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Warringtonfire’s Birchwood Park Laboratory hits commissioning stage

22 April 2024

WARRINGTONFIRE’S NEW £25 million laboratory located at Birchwood Technology Park is now at the ‘third fix’ stage, with four out of a planned seven of its state-of-the-art fire resistance testing furnaces already installed, marking significant progress towards the building’s completion and commissioning.

In August last year, Warringtonfire – the testing and certification provider – announced that it was building a brand new 101,000 sq ft facility. This significant investment enables Warringtonfire, which is part of the global Element Materials Technology (Element) Group, to expand capacity and meet an increasing demand for fire resistance testing of critical fire safety products and systems, among them fire door sets, intumescent coatings for steel protection and myriad other passive fire protection solutions.

Ten months into Warringtonfire’s projected 17-month build programme, four furnaces have now been fitted and are ready to enter the commissioning phase very shortly. The furnaces will be supported by a raft of technology designed to carefully manage air quality both during and after the testing process.

This technology includes new air handling and high-performance ventilation systems, as well as cold smoke and hot smoke extraction systems, thereby ensuring a better working environment for employees and compliance with strict environmental regulations.

To support this, specialists from the Element Group undertook an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment involving acoustics and noise modelling, air quality dispersion modelling and emissions monitoring.

By the time of the laboratory’s opening, which is scheduled for January 2025, two vertical furnaces, two horizontal furnaces and one indicative furnace will be ready to accept test specimens. Another two furnaces, one horizontal and one vertical, will be installed by the end of 2026.

In total, this will represent an 80% increase in testing capacity over Warringtonfire’s current site at Holmesfield Road in Warrington. Following the opening of the Birchwood Park laboratory, the existing facility will become a Centre of Excellence for reaction to fire testing and encompass smaller-scale tests including spread of flame and heat release.

Significant capital investment

Dafydd Llewelyn-Jones, project manager for Element Materials Technology, has been co-ordinating the new laboratory’s construction: “We are on track with our progress and actually seven weeks ahead of schedule in terms of the furnaces themselves,” said Llewelyn-Jones. “We are now moving swiftly along towards fitting out all of the office areas and Control Rooms, commissioning the building services and completing the test bay preparation areas.”

Llewelyn-Jones added: “It’s brilliant to see this project coming together. We’ve put a significant amount of money into making sure this new laboratory is truly one of the best in Europe, if not the world.”

Besides the investment into furnaces, Warringtonfire is committed to reducing the laboratory’s carbon footprint and making the new site as sustainable as possible. Measures include energy-efficient fans, upgraded power supply transformers that consume minimal electricity when idle and an electric vehicle infrastructure that includes a fleet of forklifts and charging points.

The site will also be well lit through a combination of natural light from skylights and LED lighting that delivers high lux levels. In addition, the laboratory is configured to accept a blend of clean hydrogen and natural gas once local infrastructure offers this service.

State-of-the-art facility

Leigh Hill, divisional director for fire and building products at Warringtonfire, commented: “Our new laboratory will be the largest state-of-the-art fire testing and certification facility worldwide, and one of the most environmentally conscious. We’ve made substantial investments in procuring the most cutting-edge building services equipment available.”

*Further information is available online at https://www.warringtonfire.com/about-warringtonfire/warrington-site-relocation-and-expansion