Factory N°09 – A modern office concept in a former factory

The modern workplaces at Villeroy & Boch’s new office and conference centre have been equipped with a sophisticated fire protection solution from KGG Brandschutzsysteme GmBH and Becker-Antriebe GmbH

The results are always exciting when venerable buildings are combined with visionary ideas. A particularly impressive example is the new Factory No09 from Villeroy & Boch that was completed in 2018. Yet it is only the name that acts as a reminder to the past use of this building that once housed storage and production areas. The traditional structures have been unravelled in the new office and conference centre to provide a wide range of different workspaces: Open spaces and varied working areas promote communication and cooperation amongst the more than 200 employees from the areas of marketing, online services, PR and product development and management. The building – whose centrepiece is a large oak staircase in the new entrance area – offers around 4,500 square meters of space across 3 floors. Anyone ascending this staircase is probably completely unaware of the fact as they climb from the ground to the first floor that it conceals a clever solution providing hidden fire protection.

A powerful but cleverly hidden safety solution

As an expert and one of the leading suppliers of textile smoke and fire protection closures in Europe, the company behind the solution was KGG Brandschutzsysteme GmbH from Wallerstein in the Swabia region of Germany. Managing Director Harald Glöckner: “The special challenge we faced in this project was to satisfy a variety of different requirements. On the one hand, they included of course safety regulations, while on the other hand, specific architectural concepts. The problem was to work out how to quickly and reliably secure the area around the self-supporting staircase in the event of a fire without the system disrupting the overall sense of openness during everyday use. In other words, to deliver a fire protection solution that cannot be seen.” It was apparent that the solution needed to pass through the staircase in order to guarantee the required level of safety. This was also a challenge that involved lots of planning and discussions. In the end, the last two steps on the staircase including the railings were discreetly lowered to make space for a horizontal fire protection curtain. The curtain closes automatically along horizontal guide rails in the event of a fire – supported by a spring-loaded mechanism and drives that of course also had to be designed to work even if the power supply has been interrupted.

“The specifications stipulated by the architect were that the rails had to be kept clear under normal conditions. And this is the very advantage offered by our systems. They are extremely small and can thus be easily integrated into the building”, emphasised the Managing Director of KGG. “In addition, we also rely on strong partners to deliver our solutions who just like us are well prepared to tackle special challenges.” One of these partners is Becker-Antriebe GmbH. As a specialist for automated drives for roller shutters, sun protection systems and doors, the company based in Hesse has also made a name for itself in the field of fire protection and has worked together closely with KGG for many years. “Whenever we require support, somebody from Becker is always to hand. This is something that we appreciate just as much as the high quality of the solutions”, emphasised Harald Glöckner.

Textile fire protection with a smart drive system

A special design that combined the expertise of both companies was also required for the vertical fire protection curtains around the staircase. It needed to use smooth-running motors fitted with high ratio gears. Ultimately, the gears still need to be able to turn in an emergency despite being exposed to high forces. An electromagnetic brake fitted in the motor reliably holds the fire protection curtains in their raised state during normal operation. However, the power supply to the brake is deactivated as soon as one of the connected smoke alarms is triggered. To ensure that the curtain does not fall in an uncontrolled manner, the motor is also fitted with a mechanical centrifugal brake system. It ensures that the curtain closes at a defined speed of 0.2 meters per second. The fire protection curtains measuring about 4 metres in length and made out of heat-resistant glass filament fabric are fully lowered after around 20 seconds – and they are capable of holding back a blazing fire for at least 30 minutes.

Fortunately, the design has only been required to prove its capabilities during fire drills. Following the successful completion of a fire drill or after routine maintenance, the curtains can be easily raised back up again thanks to the powerful motors from Becker. “Fire protection is extremely important because a building cannot be placed into service without a reliable fire protection system. We are tremendously proud of the fact that we have been able to make a contribution to Factory N°09 together with Becker.”

More information about Factory N°09: https://www.villeroyboch.com/fabrikn09