Construction materials

A safety testing laboratory evaluates the resistance of buildings and construction materials

When you think of lab safety, the first things that come to mind are personal protective equipment, chemical containment, or safety protocols. But what about the security of the lab building itself? Modern buildings must be constructed to several stringent safety standards, ranging from fire safety to resistance to natural disasters, and materials and structures must be tested and certified to industry standards. That’s where safety testing labs like Intertek York come in.

From assessing how well buildings can withstand natural disasters to checking how long windows and doors can withstand various threats, Intertek York has the facilities to assess a wide range of building issues. security. With laboratories in over 100 countries, Intertek serves a wide variety of industries. Their Building & Construction division has grown significantly over the past decade, and the York, Pennsylvania lab (formerly Architectural Testing Inc.) is one of their most recent acquisitions, having joined the company in 2013. York Lab’s existing facilities added to Intertek’s fenestration, thermal and acoustic testing capabilities, which they have since expanded to incorporate more security testing methods.

Customers can use York’s laboratory facilities to test products ranging from small sample materials to complete building models.

Serving building product manufacturers worldwide, Intertek York provides assurance testing, inspections and certifications to meet a variety of regulatory and code requirements, such as the International Building Code and Northern Standard -American windows. Customers can use York’s laboratory facilities to test products ranging from small sample materials to complete building models. As one of 17 North American Intertek labs, the York lab has several areas of security testing that overlap with other labs, but it offers a few unique services.

Water, Wind and Fire Hazards

Environmental hazards, both natural and man-made, are one of the main focus areas of Intertek’s York lab. Hurricane safety testing wasn’t standard until Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s, but it’s now one of the most popular services offered by the York lab. The unique combination of wind, water, and airborne debris created by a hurricane poses a distinct set of challenges for buildings. Intertek York offers two types of tests that address this specific category of hazard: dynamic water tests and wind-blown debris tests.

Wind Blown Debris Testing for Hurricane Prone Areas per TAS 201 and ASTM E1886/E1996 – Large Missile Impact Test

Intertek York

While many building materials have established water resistance ratings, dynamic water testing takes things a step further by evaluating how materials and structures perform under simulated storm conditions. Tom Lawlor, Project Testing Manager at York, explains that storm conditions are created by continuously spraying water on the outside of the structure under test while also using a four-meter propeller powered by a large engine. aircraft to produce the wind effect. rain. With the added ability to set the test chamber to specific cyclic and static air pressures, dynamic water testing allows the lab to determine if there are sections of the structure that could be causing problems in stormy weather. “The dynamic test will force water into/over these areas, even retaining water in specific locations due to the turbulent characteristics of the enclosure design,” adds Lawlor.

Blast testing is shown here using a shock tube per ASTM F1642, F2927 and GSA-TS01

Blast testing is shown here using a shock tube per ASTM F1642, F2927 and GSA-TS01

Intertek York

Windblown debris is another safety issue present in storms with high winds. Intertek York Laboratory simulates the possibility of debris impact damage using its Missile Impact Cannon. This air cannon fires 8 foot lengths of 2×4 lumber up to 34 miles per hour through the building product being tested, whether it is a window, wall, door, or roof. a structural model. Depending on the type of standard the customer must meet, products may be graded on a pass/fail system, or they may be given a grade based on their strength. Like dynamic water testing, this type of testing is especially popular with building product manufacturers who sell their products in hurricane-prone areas.

Intertek York also offers a wide range of fire testing services to help customers verify that their building products or systems meet designated fire safety requirements. In addition to basic fire resistance and flammability tests, the laboratory can test a number of more specific fire-related qualities in materials and structures. A specific test assesses how flames spread from the source of spread across different materials, including the speed at which they spread and the distance or depth to the burnt material. This type of test can be particularly useful for walls or other structures made up of multiple layers of material, as it can help determine if specific components, such as internal insulation or external cladding, still meet required safety standards. in combination. Tests can also be done to establish how long structures maintain compartmentalization and to see the amount of smoke or heat given off during combustion. Since fire safety is a universal concern, such tests are always in demand.

Three men attempt to break down a door with crowbars while two other men watch

Lab personnel demonstrate the ASTM F3038 time rating of forcible entry resistant systems.

Intertek York

External threats to buildings

The other key area of ​​security assessments performed by the Intertek York lab is threat resistance testing. Their Security Research Center (SRC) is one of five laboratories in the United States approved by the Department of State for burglary and ballistic resistance testing. “Typically, customers for these tests manufacture products for government buildings or military bases,” said Travis Hoover, Intertek’s SRC program manager. “They are also used by customers who sell products to the Department of State for embassies, schools/universities, banks and courthouses.”

One of the most unique types of safety testing offered by Intertek York comes in the form of its pneumatic shock tube. This large tube is used to test the resistance of various materials and construction products to shock waves, such as those that would be produced by explosions. But how does it work exactly? Hoover describes the process:

“Using compressed air, the blow tube produces a shock wave which is subjected to the sample, which is fixed downstream in the tube. The test is performed at a specific breath pressure and pulse duration, and then, based on product performance, a breath rating is determined.

Safety glazing testing to North American and European standards (image is European standard).

Safety glazing testing to North American and European standards (image is European standard).

Intertek York

This pneumatic shock tube test is not a widely available type of test, which means that this service is in high demand. The test requires a building that can withstand the pressure exerted by the shock tube, as well as numerous safety protocols. “The shock tube sits inside the lab, so when a breath test is performed, sirens, alarms and flashing lights are triggered to alert anyone nearby that a breath test is underway,” adds Hoover. “Everyone in the building should stay inside the office area or control room during the blast test.”

Another popular type of threat resistance test performed in the lab is the Forced Entry Resistance (FER) test, which assesses how well a window or door resists break-in attempts. “FER testing is done individually or collectively,” says Hoover. “Staff are making a concentrated assault using hand tools in an attempt to create an opening in the product to gain access.”

Essentially, a group of people are given tools like hammers and told to try and break into a product like a door. The product is then rated on how long it takes to break through or the degree to which it could be penetrated, depending on the test method and standard required by the customer. Of course, adds Hoover, “proper PPE must be used by those participating in the attack, as safety is the number one priority.”

Ballistic resistant test barrel pointed at the barrel.

Ballistic resistance tests according to UL 752, NIJ0108.01, EN 1063 and DOS SD-STD-01.01.

Intertek York

Grow in the future

Intertek York Laboratory offers a wide variety of other safety tests for the building and construction industry, including safety glazing tests, fall prevention New York, curtain wall tests and ballistic tests. They also work closely with other Intertek labs to provide one of the most comprehensive safety testing catalogs in North America. Although they have faced challenges over the past few years due to the pandemic and economic downturn, the variety of services they offer allows them to adapt. “Our lab in York has been around since the 1970s,” says Regional Sales Manager Jose Colon. “We are proud of our technical expertise and our test equipment.

In line with the expansion and growth of Intertek as a company, the York lab is sure to continue to develop and refine its testing offerings. Just as hurricane testing didn’t happen until the 1990s, there has been a recent surge in demand for ballistics and school safety testing and they’ve taken that change in stride. “[Intertek York is] always testing new building product technologies,” says Colon, “and exciting new products are coming to market.”


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