MIAMI—Recent Florida building code changes relating to egress have helped shed some light on photoluminescent solutions, and at least one firefighter is looking to supply hotels with solutions that make them compliant.
The 2010 Florida building code now requires that residential occupancies containing sleeping units—such as hotels and motels more than 75 ft. in height—must have approved luminous egress path-marking delineating the exit path.
Zach Green volunteers near Cincinnati and started MN8 Foxfire, a UL-certified developer of photoluminescent safety products. The company was created following a revelation several years ago when Green decided to put a photoluminescent, or glow-in-the-dark, band around his firefighter’s helmet. The idea took off with fellow firefighters, and the company’s CEO started selling the bands out of the trunk of his car.
Green elaborated on why he started the company, which now offers more than 50 safety and exit products. “The goal at Foxfire was to put the same technology that was on the stairwells on firefighters to help them see each other. The company’s grown to more than 60,000 firefighters using our products in 25 countries. A couple years ago, we said, ‘OK, now that we’ve got firefighters protected, we’re trying to take that next step to how we could put this into exit signs and stairwells,’” he said.
Green noted his company provides product for a number of building types—from sports arenas to residential dwellings—but emphasized, “Our real push is hotels because people are not used to where to go. We’re giving the hotel owner cost savings and liability savings. Most importantly, in the event of an emergency, it’s going to help people find their way out to safety,” he said.
Green also emphasized the importance of spreading the word on photoluminescent solutions. “We really are trying to educate the code enforcement officials and the actual tenants. We tell them, ‘Hey, you are going to have a time where you’re going to have to evacuate that property. You want to make sure people can find their way out.’ When they go into a stairwell, there’s a primal fear of the dark,” he said.
The company has two main offerings: exit signs in 35 different styles, as well as stairway illumination systems. According to Green, the exit signs range from $50 to more than $100. However, since there are no ongoing expenses, such as batteries or electricity, he noted a property will typically see a return on investment within one to one-and-a-half years.
MN8 Foxfire’s photoluminescent safety and egress system illuminates zero-light, smoke-filled environments to decrease disorientation and improve visibility. The photoluminescent coatings brighten in total darkness for many hours after charging in any light source for seconds, according to the company.
Green noted MN8 Foxfire has product in a “couple-dozen” hotel properties and recently expanded into South Florida with a number of buildings, including the Beachwalk Hotel Condominium, which is owned by The Related Group, with which the company has worked extensively. He also said the company just landed a major project in Nashville specific to its stairwell illumination system, and has global distribution as well with such hotels as the Royal Emirates in Dubai. “We’re starting to see really good expansion and growth. Photoluminescent solutions are used all over Europe. We’re seeing this market starting to explode,” he said.
Green added that MN8 Foxfire is able to handle the expected surge in demand as it has partnered with a venture capital firm, which has invested a significant amount of money to help with supply chain. “We also hired a topnotch executive management team that allows me to go out and talk about the benefits of photoluminescent safety. We can literally handle anything from one hotel to 1,000 hotels within a short time period,” he said.
While Green acknowledged there are competitors, he feels MN8 Foxfire has some inherent advantages. “We’re able to do it better than anybody else by partnering with brilliant scientists that are able to make it glow brighter and longer, and use less of it so cost isn’t that much either… There are other companies out there that make photoluminescent materials for the stairs, but it’s basically a tape. The tape just peels off and doesn’t have very aesthetic appeal,” he said.