safe. Similarly, one can avoid failure of a fire fighting system by ensuring correct design & installation, followed by maintaining the system correctly.


You highlighted that water based fixed installation is the basic and most prevalent form of Fire Protection System. What are the 3 major considerations for maintenance of a water based fire protection system? How can we rationalize the hassle of maintenance?

There are various things you need to consider while using the water-based fire protection system. Pump room is the dynamic part of the system so maintenance of the pump room equipment is a must. Along with that, ensuring good health of the static part of the system - the piping is of utmost importance. You must check for zero damage, no corrosion and leakage in the piping network from time to time. Also, as and when required, you need to be ready for quick and hassle-free alterations in the system.

As pumps are dynamic, maintaining them will anyway involve resources.

However, we should look out for ways and means to reduce the effort and cost to maintain the static system which is pipes. This can be very easily done by choosing non-metallic options that are available in the market today. You shall see how as we proceed in this discussion.


There is always a struggle to save space in the congested utilities footprint in a big building. How can a fire fighting system contribute to this struggle to reduce spatial footprint?

Simple! I shall answer this with regards to a hydrant & sprinkler system.

Choose the scientific option of hydraulic design instead of pipe scheduling when it comes to designing your system. When you have the option to choose materials which are advanced, lighter, robust and need very little maintenance space, opt for that!


What are the 4 major challenges that you foresee in the coming days.What are the 4 major challenges that you foresee in the coming days.

There are a few crucial challenges that need to be addressed. Buildings are getting bigger and taller and services are getting complex, hence the challenge lies in the design and installations. Users will always be on the lookout for a system that will reduce project time and also reduce the quantum of skills required for installation. Secondly, reliability and longevity of a system is important as retrofit is a very difficult work in an occupied building.

Along with that, ease of scaling up of a fire fighting system, in case of a modular construction is also another challenge. Lastly, decapacitation of a robust system due to corrosion or leakage is a major issue in the future too, as this not only increases the maintenance costs, but also reduces the life of the entire system.


What are the available alternatives to metal pipes in a fixed fire protection system?

CPVC fire sprinkler system is a better alternative to metal pipes-based firefighting systems. CPVC retains all the functional advantages of metal pipes, like rigidity, robustness and physical integrity at elevated anticipated temperatures during a fire incident. Furthermore, it eliminates the disadvantages of a metal pipe-based system by providing a system which is lighter, simpler to install and resistant to corrosion. The system also has a potentially longer lifespan as it reduces Microbiologically Induced Corrosion (MIC). The need for MIC related maintenance is drastically reduced if you are using a CPVC System.

Note however, that not all CPVC is equal. Especially when saving life and properties is the goal, it is important to consider the durability and reliability record of the CPVC and manufacturer of the pipe. In other words, just because the CPVC is orange, does not mean it is equal. I strongly suggest one to research the comparisons available on the performance of the CPVC options. Educate yourself on the real differences before committing the protection of life and property to a brand.


Tell us something more on CPVC? What is the story of the development of CPVC and how it was introduced as a Fire Protection System?

Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride’s (CPVC) qualities like strength, durability, easy installation and low cost have been one of the main reasons for its popularity. CPVC is a type of thermoplastic which endures higher temperatures, is getting popular. It was developed and integrated into various systems since 1959 by Lubrizol®. It is created by free radical chlorination reaction which effectively increases the chlorine content of the material. Unlike metal, these pipes are easier to handle, faster to install and save on labour and material.

It has taken BlazeMaster® CPVC time and effort to get it to where it is today. When the material first came to market in 1984, it overcame initial negative perceptions to stake its claim in the fire protection industry, proving it was a more reliable solution to steel. Industry-leading research, development and testing over the course of the 1980s allowed it to demonstrate it could provide superior smoke and flame characteristics, sustain combustion and resist corrosion to the chlorine utilized to treat water supplies.

It was near the end of the 1990s where the price of steel piping began to surpass that of CPVC. That, combined with the labour savings through its simplified installation process, BlazeMaster® was and still is able to offer a total, cost effective value that steel just cannot match. For over 30 years now, BlazeMaster® CPVC Fire Protection Systems have been making their mark. Numerous residential homes can now feel secure against fire hazards, commercial contractors have been using it as an alternative to steel pipes and saving a lot of time and money. Along with that, various occupancies around the world find BlazeMaster® CPVC as a reliable solution to fire safety.


Does usage of CPVC have an environmental impact? Please explain.

Nowadays, it has become of utmost importance for builders, contractors and homeowners to be consciously choosing environment friendly products, even if they are looking for a fire protection system. Lubrizol®, the creator of BlazeMaster® CPVC have always been thoughtful about the environmental impacts of their products.

As compared to its steel counterpart, the CPVC Fire Systems have a lesser impact on the environment. Steel is heavier, uses greater quantity of non-renewable raw materials and the usage of coke in the production of steel, makes it a lesser environment friendly fire system. Whereas, even though CPVCs impact related to wholesale, installation, use, removal, transport and packaging is very less, it has significantly less impact on the environment.

If you put BlazeMaster® CPVC pipes under the environmental microscope, be assured that they shall have minimum environmental impact.

BlazeMaster® CPVC pipes outperform steel pipes in 12 out of 13 environmental categories, including climate change impact, metal depletion and energy consumption, according to a 2011 ISO-compliant, peer-reviewed Life-Cycle Assessment.

Not to forget, CPVC is also recyclable, which means it can be recycled into drainage piping or window profiles. It can be collected by a recycling firm and can be converted into pellets or granules, which can be later mixed into different applications like floor filing, speed bumps, car mars, cable trays, etc.


How do BlazeMaster® CPVC fire protection systems compare with similar genres of CPVC fire protection systems available in the market?

I would start by saying, not all oranges are the same! If you compare BlazeMaster® CPVC fire protection system to others in the market then I am happy to say that BlazeMaster® CPVC fire protection system proves to be more dependable for saving lives and property. Compared head to head by an independent laboratory Engineering Systems Inc. (ESi), BlazeMaster® 1-inch pipe scored higher in pressure burst testing and impact resistance than other fire protection systems in the market.


You are aware that there is a policy push by Indian government towards the ‘Make in India’ initiative. What is your way forward towards this initiative?

India has been a very important market for us for many years. Our group already had a number of manufacturing units, R&D laboratories and test centres in India well before the amazing ‘Make in India’ initiative was formulated by Indian government.

BlazeMaster® CPVC has joined hands with Ashirvad Pipes as our licensee. BlazeMaster® fire sprinkler pipes are now manufactured in India by Ashirvad Pipes at their plant at Jigani Industrial Area near Bengaluru.


Do all CPVC pipes comply with the prevalent local standards, codes and guidelines?

Many brands of CPVC fire sprinkler pipes available in the emerging markets do not have relevant compliance from bodies like UL in place.

We want to ensure that what we offer in emerging markets like India is what we are offering in the rest of the world without any downgrading the features, quality and compliance.

BlazeMaster® CPVC fire protection system available in India carry UL listing. Furthermore, BlazeMaster® CPVC fire protection system also complies with BIS standards (IS 16088-2012).


Are BlazeMaster® CPVC fire sprinkler systems more cost effective than conventional metal piping-based fire sprinkler systems?

The cost of ownership of any building services system has three categories of cost attached to it. The first is the more apparent upfront cost, which is the material purchase cost. Next you have an installation cost, which is the cost of installing and integrating the sprinkler piping with the pumps to complete the system. Finally, you have the cost of operating & maintaining the system.

If you compare only the upfront cost, one may not see substantial savings over a metal system, however the cost of ownership is definitely lower. This is because the installation is much faster and simpler, and the need for negligible maintenance of pipings make BlazeMaster® fire sprinkler system cost effective.


How do you see the way forward for CPVC pipes for Fire Protection Systems in emerging markets like India?

People are more socially aware today. Real fire safety, and not merely compliance, is now becoming a prime driver for implementing a fire protection system.

Steel pipes are still the conventional choice for fire protection systems in India, primarily due to lack of awareness about the CPVC fire sprinkler systems. With knowledge about CPVC percolating in the industry, people are becoming technically aware too that there exists a better, sustainable, environment friendly and cost-effective option for fire protection system.

Today, Indian fire agencies are getting very professional and strict- the coming days shall see India embrace the newer technologies in fire protection systems being implemented all across.