A Conversation with Gary Wolfe – Executive Vice President, International Fireproof Technology, Inc.
By Ryan Spencer
With a full line of life safety and fire safety products, International Fireproof Technology Inc. (IFTI) has made an especially significant impact in the spray foam industry with its flagship DC315 intumescent coating. Spray Foam Magazine had a conversation with Gary Wolfe, IFTI’s Executive Vice President, about fire protective coatings and SPF.
Spray Foam Magazine: What’s your background at IFTI?
Gary Wolfe: I was there at the beginning when we started about eight years ago. Originally, I was brought in to run the sales and marketing of what at the time was a new company.
SFM: What was the driving factor in founding IFTI?
GW: There was a line of patented products that were being OEMed to third parties, and we looked at a bunch of factors and said we should bring these to market under our own name, and that’s when they brought me in to take the product line worldwide. But we weren’t just looking to get out there and sell “me too” products, but market leading products, so we took a deep breath and looked at the market, and the places we wanted to be were wood, gypsum, firestop, and SPF.
SFM: What challenges were involved in bringing these products to market?
GW: We realized as we looked at entering the category that there were competitive products that just weren’t at the level of the products that we were bringing out, as far as the testing and certification. At that time, I said, “If we’re going to be in this category, the only way I’m going to run this is if I know that we have the most tested and proven product in the world, because it’s my reputation and my conscience.” If it’s not tested, if we can’t show you a test, if we can’t prove that it’s tested, then we would be no better than everyone else. That’s when we came out with our corporate mantra, which is ‘the proof is in the testing,’ and that mantra is what we founded the company by, and follow to this very day.
SFM: How did you address each of the three spaces you mentioned–wood, gypsum, and SPF?
GW: We started with a product called DC333, which is for wood and gypsum. Most of the SPF industry does not know a lot about DC333, but it rivals the success we have to date on DC315. We tested the DC333 over SPF, and we actually did okay, but it wasn’t the best. So we went back and spent almost a year running six or seven full-scale tests as we were developing what is now the current DC315 formulation. Once we perfected our blend, passed multiple UL1715 and NFPA 286 room corner burn tests, and had DC315 listed by WHI for third-party inspection and consistency, we came to market and to date have passed over 200 full-scale fire tests worldwide over SPF.
SFM: That seems like a clear illustration of IFTI’s testing mantra.
GW: We spend millions a year on testing. We test all over the United States and all over the world. We don’t just settle with one test; we test and we retest. We go out and test with topcoats, with primers, with studs, without studs, over the thickest foam–to standards that are beyond the current codebook requirements. We put a burden of proof on ourselves that exceeds the expectations of the industry, contractors, and fire marshals.
SFM: Aside from testing, what else differentiates IFTI in the SPF industry?
GW: We look at the foam industry, and we’re constantly asking how we can make the foam industry a safer place for safer growth. What might the SPF industry need tomorrow?
SFM: What has that perspective resulted in?
GW: We spearheaded AC456. We hired the consultants, we worked with the ICC and all of its affiliates, and we worked with the industry at large to write, edit, promote, and pass AC456. We think it’s as important a document to the foam industry as AC377, because it makes AC377 whole–it’s a missing link. The foam manufacturers didn’t ask us to do it and the ICC didn’t ask us to do it; we put that burden on ourselves because we knew the outcome from it would be a safer, more bulletproof foam and coating industry.
SFM: What about efforts beyond building codes?
GW: We went out there and put the Certified Applicator Program together. We expect to exceed 750 certified applicators in five countries by year’s end. We have code officials and architects, and fire marshals taking it. A smarter partner for our SPF and our coatings partners is a safer partner.
SFM: Is that reflective of IFTI’s stance on fire protective coatings education?
GW: We want people to understand how to use it, what they’re using it for, and what the codes are. That’s why we’ve been a big supporter of putting on regional shows for code officials, authorities having jurisdiction, architectural firms, and even contractors to educate them in a non-biased way, because the codes are the codes.
SFM: So it all just boils down to code compliance?
GW: Yes, we don’t want to only meet the codes, we want to give the foam industry a cost-effective way to exceed the codes. Not because it’s required, but because it’s right, as well as a path to industry growth via safe and intelligent use of coatings to meet today’s and tomorrow’s Alternative to Thermal Barrier Requirements. Anyone can be a follower, but someone has to be the leader. •