Dr. Jayanta Mukherjee, an Engineer, and alumni of IIMA and Stanford University, have served as Managing Director for the German Multinational – Fischerwerke GmbH & Co. KG. He has worked with a global team of experts, contractors, and consultants to provide Fire stopping in leading Projects like Dubai Metro, Atlantis hotel, and Football stadiums built for the world cup in Qatar, etc. He has recently moved to India in an advisory role to support the company's business in the SAARC region.

Brief about Passive Fire Protection, How it's different from Active?

Have you ever got stuck in a smoky room? Have you ever got choked, gasping for air? Then you have already experienced how someone feels caught up in a room engulfed with fire. The effect would be much worse if the building had no fire-stopping system. Contrary to common belief – smoke kills faster than the fire itself. An active fire-stopping system, like a sprinkler, is supposed to trigger a mechanism that can douse the fire. However, don't forget that several pipes and installations have passed through the walls and roof. When the fire catches the combustible materials inside the room, smoke starts filling up faster than you count 10. Passive fire-stopping products expand in the heat of the fire and are supposed to close the gaps between the installations and joints. Its objective is to stop smoke from entering and escaping the affected area. The result? The occupant can run away to safety. When appropriately installed, a sound fire-stopping system can protect the building and the life of the inhabitants.

How do you see the Indian Passive Fire Protection Market growth in the next five years?

The firestop market in India is at an early stage. Although, I observe that the leading Architects, Consultants, and Contractors have now started to appreciate the need for passive fire stopping and recommend the usage at least in critical projects. However, the concept must still pick up among the more significant segments. You still come across multi-storeyed buildings in major metros where Cement slurry is used to fill up the openings, and many contractors are unaware of foam and its classification in terms of fire ratings.

I think the manufacturers of Passive fire-stopping systems in India have to allocate more fund towards educating promoters, architects, consultants, contractors, and fire brigade associations. The global case studies of poor/absence of fire stopping must be part of the Engineering/Polytechnic education curriculum. A stringent adoption of Global standards of fire stopping (UL/BS) would ensure the safety of the construction.

Looking at the growth plan of India in general and especially with reference to infrastructure projects in the next 5 years, the firestop market's growth appears to be very promising.

What are the core fundamentals associated with passive fire protection in India?

Passive Fire stopping is both a science and an art. It involves several building materials involving the physical and chemical properties of the products. The good news is that hundreds of tests have already been done across the globe, testing the behavior of building materials under different fire conditions. It is easy for an engineer at the site to recommend a product that can protect against smoke and fire based incidents. Even without a particular test, trained professionals can provide engineering judgments. In exceptional cases, manufacturers should be capable of doing a mock-up test in the furnace.

Fire stopping at the job site involves several service providers working in balance and cooperation. I recently saw a project in Noida where telephone cables were drawn through the openings already closed by passive fire stopping, and the installers had not closed new holes; hence, the process of passive fire stopping was null and void. The applicators of the fire-stopping system need to understand the fundamentals of fire-stopping. It involves life, and the fire-stopping systems remain hidden. Hence, every stakeholder is accountable for protecting human life and assets.

Which are the key industries that offer scope for passive fire products? Where do you believe the greatest demand exists?

Mostly the fire stopping the head of wall joints remains the civil contractors' responsibility. However, MEP and Façade contractors require a more comprehensive range and volume of products depending on the type of pipes and the façade. Even the interior finishing contractors involved with fixing Fire doors etc., consume several passive fire-stopping products.

Challenges and opportunities you see in this market.

The biggest challenge I see is the lack of knowledge and not allocating enough budget for passive fire stopping. Most contractors still consider fire stopping as a "compulsion."

However, Rome was not built in a day, and I think the future of passive fire-stopping in India will be different. Exhibitions like the one in February in Mumbai will significantly impact the community.

What is your honest opinion that an exhibition like FSBI (Fire Safe Build India) can add value to this niche sector?

In my opinion, the initiative of FSBI to plan an exhibition only around Passive fire stopping is genuinely commendable. By giving this important segment, its due importance, there is an opportunity to raise awareness, identify solution providers and discuss technology and trends. It will provide a platform for networking amongst manufacturers, builders, consultants, and the engineering community. I am sure that demonstrations, product shows, and mini-seminars will be the exhibition's highlights. All stakeholders must come forward to learn, share and grow their knowledge on this 'often neglected but critical" parameter of building safety.