Why Does a Fire Curtain Cost What it Does?

Updated: Apr 21

When shopping, the total product price is determined by the balance of 3 factors

  • time,

  • quality, and

  • cost.

Customers must prioritise two, and compromise on the third factor to reach a satisfactory purchasing conclusion.

This is explored commonly with ‘The Scope Triangle,’ a graphical representation that explains that you can have two factors but at the expense of the third factor. So, for example, you could purchase a handmade pair of genuine leather boots, which take a few weeks to craft, but you are unlikely to get this for a steal. Alternatively, you could buy a pair of mass-manufactured, synthetic leather boots immediately from the high street, which will cost much less, but that is unlikely to be a match in quality for the hand-crafted boots.

Time, Quality, Cost triangle

This is, of course, also the case with Active Fire protection.

If, for example, in a project you are working on, the plans are altered due to a change in client requests, you can order a bespoke Active Fire Curtain from a reputable company for a shorter than average lead time and retain the same quality, but you will have to pay the fast-trak fee. Therefore, you can have quality within the timeframe you require, but not for a favourable cost.

The same can be said for installation. If you require a subcontractor with excellent training and experience, in the immediate future, the price is likely to increase. Poor quality installation could be achieved quickly, at a lower cost, but may result in side guides that do not sit flush all the way up the wall, leaving a gap for gas and fire to come through, for example. Achieving a poor, and dangerous quality finish for a lower price undermines the quality of the product ordered, and in this instance, actually renders it ineffective.

So are Active Fire Curtains expensive?

Active Fire Curtain costs are determined by many factors which will affect the overall cost of the project. These factors appear from cradle-to-grave and require consideration if you decide Active Fire Curtains are the fire protection measure for you, and you wish to determine the value for money you are receiving. As some of these costs occur throughout the process, it seems appropriate to explain them in more depth. These are:

  • business costs,

  • opportunity costs, and

  • engineer costs.

Useful Definitions

Business Costs (BCs)

Business costs, or overheads, are often unconsidered by potential clients, but potentially make up for a large portion of a business’ monthly running costs. In this example, Business Costs will include:[1]

− building rent or mortgage payments,

− utilities,

− insurances,

− office supplies,

− accounting and legal expenses,

− salaries and wages,

− depreciation,

− government fees and licenses,

− property taxes, and

− specific software, including those needed for accounting, for example, SAGE 50, and technical drawings, for example, AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS, or Inventor.

These expenses are potentially one-off, or monthly costs and without them, the business could not continue.

Opportunity Costs (OCs)

‘Opportunity cost is the amount of potential gain an investor misses out on when they commit to one investment choice over another.’[2]

General day-to-day business procedure dictates the balance of low-paying and high-paying costs. This means that low-paying costs, general running procedures, might sometimes be put on hold to pursue high-paying costs, such as pitching, generating quotes for a project, or going on-site for installation and sign off. These high-paying costs, which bring in more value in the short term, involve sacrificing some time on the low-paying, but essential costs, as each business has a finite amount of time, money, and expertise, so it cannot complete both projects.

To be successful, businesses must decide if the benefit to pausing low-paying costs is worth the potential benefits of achieving the high-paying costs and continue this reflection on every occasion that a high-paying cost presents itself. The cost to the business is then the pause that is potentially caused by low-paying costs ceasing.

Engineer Costs (ECs)

When using an engineer, most of us value long experience, recently updated and historic skill levels, and the option to complete your project in a timely manner, all of which incur a cost to the customer.

For an engineer, they have costs that we do not consider, such as:

− vehicles,

− insurances; vehicular, personal, and business, and

− continuing training and qualifications, for example having an up-to-date CSCS card which demonstrates recent passing of the Health, Safety and Environment test, to either Operative, Manager and Professional, or Specialist level, biennially.[3] They may also need an IPAF license, necessary for the use of MEWPS (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms).

− Tool purchasing and maintenance, and

− PPE costs, such as head protection, hi-vis clothing, safety footwear, and protective clothing: essential for access to building sites.[4]

Fire Curtain Acquisition Process

The process for retailing Adexon Active Fire Curtains is a complex and lengthy one, due to the necessary completion of many steps. For a client, it may seem simple, which makes it worthy of consideration when we discuss the costs associated with supplying Active Fire Protection to the market.

Flow chart for the process for ordering a fire curtain, from Out to tender, all the way to sign off

1. Project Goes out to Tender

Most projects start with the tendering process. Business Costs (BCs) are associated with the tender application process, as it requires a member of staff to read, appraise, and decide if the business will respond. If the project can be undertaken by the business, a member of staff will then generate a quote, which will utilise their time.

2. Quote Generation

Most quotes are generated laterally by multiple members of staff, including those trained in accounting or book-keeping, and those trained in technical drawings.

The staff associated with technical drawings will cease other projects to read the documentation that accompanies each project, extrapolate the relevant data from technical drawings and the relevant fire safety standards to design a Fire Curtain that is bespoke for each project, and fully fulfils the brief.

BCs are the main cost associated here, but the cost of the product itself will come into consideration. Depending on the specification, the type of Fire Curtain may differ, and with that difference, comes a difference in price. Fire Curtains come in three different specifications, Integrity rated, ‘e’ curtains, and Integrity & Insulation rated ‘ei’ curtains, which are manufactured the same way, while the Integrity & Radiation rated ‘ew’ curtains, feature specific aluminium foil layers, designed to decrease heat radiation. This change will increase the cost of the curtain.

Similarly, the larger the curtain, the higher the purchasing cost. Both factors will be taken into consideration during quote generation and this, including the incorporation of key component parts, such as the control panel and emergency retract button, will generate a final price for the product.

This, plus the cost of quote generation, survey, drawings, manufacture, delivery, and installation will all be costed, and the relevant information passed on to the accounting department, who will generate the quote and send it back to the client for approval.

Alongside BCs, OCs factor in heavily, as at least two members of staff are removed from their day-to-day duties to create a quote in a timely manner.

3. Quote accepted

Here the client will regard the completed quotation and will respond to Adexon® within a month. As such, there are little to no associated costs for the company.

4. Terms & Conditions and Purchase Order Generation

At this point, the client will respond to the quote and may suggest alterations to Terms and Conditions, and this will impact again on BCs and OCs, as it will require administrative, and potentially legal advice to be undertaken and discussed with the client before the Terms and Conditions can be finalised.

Once concluded, Purchase Orders will be generated on the book-keeping software by relevantly trained administrative staff and will be sent on to be signed by the client to confirm. This is the point at which Fast Trak processing can be applied, if possible, to increase the possible speed of manufacture and delivery. This again is expected by the client in a timely manner and is prioritised by administrative staff, increasing the cost of OCs.

Many hands holding pencils study architectural drawings.

Image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Thirdman

5. Survey & Design

A survey will then be arranged by a member of Adexon® staff, affecting BCs. This will also be where Adexon® engineers are called in, to bring with them top-level experience and training. These engineers are familiar with Active Fire Curtains and have completed installation on a variety of projects, giving them a breadth and depth of experience and knowledge to rely on, which will stop errors that create future installation issues.

The Adexon® specialist engineer will bring in associated ECs (Engineer Costs), resulting in a superior survey quality. For example, experienced engineers will know to measure walls 3 times on all sides, and to check the wall itself, to ascertain wall tolerance, whereas a less experienced engineer may only measure the base and height of the space before multiplying them to gain complete measurements. This method, although theoretically mathematically sound, can result in assumptions about wall construction. Similarly, engineers with less experience may assume the wall is perfectly level and then struggle at the installation phase to sit the side guides flush with a wall that bows.

Adexon’s Design and Installation team would then set to work to create your completely bespoke technical drawings, using technical design software such as AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS, or Inventor with the triple-checked measurements. This design will directly influence the product manufactured and will mean that your finished Fire Curtain will fit exactly into the space. Without the technical training and experience levels of Adexon staff, inaccurate drawings could drastically alter or inhibit installation and render the product unusable. This, as you will expect, has a major impact on BCs and OCs.

6. Manufacture

Once the Purchase Order and design has been agreed upon by the client, manufacture begins.

Manufacture Costs have some of the largest expenses, particularly when creating handmade, one-off products such as Fire Curtains, such as:

  • building costs.

  • Utilities.

  • Purchasing, servicing and maintenance of equipment and tools.

  • Wages of staff with appropriate quality training and skills.

  • Materials delivery which may come from any number of different locations.

  • Administrative personnel wages, with appropriate training and skills.

  • Handmade production timeframe, which is slower, and therefore takes longer to complete.

The manufacture of Fire Curtains is bespoke, while other Fire Protection measures such as Fire Extinguishers can be easily and quickly mass manufactured. Each element of your design is handmade in part, from the manipulation of metal by hand as it is passed into the folding machine, to the hand cutting of Fire Curtain fabric, to the hand sewing of seams. This creates a superior quality product, but also incurs higher manufacturing costs, and increased production time.

Fast trak processing, if applicable to the order, will allow for our manufacturing partner to put this product at the front of the queue for manufacture, but due to the increased time that will be spent on it by the manufacturing staff, there is an associated increase in cost, from around 12.5-25% of the final quoted fee. This fast trak fee pays for BCs and OCs for the manufacturer, including the time of the staff who will be manufacturing the curtain.

Once the Fire Curtain is manufactured and has been checked by quality control, it will be dispatched for delivery. [5]

Molten fiberglass being collected as threads, before being wound around tubes or bobbins

7. Delivery

Prior to delivery to site, the Adexon® office team are legally obliged to create a Risk Assessment Method Statement (RAMS) for each delivery. A RAMS is ‘an important health and safety document that is completed to identify the steps to be undertaken to carry out a specific activity or task in a safe manner.’[6] The RAMS dictate how the product should be supported, strapped, and lifted onto site, including outlining the specific equipment tolerances, for example, appropriate sling strengths, and the lifting equipment needed for the job, for example, an HGV with a truck-articulated crane.

Further costs associated with delivery are of course the transportation of the finished product itself. Adexon’s journey to carbon neutrality has meant that we are aiming to use green sources of transportation alongside recycled, and recyclable packaging.

To enable us to achieve this, the product is imported with transport that uses renewable energy, for example by electric trucks, rather than those who rely on petrol or diesel, and removes the need for further airfreight, as we can use ferries. Ferries are expected to dramatically reduce their CO2 and Sulphur Oxide (SO) emissions by 2035, ‘through a combination of technical, operational and policy measures,’[7] that in turn allow us to lower our environmental footprint in the delivery process.

This can then be continued across the UK, where delivery to site will be assured using electric vehicles. This fits alongside the COP26 and UK Government’s Accelerating the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition: A One-Way Street initiative and working in conjunction with haulage companies across the UK, allows us to make serious leaps to address the emissions generated by commercial road usage.

The delivery of the finished Fire Curtain also needs to be observed by a lift supervisor who has completed a Lift Plan, at a further cost, which

‘encompasses risk assessments, method statements and other relevant information such as drawings, schedules and photographs. It is a site-specific document outlining everyone’s roles in the lifting operation to ensure a lift is carried out successfully.’[8]

As can be expected, these multiple factors place increased demand on BCs but are essential for safe, legal delivery to site.

Construction workers study paperwork, wearing bright colours and hard hats

Image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Anamul Rezwan

8. Installation

Installation requires further demands on BCs and ECs, as they will come to site to install your Fire Curtain. The specialist Adexon® engineer will need another member of an installation team with them to safely install the product, alongside the use of ladders, or specialist lifting equipment such as Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) when using a ladder becomes unsafe. It is considered unsafe when:

  • expected work duration exceeds 30 minutes or longer continuous use.

  • If the weight of the user and their equipment does not exceed the maximum for the ladder grade.

  • If both feet cannot be kept on the ladder, for example, to help users reach areas above them.

  • If the risk of injury is increased, for example, as the action completed at the top of the ladder will cause it to shake and move.

  • The work requires the engineer to stand right at the top of the ladder, which can cause it to become top-heavy.

  • The floor is not even and flat.

  • The work takes place off the ground floor.[9]

If the project features multiple Fire and/ or Smoke Curtains, or must be completed outside of business hours, it is common for engineers and other members of the installation team to require overnight accommodation. Similarly, fuel costs, congestion charges and parking fees would be paid by the company, which require recuperation from BCs.

9. Sign off

At the end of the installation, Adexon® Project Managers travel to site to sign off on the project with the engineer, incurring yet more ECs and BCs. This takes the form of completing a signed work order, and they complete a signing off inspection, called ‘commissioning.’ When the Fire Curtain passes the checks, it is commissioned, and the team can demonstrate its usage to the building managers. At this point, the project has reached its conclusion.

Many of these BCs, OCs, and ECs may have surprised you.

Perhaps we are more guilty of questioning the price of a quality product than we would like to admit. Maybe the next time we receive a quote or a price for a product that shocks us, potentially for a pair of supple, handmade leather boots, or an Adexon® Active Fire Curtain, perhaps it is worth considering which side of the Scope Triangle we are willing to sacrifice to get it for a lower price.

Otherwise, it might well be worth waiting slightly longer or paying slightly more, if you want the best quality product.


[1] List adapted from Freshbooks.com, ‘What is overhead cost and how to calculate it,’ <https://www.freshbooks.com/hub/accounting/overhead-cost> 10.01.2022

[2] The Balance.com, ‘What Is Opportunity Cost?,’ by Joshua Kennon, published 10.12.2021, <https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-opportunity-cost-357200> 10.01.2022

[3] CSCS.UK, ‘CITB Health, safety & environment (HSE) test and exemptions,’ <https://www.cscs.uk.com/applying-for-cards/health-and-safety-test/> 10.01.2022

[4] XAMAX.co.uk, ‘What PPE Is Required For A Construction Site?’ published 28.01.2021, <https://www.xamax.co.uk/blog/what-ppe-is-required-for-construction.html> 10.01.2022

[5] Image from Princelund.com, ‘Glass Fiber Differences and Properties,’ <https://www.princelund.com/glass-fiber.html> 11.01.2022

[6] Definition of a RAMS, CHAS.co.uk, ‘What Are RAMS Documents in Health and Safety?’ <https://www.chas.co.uk/help-advice/risk-management-compliance/risk-assessment-introduction/method-statement-contents/> 11.01.2022

[7] European Commission, ‘Electric ferries and joined-up shipping to turn sea travel green,’ <https://ec.europa.eu/research-and-innovation/en/horizon-magazine/electric-ferries-and-joined-shipping-turn-sea-travel-green> 11.01.2022

[8] WOB Crane Hire, ‘What is a Lift Plan?’ published 11 May 2021 11.01.2022

[9] Hazard from CPD Online.co.uk, ‘What are the different types of working at height equipment?’ published 09.09.2019, <https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/health-and-safety/working-height-equipment/> 11.01.2022

Cover image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Alaur Rahman

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