In The Hot Seat “computational models don’t really go far enough; much better to actually try and blow up one of our systems” December 2013 47 The wright stuff GGP talks to Tim Kempster, managing director of Wrightstyle, a company dedicated to protecting lives with a range of fire, ballistic and bomb proof solutions. GGP: What is Wrightstyle? Kempster: In many ways, our main goal at Wrightstyle is to push boundaries. We offer comprehensive ranges of external curtain walling and internal screens and doors to mitigate against fire, ballistic or bomb attack. We’ve also invested in the development of systems for large span configurations. However, we like nothing better than to work with designers to make architectural concepts into reality. For example, we worked with the conceptual design team on the facade of the newly reopened King’s Cross Station in London – a good example of integrating history with modern safety. GGP: How has the company developed? Kempster: Like any successful company, we’ve adapted and developed to meet changing market demands. We started as a supplier of steel glazing systems, but now also offer a design, fabrication and installation service because customers want competitive pricing and short supply chains. That was a massive gamble for us, because system companies and fabricators and installers had always been separate industries. However, our integration strategy was the right thing to do. We have also recently partnered with Shueco, the global facade company, to offer specialist aluminium systems, allowing us to meet a wider range of specifications. GGP: Do you have a corporate philosophy? Kempster: It may sound grandiose, but it’s to make the world a little bit safer. Grandiose or simplistic, maybe, but the best philosophies often are. Our company dates back to Hurricane Andrew and the Oklahoma terrorist bombing, both of which unleashed terrible carnage. Both events led to calls for the glass industry to develop stronger and safer glass types and framing systems, not only to protect against fire, but the huge forces that a superstorm can unleash – let alone the blast pressure of a terrorist bomb. Like others in the glass industry, we’ve invested significantly to make modern buildings safer and, if something bad happens, to protect lives. All said, it’s not a bad philosophy to have. GGP: What makes Wrightstyle different? Kempster: Apart from offering a one-stop design to installation service, which does make us different, we have fire test accreditation to European, US and Asia Pacific standards, because the market for our specialist systems is truly global. We’ve also carried out live ballistic and bomb testing. For us, computational models don’t really go far enough; much better to actually try and blow up one of our systems. That rigorous approach means that our glass and framing systems have been tested as one integrated unit and, as we never tire of emphasising, specifiers should always require tested integration. In the event of a fire, if one element in the system fails, the whole system fails. GGP: Do you have an international outlook? Kempster: The specialist glass market has changed, no doubt about it, with stringent fire and other safety regulations being enforced across more jurisdictions – but with only a small handful of suppliers able to meet those specifications. We therefore now supply systems and pre-fabricated product internationally, from the USA to Australasia, and everywhere in between. Recently, for example, we have supplied to the Dubai Metro, a stadium in South Africa, a university in Malta, shopping centres in Beirut and Athens and a major heritage site in the USA. We do therefore have an international outlook, because our market is global. GGP: What does the future hold? Kempster: Like others in the glass industry, we will continue to invest in stronger and smarter glazing systems – both to better protect against all natural and man-made threats, and to integrate Low-E or other smart glass technologies. In the future, nanotechnology will deliver a new generation of glass types in large spans not yet possible to manufacture, and incorporating all kinds of climate control wizardry. We want to be part of that future, doing what we can to deliver ever improving glazing systems – and, yes, helping to make the world a little bit safer.
GGP December 2013
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