A firewall constructed of Corobrik’s clay face bricks protected a warehouse from being consumed by a devastating industrial fire.
When an industrial fire broke out at the Sun Oil warehouse in Mobeni, south of Durban, on 26 March, a 6m high firewall constructed of Corobrik’s clay face bricks prevented the blaze from spreading to the adjacent Kansai Plascon warehouse.
Following a post-fire inspection, Wayne Usher from Walker Smith Architects explains that firewalls are commonly used to divide buildings into smaller areas or, as in this instance, to separate buildings on different sites to prevent the spread of fire. “This is particularly important where there is no building line and it is permitted to build right up to your boundary,” he says.
Fire walls can be built from hollow concrete blocks, cement bricks or clay bricks, with ratings from 30 minutes, which is typically a single-skin brick wall of 110mm, to up to 120 minutes, usually a double-skin skin brick wall of 230mm, as in this case.
“I believe one of the main reasons this wall withstood the intense fire for six hours without failing was that it was constructed from clay brick due to them being fired in a kiln at temperatures well over 1 000°C,” says Usher.
He notes that in this instance, the wall is leaning post-fire because the mortar used to bind the bricks has degenerated in the fire, not because of any failing of the bricks. In fact, the section of the wall can be rebuilt using the same bricks.
“The incombustible qualities aside, clay brick plays its environmental part so well, assuring no release of volatile organic compounds or toxic fumes under fire conditions,” adds Peter Kidger, director of marketing at Corobrik.
It is in intense fire conditions like these where the fire resistant qualities of clay brickwork really come to the fore, illustrating why it is ideal for the construction of fire walls.
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