Imagine it: You’ve worked really hard to create a new material that is strong and yet, flexible.  Now you get to test this material.  To test this material, you and your coworkers head to the bomb range.  

This is often how many materials used in a variety of products from bomb-proof clothing to blast-resistant building materials have to be tested in order to truly test their effectiveness.  As a construction management company for labs and their lab design needs, at LCS Constructors, we have to be on the cutting edge of technology and understand what options are available for the construction of blast resistant buildings.  There have been many improvements in explosion-proof materials recently.  Take a look at these neat options that are being developed by scientists around the world that can better help us provide your lab with top-quality, effective blast-resistant solutions.

concreteExplosion-Resistant Concrete

One of the most interesting developments in explosion-proof materials is the development of a more explosion-resistant concrete.  Developed at the University of Liverpool, a new cement mixture provides a higher tensile strength than traditional concrete.  This particular concoction utilizes less water than traditional concrete and also incorporates silica sand as the main aggregate over gravel or other crushed minerals.  The real genius in the material is that it also incorporates steel fibers which have a high compression rating.  Tests on this martial have shown that the greatest asset that this material can provide is that it does not crumble and create shrapnel when exposed to close-proximity explosions, like those that may happen from a chemical production facility.  There is some debate whether this material could ever be more cost effective than steel, but for times when concrete is the best option during a lab build, it’s great to know that there are more advanced explosion-proof materials in the works.

glass1Shock and Explosion-Resistant Glass

While some lab designs may call for the exclusion of windows, we know it’s definitely a better working environment for employees to not work in a concrete bunker.  However, when you need a facility to be strong and blast-resistant due to its proximity to other locations that may work with hazardous materials, you need to have the discussion about shock and explosion-resistant glass.  There are options that involve many inches thick layers of glass, and there are other options available using Plexiglass, which is a type of thermoplastic; but what if there was an option available that felt and looked just like glass with the blast-resistant properties of Plexiglass?  Researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Sydney have come together to create a new glass material that may be able to stand up to hurricane force winds and even be truly blast-resistant.  This new glass material is more like a fabric in some respects.  It’s a weave of glass fibers that are then coated in liquid plastic and bound together with an adhesive.  While not yet available on the market, it’s testing well in small scale studies, even at close range to a blast.

Blast Doors

Even blast doors have changed in design over time from just steal plating to a much more complicated design intended to stand up to substantial, nearby blasts better.  Think of blast-resistant doors a bit like a sandwich.  The bread, or exterior, is typically two steel plates.  Between these two plates, there is a steel rebar grid that is then surrounded by concrete to create a solid center cavity.  Blast doors have to be perfectly sized, and when they are, this design is able to protect people from chemical explosions and other high-temperature threats.

What is Hardening?

While many of the materials we’ve talked about are easy to use during the lab construction process, going back and making a previously constructed lab resistant to any type of blast can seem like a monumental task.  It’s actually much more common than you think, however, and LCS Constructors has plenty of experience hardening labs to meet safety requirements in blast zones.

Hardening is a process where the main “objective is to prevent collapse, minimize hazards associated with flying debris, and facilitate evacuation of a facility-all with the primary goal of minimizing human injury and loss of life,” according to Joseph A. Demkin, part of the American Institute of Architects.  This process takes an already existing building and adds specific safeguards to help protect individuals in case there is a need.  There are four main points that go into hardening a building against the possibility for an explosion or blast based on a paper by Robert Smilowitz:

  • Establishing a secure perimeter
  • Mitigating debris hazards resulting from the damaged façade
  • Preventing progressive collapse
  • Isolating internal threats from occupied spaces

These four points all come down to how a blast, or the blast loading, affects a building.  Blasts that occur close, will be strong but targeted, and blast further away reduce in strength, but they will also affect more of the building.  By addressing the four points listed, the effect of the blast load can be greatly reduced in order to protect individuals in a building.  The hardening process involves not just evaluating these important points that help reduce risk, but also finding ways to  mitigate them.  For example, preventing a progressive collapse can be improved upon in a standard construction building by reinforcing the main structure’s beams and flooring through a variety of different processes.

Materials and construction designs that are currently available can help to provide labs with the technical construction they need in order to meet safety standards and protect their employees.  Additionally, some types of facilities can’t even be insured without the proper blast-resistant design or hardening processes.  Making sure you work with the right construction management company that not only has plenty of experience executing blast-resistant constructions but also knows how to renovate your existing building can help save you time, stress, and money.  LCS Constructors specializes in lab designs and even blast-resistant buildings to help meet all of our clients’ needs.  Contact us today for more information about our blast-resistant buildings and what we can do for you!