The following article was originally published in March 2013. It was written by our company's founder, Jeff Lange. We've updated it to reflect current industry facts and trends. Although there are no regulations in place for the design and construction of blast-resistant buildings, many of us are working toward that goal. In the meantime, here is a list of questions everyone should ask before buying a blast-resistant building. 1. Was the Module designed and tested by a blast expert? The science of blast-resistant building design is no longer a new science, but it is still true that only a small group of experts have tested their designs. Make sure your blast-resistant building design has been taken off the drawing board and successfully blast-tested under the supervision of a well credentialed engineer. There's no shame in asking about your vendor's "experts." Even if they are civil or structural engineers, it's worth knowing about their training and background. Do they have years of experience in the science of blast-resistant design, or did they take a three day course to qualify them?
Choosing a blast-resistant building can be tricky. It’s not just a matter of deciding on a design and picking the amenities you want. Some factors come into play, and without the right partner or planning, it can seem like a complicated maneuver to get what you need to protect your site.
If you’ve worked in the oil and gas industry, you’ve probably heard a lot about OSHA regulations, or the term Process Safety Management. This article will touch on just one part of that system, the process hazard analysis, and the facility siting study that it will call for. The cost of a facility siting study is not an expense that one generally looks forward to. Still, when it could mean the difference between proactively spending money on a study, versus reactively spending money to pay for repairs, lawsuits, or damages, it’s easy to see the clear choice. RedGuard, for many years a leader in designing blast-resistant buildings, also offers niche engineering services specifically related to explosion resistance in classified areas. Our experts include specialists in the energy sector, risk management, as well as structural engineers, and chemical engineers with many years of experience in the analysis of impact and blast response. Our expertise in blast response comes from being pioneers in the industry.
At RedGuard, we realized from the beginning that having a culture centered around safety just made sense. We create a product designed to keep people safe, to ensure that at the end of the day, someone working in one of our buildings is going home to their family, even if the unthinkable happens.
Developing good safety habits in a manufacturing setting, refinery, or other industrial setting is the first step in cultivating a culture where safety is the first priority. This is beneficial for legal reasons if you're the person responsible for ensuring the safety of your team, but, as a short-term benefit, you can watch for improved morale. The long-term benefit is improved workplace health and safety performance and a culture that sustains itself when employees embrace safety and set an example to new teammates. We sat down with Steve Crider to discuss these benefits.
We’ve written recently about the problems with blast-resistant buildings, and one problem that we hear about sometimes has to do with blast-resistant doors. Blast-resistant doors are made of steel and weigh-in at around 450 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for a door, considering the average solid-core door on a home weighs well under 100 pounds.
Purchasing a blast-resistant building is no small responsibility to undertake. It involves months of planning (sometimes more than a year), depending on the scope of the project. Part of the due diligence on an investment of this size and magnitude is not only looking for benefits but also in looking at the challenges that one might encounter.
Every industry has its jargon, and after a while, it’s easy to forget that not everyone understands the terminology that we often hear on an everyday basis. This is especially true if you’ve just started in your career and haven't learned it all yet. Even those who have worked in an industry for a long time may not want to admit they don’t know the meaning of a common acronym, even if they understand its usage.
This content was created for and originally published in the May 2019 issue of Chemical Engineering. It was written by Bryan Bulling, one of RedGuard's subject matter experts and our Northeastern US Regional Area Manager. In March of 2019, two separate explosions and fires in the Houston area reminded those of us who work in, or close to the chemical industry, of the risks and dangers present in chemical facilities. Chemical plants in Crosby and Deer Park, Texas both witnessed explosions and fires that resulted in injuries, damage, environmental impact, and negative public blowback. In both cases, it took several hours or more for crews to regain control over the incidents. In the meantime, nearby residents, schools, and businesses hunkered down under shelter-in-place orders. Both facilities are reportedly named in lawsuits.
In an industry that is as young as that of blast-resistant buildings, much of the terminology is still very new. This industry only came to be in 2005, after an explosion at a Texas City refinery that killed 15 people and injured nearly 200.
In the oil and gas industry, there are no federal laws or regulations that control what precautions a facility has to take to maintain a protective environment in the event of an explosion on their site. (OSHA dictates a Process Hazard Analysis every five years, but leaves the methods of fulfilling that open to interpretation.)
This article was originally published in September of 2012. It has been updated to reflect current industry findings. In the blast-resistant building industry, we toss around the term "response level" all the time and assume everyone knows what it means. And maybe everyone does, but the difference between a low response building and a high response building can mean the difference between life and death, so it's worth a closer look, even if you already know the basics.
When scrutinizing blast-resistant structures, one of the first considerations to make will be the type of structure that you need. You should always make decisions based on the particular needs of your facility, based on determinations from your facility siting study or similar recommended practices.
The following article was originally published in the June/July 2018 issue of BIC magazine. It was written by Bryan Bulling, one of RedGuard's subject matter experts and our Northeastern US Regional Area Manager. As a building designer, I watched some of last year’s disturbing events unfold with both great sadness and professional interest — Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida; and the seemingly endless list of cyber-related breaches. These all revealed areas where we can and should begin to address new safety and security measures. During this critical moment in environmental health and safety, I would like to offer some topics and insights that might prompt engineers and designers to improve the safety and security for the occupants of your buildings. What Can We Take Away from These Disasters? Who in the oil and gas industry can forget the flooding, damage and subsequent costs associated with Hurricane Harvey? The storm was one of the worst hurricanes ever seen, presenting lessons for tomorrow’s engineers and designers who are developing, siting and budgeting future buildings. Refineries and chemical facilities are typically built on water sources with fluctuating levels; designs with strong environmental considerations are opportunities to address the apparent changes in climate and the seemingly escalating severity of flooding. Preserving operations and control during an event by designing to increasing environmental hazards is more relevant today than it was 30 years ago and deserves attention in the design phase. Although Hurricane Irma did not affect our industry like Harvey did, it stands as a reminder of the critical importance of sound energy and power infrastructure and the results when the maintenance of those systems is ignored. While it may seem outrageous, consider the ramifications of a massive event in which power and communications infrastructure are destroyed across a large area, like Houston, or an entire region, like the Gulf Coast. How would your facility fare during a prolonged outage? Reliable, protected and well-designed facilities with backup plans offer protection against outrageous and unthinkable events. Other Areas for Improvement Another area where safety can be improved through building design is addressing active shooter strategies. Much of my work is related to creating an on-site safe haven during toxic releases, fires or explosions. I now include at least some discussion around protecting staff against an active shooter, treating it just as I would any other hazard. To increase survivability in these worst-case scenarios, building plans could include: Hard, physical architectural elements that act as obstructions, A technology that allows for communication, And an operational plan that goes into effect during a hazardous event. In most O&G facilities, these attributes already exist; improving each element through better building design is feasible and realistic. Automatic locking doors, hardened safe rooms, and reinforced or ballistic glass throughout a building are easy opportunities to upgrade security. Facility siting also presents an excellent opportunity to address this specific safety threat. While surveillance and security measures are robust and present in most facilities these days, the ability to quickly identify a dangerous intruder is not. Using the Las Vegas attack of October 2017 as an example, how would most facilities stand up to a shooter outside the fence line? Situating a security building or control building with an active shooter scenario in mind — such as on a higher elevation, with improved sightlines, and at a distance that offers an opportunity to activate alarms and quickly lockdown — can dramatically reduce the abilities of a threatening presence. By now, we are all aware of the effects of cyber-related terrorism on various online platforms. While most of the attacks occur hidden in a digital dimension, we cannot lose focus on the vulnerability of the hard assets, including servers, networks, power/backup power components and central processing equipment typically found in facilities. While there are no absolute solutions to the rather unpredictable and sometimes horrifying situations that affect our safety and security, we do have the skills and abilities to outthink and maneuver with protective measures. For more information, or if you or your facility have any interest in starting a discussion around facility hazards, visit www.redguard.com or contact me at email@example.com.
Explaining TRIR and Why It's Important At RedGuard, we take safety seriously, even down to saying that safety is in our culture. One of the ways we measure that is our TRIR, or Total Recordable Incident Rate. As a manufacturer of blast-resistant buildings, it makes sense that knowing our safety rating would also be important to our customers. After all, if a company won't share their safety rating and they make a product designed to keep you safe, you're already starting on the wrong foot. So, as you can imagine, "What's your safety rating?" is a question our team gets asked fairly often. Here's how we approach that.
What Affects the Price of a Blast Resistant Building? If hazardous areas are part of life on your worksite, you’ve probably arrived here to determine what the real costs are associated with getting outfitted for safety. For many, a facility siting study indicates the need for blast-resistant buildings, or BRBs, to protect your team and valuable assets in the event of an explosion. Many factors can affect the cost of a BRB, such as whether you lease standard units, lease modified standard units, or choose to have your BRB custom built. Here are some points to address when getting a bid from a manufacturer:
When a blast event occurs at a facility in the oil and gas industry, blackouts, disorientation, concussions, internal bleeding, and even fatalities can occur. While the latter components are widely published in the aftermath of an event, what is less known is the far-reaching and negative financial impacts of both personal injuries and structural damage. Discovering the impact of a blast event requires an in-depth look at the trickle-down and oftentimes continuous financial costs of the incident.
Can you afford not to have a blast-resistant building on-site? By their very nature, companies in the oil and gas sector handle highly volatile materials. As such, these companies should take the steps needed to protect both their personnel and facilities from the extensive damage that can occur during a blast event. Fortunately, a blast-resistant building (which is also referred to as a blast-resistant module, BRB, or BRM), can be the very solution that companies need to protect personnel and mission critical equipment during and after a blast event.
Everyday our sales directors are out in the field, meeting with customers and potential customers about blast-resistant buildings. This amounts to potentially hundreds of meetings a year. Our team is made up of professionals, subject matter experts in blast-resistant structures. They ascertain needs, they give "lunch and learn" presentations, and they listen.
It’s a pleasure when a client gives you free rein to run with a project, show what your product is truly capable of and design what the client really needs. When a client gave RedGuard such an opportunity, we were able to push the envelope for blast-resistant building design.
When working on a design/build project, a firm grasp of its intended purpose is critical to get the project’s design and estimate on the right track early. Recently, I participated in a discussion with a gas facility’s project team to establish design parameters for a control room project. As I took notes, I noticed that the terms “shelter-in-place” and “safe haven” were being used interchangeably to describe the building’s attributes by members of the team, as if they were the same. I immediately recognized the need to research the designations to educate the team on the unique characteristics of each. After some research, here’s what I found.
Imagine the scenario:
Blast-resistant building design gets more fun every year. The original designs conceived by RedGuard in 2005 were “bare bones,” which still have endless applications — from guard shacks to tool cribs. The latest blast-resistant building design interiors look more like luxury offices than metal buildings, with new variations emerging all the time. With corrugated metal as our basic building block, there’s no end to what we can do.
Safety can often mean different things to different people. Even within the same company, one person’s opinion on what’s considered “safe” may prove to be completely different from that of the person they work beside each and every day. To ensure that everyone is always on the same page, it’s important that companies institute an in-depth corporate safety program that will develop common beliefs and supports a culture that—above all—values the well-being of everyone who steps foot within the operation.
When a major refiner came to RedGuard in 2005 asking us to design a blast-resistant building (BRB), we knew immediately this was the reason we were in business. We saw the potential for creating an important product for safety developed around this new type of building that could massively cut construction costs for refiners, yet do a better job than traditional buildings when it came to protecting personnel.
Let’s face it. Petrochemical management comes with more than its share of headaches. From coordinating subcontractor work schedules to jumping through compliance hoops, it can feel like you’re running through quicksand. But with proper planning and the right vendors, there are ways to make it easier. At RedGuard, we’re doing everything we can to streamline the process of buying and leasing blast-resistant buildings (BRBs). We want to make blast resistance easy.
A turnaround is a lot like a military exercise. You have to deploy specialized units of personnel onto different parts of the field, furnish them with the right equipment, keep them fed, facilitate a chain of command, reorganize resources into constantly changing configurations of efficiency and, most importantly, keep your people alive. One of your enemies in this battle is time because lost productivity can cost millions of dollars per day.
We all have too many plates spinning when the turnaround season shifts into full swing, so it’s important to plan early for the additional and replacement buildings you’ll need at your facility during this busy time. You should organize the blast-resistant buildings that you will lease many months ahead to save on shipping costs and assure you’ll have the units you need on time. But leased blast-resistant units for turnarounds are only part of the planning picture. Early in the year is the time to take a look at your entire strategy for blast protection, including the permanent units you plan to purchase.
Blast-resistant modular buildings are becoming standard fixtures in petrochemical operations around the world, replacing traditional buildings at a lower cost and with a shorter construction time. But the technology is still new enough that we get a lot of questions on the specifics of incorporating these life-saving structures into operations. Most people are surprised at how simple it is. It begins with a site study.
A custom home builder doesn’t toss a stack of plans in front of you and tell you to pick one. You tell them what you want, maybe sketching out some floor plan ideas and a list of options and amenities. Then they work with you to turn it into a viable architectural design.
When our first lease units rolled off the production line years ago, blast-resistant buildings (BRBs) were pretty standard. Our first goal was to design the best blast protection in the world — which we did — but features and options were very limited in the beginning. Our next step was to find new ways to meet as many different client needs as possible, in terms of size, options, amenities and regulatory compliance. RedGuard’s LeaseFleet, currently the largest lease-ready fleet of BRBs of its kind, offers more options than we ever dreamed of when we helped launch this industry.
RedGuard has spent many years focusing on how to build the best blast-resistant building (BRB) in the world, but we’ve also been listening to our customers and learning how they operate during the transition to safer and more productive work spaces. In the early stages of the BRB industry, our customers usually specified the requirements of the products we built for them but, today, we’re making the process easier by taking on increasing amounts of the operational planning that goes into adding blast protection to a petrochemical facility. Once you give us a site study, we can take significant portions of the process off your shoulders. The result is a low-impact, money-saving BRB installation that integrates seamlessly with your operation, allowing you to concentrate on the rest of your job.
A lot of myths still surround the use of blast-resistant buildings (BRBs) as traditional building replacements. If you’re planning construction at your facility, this article could help you save hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention countless lives.
As the petrochemical industry returns to a regular maintenance cycle after the cutbacks of 2009 and 2010, turnaround planning is ramping up nationwide. Now that the use of office trailers is declining in blast zones, demand for blast-resistant buildings (BRBs) is headed for an all-time high. At RedGuard, we’ve been aggressively increasing our inventory of lease unit BRBs in anticipation of this upswing. Still, nationwide demand is expected to exceed supply, so this should be one of the first calls made by turnaround planners, if they hope to maximize all the benefits of work site blast protection.
The upsizing and downsizing game is part of life in a petrochemical refinery. From capital expansions that reposition limited staff and resources to turnarounds that change the face of an entire operation, it’s crucial to work through these changes with minimum interruption to business flow. Safety becomes a bigger concern than ever, and it’s important to choose trustworthy partners during these precarious times. Your choice of suppliers for temporary, blast-resistant buildings (BRBs) is a big one.
Everyone talks about safety, as we should in the petrochemical industry, but there are some gray areas in blast zone safety ratings. So, it’s equally important to talk about reliability. Yes, a building can be rated for a certain zone, but if it’s rated “high response” (which means “high damage”) in that zone, there will almost certainly be casualties if people are in the unit during a blast event.
There was a time when the science of blast protection was poorly understood. We built petrochemical control centers out of reinforced concrete or masonry blocks because it was the best-known construction method, but it was never a good solution to the challenge of protecting the people inside. Now we have a new option, and the industry has aggressively adopted it.
There are no college degrees in blast engineering. This specialty can only be learned in the “real world,” and even there, only a small handful of people have the experience to be considered experts. When RedGuard decided to start making blast-resistant buildings in 2005, we talked to everyone who knew anything about the subject, and one name quickly rose to the top of the list: Ali Sari, Ph.D., PE.
The petrochemical industry is rapidly responding to the fact that too many blast zones contain buildings that can’t withstand a blast. While some companies are still trying to tackle the problem with traditional construction methods, there is a widespread movement toward the use of modular, metal buildings because of their proven ability to protect personnel.
Blast-resistant building design is a relatively unexplored frontier. For one thing, very little research has been done on the actual effects of blasts on various types of structures. Then there are aesthetic and psychological considerations. In addition to making a building safe, it’s important to create interior spaces that are functional and provide appropriate levels of comfort for personnel.
In 2005, my team was called in to investigate the Texas City, Texas, refinery disaster. I’ll never forget what I saw there — where wood-frame office trailers had stood, only splinters remained. Fifteen people died because they were housed in those trailers. All I could think was there has to be a better way.