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Safety First When Columbia Creates Captivating Cabs

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, August 5, 2019 at 12:00:00 am

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:   UL Label

UL Label

Elevator cab design, a compendium of design, aesthetics, and safety concerns, affects more people in more ways than is commonly considered. While we have been exploring today’s adventurous and varied aesthetic applications and use of materials, all continue to strictly require at least one thing: fire safety and compliance with the code designed to assure it.

Since its earliest days, Columbia Elevator has been undertaking active steps to provide its customers with this fire safety assurance. Columbia was the first and remains the only company with Underwriters Laboratories (UL®) certification adherent to the requirements of Section 2 of the code (including the flame-spread and smoke-development ratings) in every cab we build.

The definitive way to accomplish this certification is to set up an end-use configuration and submit it to a Steiner Tunnel test.

  • This Steiner Tunnel test, developed in 1944 by Al Steiner of Underwriters Laboratories, defines widely-accepted standards in North America for evaluating various finishes for their ability to support and propagate fire, and the degree to which they emit smoke.
  • These UL® standards are used in the regulation and selection of materials for interior construction in the building trades.
  • The Steiner Tunnel test measures how fast a flame will move on a particular material by comparing it to the flame spread rate of a 1-inch thick by one-foot wide piece of oak, a slow-burning hardwood.



We use a lot of decorative laminate in Columbia cabs, but we can’t individually test just the laminate or any other component of the job. Instead, we must test the final product by the Steiner Tunnel test in its end-use configuration. Just because we use flame-retardant plastic laminate, fire-retardant particle board and fire-retardant adhesives, we cannot assume that combining the three together will result in a fire-retardant final product.

Over the years Columbia has tested many configurations, including the use of traditional solvent-based contact cement, which was revealed to perform very well in such tests.

  • This is because the solvent emulsifies the solids of the adhesive, to render it fluid in the drum while it is being sprayed, but, once the solvent flashes off and evaporates, what remains is just the neoprene, which is self-extinguishing and does not support combustion.
  • If one were to hold a blow torch to a piece of fire-retardant particle board, a hole would burn right through it, but as soon as the source of the flame is removed, it self-extinguishes and will not burn beyond that spot and spread the flame.
  • This is similarly true of flame-retardant plastic laminate.

Installers can make the serious mistake of applying flame-retardant plastic laminate onto flame-retardant particle board, using water-based adhesive or hot-melt glue, which contains no solvent, and incorrectly assume that this combination will be fire-retardant. In such a case, under the flame-spread test, one end of the board is heated with a blow torch to start a fire, causing the flame-retardant laminate to peel up. The laminate does not support combustion and neither does the particle board. But what does happen is that the adhesive itself begins to burn, and, as it does, the laminate continues to peel up further, and so on. Such a scenario presents a flame-spreading situation that fails the requirement of Section 2 of the code.

I think most people would be quite surprised to know the depth of strategy and complexity that goes into making their daily elevator trips as aesthetically pleasing-while-safe as they are. Going forward – as architectural boundaries continue to be pushed ever further – we will endeavor to keep it so that the passengers of the future will continue to be delighted by their elevator rides without ever having to give a thought to safety matters!



Private comment posted on November 22, 2019 at 12:57:00 am

Private comment posted on September 13, 2019 at 5:14:30 am

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