Natural disasters, security issues are no match for new DuraDuct LT system.

DuraSystems says its DuraDuct product is capable of being installed in tight spaces. Image courtesy of DuraSystems Barriers Inc.
VAUGHAN, Ontario - It's been blasted with explosives, exposed to fire, doused with gallons of water and even hit with a bulldozer.

DuraDuct, manufactured by DuraSystems Barriers Inc., has taken a great deal of company-sponsored abuse over the years. But company officials say that just proves it can withstand possible environmental hazards in commercial buildings.

DuraDuct has been available for more than 20 years, and has been installed in several high-profile construction projects. Recently, the company introduced the next generation of the product, DuraDuct LT. The new product can take on blasts and fires just like its predecessor, but according to the company, it is now lighter and easier to install.

DuraDuct LT was blast tested at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio using powerful explosives. Image courtesy of DuraSystems Barriers Inc.

Safe and secure

DuraDuct LT made its debut Feb. 7-9 during the 2005 AHR Expo in Orlando, Fla. According to Bill Duffy, owner of DuraSystems, the new product has been welcomed by the construction industry.

"We have received very positive feedback from engineers, architects and clients," he said.

Many contractors are already familiar with its DuraSystems products and the rigorous regular testing they face.

"We are continually testing and doing research and development, keeping in mind safety," said Duffy.

For those unfamiliar with the lengths DuraSystems will go to make sure its products are reliable, the company presented a video to AHR Expo attendees. It showed the DuraDuct and new DuraDuct LT undergoing blast, fire, impact and moisture testing.

The DuraDuct and DuraDuct LT are both manufactured from noncombustible material and come in galvanized, stainless or specialty metals. Two metal sheets are mechanically bonded with a fiber-cement core. The original DuraDuct product is manufactured with a duct-wall thickness of 9.5 mm (three-eighths of an inch). It is also constructed with a welded iron angle frame. The new DuraDuct LT has a thickness of 6 mm (a quarter of an inch), and is constructed with a proprietory sheet metal flange. The sheet metal skin is held in place with rivets. According to DuraSystems, the new DuraDuct version is lighter than its predecessor and easier to install. The company said that the new product can be installed in smaller, tighter spaces.

Although the DuraDuct LT is lighter, it is still just as durable as the original, officials add. The production allows the ducts to withstand blasts and fires. To prove this, DuraSystems took its DuraDuct products to the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Blast testing was performed on both models using powerful explosives. In each case, the DuraSystems ducts withstood the blasts and were still able to provide ventilation.

If that wasn't enough, just to make sure the product was sturdy, a bulldozer was slammed repeatedly into the ducts. The ducts were dented, but were never destroyed.

All of this "abuse" is important, company officials say.

"We believe that most of the fires that start in buildings usually start with a blast or explosion," said Duffy. In the event of a blast in a commercial structure, the DuraDuct system will still do its job, he added.

The Canary Wharf project in London included the construction of Canary Wharf Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the United Kingdom. DuraSystems products were installed in several of the buildings. Image courtesy of DuraSystems Barriers Inc.

Moving up

DuraDuct has been installed in several high-profile construction projects around the world, including a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong and the University of Alabama.

DuraDuct is even involved in transportation. The ducts were installed in the Underground, London's famous subway system. Duffy explained that ventilation systems near subway platforms have very particular challenges. When subway cars pass through the tunnels and stop to pick up passengers, overpressure can occur within the ducts and disrupt ventilation. With DuraDuct, the problem is eliminated.

DuraSystems also manufactures fire doors, blast walls, and oil and gas pipe cable trays from the same DuraSteel. These products have been used for offshore drilling projects, telecommunications facilities and several other projects where critical systems needed vital protection.

But of all the DuraSystems projects, Duffy said that he is most proud of the work his company has done to help make the Canary Wharf in London a reality. Canary Wharf is a business development, home to several financial centers, shopping malls and restaurants. But prior to 1988, this eight-square-mile area was deserted.

A Canadian developer, Olympia and York, bought the land and got construction started. The developer contacted DuraSystems to supply its DuraDuct for each of the buildings that would stand on the old London Docklands, a collection of long-abandoned ports on the city's east side.

DuraSystems has supplied over 20 million square feet of its DuraDuct and DuraSteel products to the project, which is continuing. The company's ducts can be found in almost every one of the 20 buildings on the site, including one of the tallest buildings in the United Kingdom: 1 Canada Square, also known as Canary Wharf Tower.

Besides DuraDuct, many of the Canary Wharf structures use DuraSteel cable enclosures to protect critical systems.

DuraSystems installed several of its DuraDucts at the University of Alabama. Image courtesy of DuraSystems Barriers Inc.

More exposure

Duffy said his DuraSteel products also help to protect occupants. For example, he said DuraDuct and DuraSteel are perfect for government buildings and high-rise office spaces that are potential terrorist targets. He believes that it is particularly useful in stairwells. In the event of a fire in a high-rise building, the DuraDuct and DuraDuct LT will pressurize evacuation stairwells.

Duffy said that the same products that protect offshore drilling as well as skyscrapers can be a huge benefit to buildings in the United States. In addition to the University of Alabama, DuraDuct has already been installed in a power plant in Georgia. However, the company is still looking for more exposure in the United States, he added. The company is also currently looking for distributors to manufacture its ducts and flat panels.