View Full Version : More on fire suppression systems

T. Ashley McGrew
06-19-2012, 07:31 PM
This post, like so many other great ones, comes to us courtesy of the RCAAM listserve and from Maureen McCormick - Chief Registrar at the Princeton University Art Museum specifically. The search for the best approach(es) to mitigate or prevent damage to collections from fires is ongoing and complex. This product may be just the right solution for some kinds of collections under the right conditions. It is certainly something to be aware of and to consider when making improvements to existing systems or for new facilities. In so many situations especially where - as is often the case - the structure itself is designed as a storage space, the damage that a collection may sustain may be more a result of the by-products or reactions to fire (smoke or water damage) than to the fire itself.
I hope to run this 3M product by some more folks on some of the AIC listserves to find out more about their interpretation of what effects it may have on different kinds of materials. Hopefully one or more of them will respond to this thread to help to direct the best application(s) of this specific technology.
Thanks Maureen!
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Here at Princeton we are in the middle of upgrading two of our storage areas with Novec 1230 (aka Sapphire). These rooms store works on paper and currently have a 25+ year old halon system. The tanks are leaking agent as the rubber gaskets have deteriorated and no longer effectively seal the tanks. No one is manufacturing spare parts for halon systems, for obvious reasons, and if were to manufacture our own gaskets we would lose the UL listing. So, for the want of a few gaskets we are having to empty two storage areas of over 30,000 works on paper, install the new system, and then do it all backwards and in high heels (apologies to Ginger Rogers).

Inergen is a 'green' agent, but it does require two things that we are not able to provide in this scenario. First, it takes much more agent than halon, whereas Novec requires a tank that is only slightly larger than the existing halon tanks. This means we will not lose any precious space in our already full to the brim store rooms. Secondly, it works by displacing the oxygen in the room (if I understand it correctly) and so it must vent into another area (via 'blowout panels' which speaks for itself). The configuration and adjacencies of our two storage areas do not allow for venting.

In doing research on Novec v. other clean agents we were told that Novec discharges with less pressure than halon, Inergen, or FM200. It discharges as a liquid and then vaporizes almost instantaneously (they call it a 'liquid vapor'). You can see it in action here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyijSqcLazg&feature=endscreen&NR=1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyijSqcLazg&feature=endscreen&NR=1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb0Px5YWspc&feature=related (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb0Px5YWspc&feature=related)

Whereas Inergen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--11P6TxZ_U (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--11P6TxZ_U)

Too good to be true? Depending on who you ask, yes. There is some concern about the fact that at the point of contact with fire, a small amount of hydrofluoric acid is produced. Of course, fire produces toxic byproducts as well (never mind the fact that it destroys works on paper) and so we decided that the benefits outweighed the risks for our particular application. It is also more expensive than Inergen, so if you have loads of space and the ability to vent a room, you'll save money with Inergen.

Anybody else out there using Novec 1230? I know that the National Gallery has at least a couple of installations (similar situation to us: a retrofit in an old building), as does the CCAHA in Philadelphia. If your museum/institution has a Novec installation I'm sure the list would like to know. Cheers, Maureen

Maureen McCormick | Chief Registrar
Princeton University Art Museum
Princeton, NJ 08544-1018