Flame retardant solutions for the wood market
Aki Borgentorp | Chief Executive Officer | Nordtreat AS
The steady growth witnessed in the global market for flame retardants (FRs) is partly driven by the automotive and construction industries’ demand to meet stringent fire safety standards. At K2019, SONGWON launched its new SONGFLAME® FR synergist technologythat offers high-performance and competitive advantages to an extensive range of applications including thermosets, wood, coatings and adhesives. The technology was also designed to fuel the growth of halogen-free solutions for a wide variety of materials, ranging from foams to various polymers such as polyolefins, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
Knowing the value that can be drawn from strategic collaboration, SONGWON welcomed the opportunity to recently partner with Nordtreat AS, Europe’s leading manufacturer of non-toxic FRs for wood. The two organizations are now currently working together to further develop new, safer and more environmentally friendly FR solutions for the wood construction sector. Nordtreat’s CEO, Aki Borgentorp took some time to shed some light on the market situation, the sustainability focus and share some thoughts on the partnership with SONGWON.
What are some of the common challenges relating to sustainability that company’s in this sector are facing today?
Wood is increasing in popularity as a sustainable material for the construction industry. However, at the moment, most of the existing FR technologies today are based on chemistries which no longer meet the sustainability requirements of the stakeholders in the wood construction (e.g. low emission FR coatings for interiors etc.). Another major challenge is the durability and serviceability levels of most FR treatments in the market today.
How would you describe Nordtreat’s approach to environmental sustainability?
Our approach is based on a life-cycle evaluation of the impact of using our FR's in wood construction. This means that we look at the environmental impact of harvesting raw materials for FR's, the manufacturing process of FR's but equally the eventual environmental impact of recycling FR-treated wood products. Another of our major considerations is the impact on health of FR's in public- and living-spaces. All of Nordreat’s interior products are virtually VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) free and represent a rare breed in FR chemicals which meet standards such as Indoor Air Comfort, LEED (low-emitting products), M1 indoor air classification, AgBB (Ausschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten)and so on. Consideration for the environment and health and safety factors are also some of the main aspects of SONGWON’s approach to sustainability.
Can you share some thoughts on wood as a sustainable material?
It’s clear that increasing the use of wood-based materials in construction is a major opportunity to facilitate a reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions globally. Wood is also a material that can often be sourced locally which is another way that it can further contribute to lowering the environmental footprint. Apart from these direct benefits, construction that uses wood also has a number of other positive advantages over steel and concrete.
Wooden elements such as CLT (Cross-Laminated Timber) offer fire safety that is comparable to steel structures due to the predictable charring rate of wood. Where FR's come into play is that they make sure that fires do not have any chance of igniting in the first place. If one does occur, wood still proves to be a very durable material. However, this aspect only applies to modern mass-timber technologies such as CLT, LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) and many similar structures.
Wood’s strength-to-weight ratio is also comparable with steel, but wood weighs much less. During an earthquake, this aspect contributes to reducing the load on a building's foundation and hence makes it buildings much safer in seismically active areas.
Shorter construction times
Modules made of wood can be prefabricated off-site in controlled factories and shipped to construction sites for installation. Due to the fact that wood-based elements don't require concrete pouring and drying, the overall installation is much faster than with concrete elements. Therefore, smaller teams are required on-site and this contributes to a faster and more cost-efficient construction process.
As a sustainably-conscious organization, what goals has Nordtreat set for itself in the market it serves or wishes to serve going forward?
We have set ourselves the clear goal in Europe of reducing the VOC contribution of FR's in new wooden buildings to zero by 2025. Another one of our goals is to bring the cost of FR treatments in the pre-fabrication market on par with the cost of non-FR treatments. We want to ensure that cost-efficiency related to FR treatments does not stand in the way of wood becoming the global norm used in construction. We see partnering with such an experienced organization as SONGWON as positively contributing to helping us to achieve these targets.
SONGWON places great focus on sustainability and sees the value in strategic collaboration which enables innovation through synergetic capabilities and mutually shared goals
What is it about SONGWON as an organization that makes it an attractive partner for Nordtreat, and how does partnering with the company fit with Nordtreat’s overall strategy?
At the moment, most of the chemical industry lacks any real investment and any real effort in developing new chemistries around FR. Like ourselves, SONGWON places great focus on sustainability and sees the value in strategic collaboration which enables innovation through synergetic capabilities and mutually shared goals. For this reason, partnering with SONGWON and with people with similar vision came very naturally to us at Nordtreat.
Up to now, what has impressed you most in the partnership with SONGWON?
We have been very impressed by SONGWON’s leadership and its long-term vision and investment in making safer, more environmentally friendly solutions in FR. We’ve also been delighted to experience a real drive to bring joint-projects to completion while any bureaucracy we’ve encountered along the way has been dealt with in an unusually flexible manner for a company the size of SONGWON.
In what ways do you see the partnership growing in future?
Going forward, I see real success in serving the construction-materials sector on the back of a number of complementary capabilities between SONGWON and Nordtreat, and in expanding on the joint R&D as well as commercial efforts is a natural way to grow the partnership. When cooperation works as well as it does with SONGWON and there is a collective drive for more sustainable solutions, I have great confidence in what we can achieve together as leaders in our industries and jointly maximize value for our customers and the industry as a whole.