Center for Light and Environmentally-Friendly Structures ZELUBA®

Research project

WoodSupport – Development of a lightweight board made from multi-layer plywood for interior construction in ships

Legal requirements exist regarding fire protection in the interior construction of ships. Solely non-regenerative materials such as aluminum or foam glass are permitted for cabin walls, as these are classified as “non-combustible”. In this project, we are developing a lightweight board made from renewable raw materials for industrial cabin construction which fulfills the fire-protection requirements. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, it is also considerably easier to work with. Shipyards and shipping companies could derive economic benefits therewith and, at the same time, improve their environmental footprint.

Picture of a fire-resistant plywood panel for cabin construction on ships
© Fraunhofer WKI | Manuela Lingnau
First test version of a plywood board which fulfils the requirements of the IMO FTP Code 2010 Part 3.

Cabin walls in ships, which separate either two cabins from one another or one cabin from the corridor, must be classified as “non-combustible”. In addition, in the event of a fire, they must withstand the fire for at least 30 minutes without the flames penetrating through to the side facing away from the fire. This means that the room closure must be maintained for at least 30 minutes. Depending on the application, the temperature increase on the side facing away from the fire also plays a role. In some installation situations, the average temperature increase must remain below 140 °C for at least 15 minutes and the maximum temperature increase at specific points must remain below 225 °C. Non-combustibility and fire-resistance tests are performed in accordance with the International Code for Application of Fire Test Procedures, 2010 (2010 FTP Code) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Successfully tested cabin walls receive the classification B0 (room closure for at least 30 minutes) or B15 (room closure for at least 30 minutes and compliance with the temperature values for at least 15 minutes).

At present, inorganic materials such as aluminum, calcium silicate, mineral wool and vermiculite are utilized in order to produce components with the classification B15 or B0. In our project, we are pursuing the idea of adapting a renewable raw material such as wood to the requirements of fire protection by means of an innovative pre-treatment. In the past, one of our project partners, Patrick Leleu Furnier GmbH, had already developed a 2-to-6 mm thick plywood which is classified as “non-combustible” according to IMO FTP 2010 Code Part 1. On this basis, we are mutually developing a stronger plywood board for cabin construction which additionally fulfills the requirements of the IMO 2010 FTP Code Part 3 (fire resistance).

With a bulk density of approx. 550 kg/m³, the plywood board will be just as light as conventional cabin-wall material. As a result of its material properties, however, the plywood board can be processed considerably more easily. Adjustments through sawing, drilling or milling can be carried out unproblematically on-site during installation.

The plywood board will comply with the sound insulation requirements pursuant to DIN EN 717-1. It can also be utilized in wet areas, as it fulfills the requirements for Humidity Class 3 in accordance with DIN EN 314-1 and -2. With regard to health protection, we will ensure during development that the cabin wall emits only very little or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when installed.

During development, we also plan suitable fasteners so that the board can be produced and installed on an industrial scale. It could therefore be used, for example, in the interior construction of cruise liners, merchant ships or yachts, thereby increasing the proportion of renewable raw materials in shipbuilding. For this to actually happen, our cabin-wall material must comply with the special requirements of the shipbuilding industry in many respects. We are therefore collaborating within the framework of the project with two interior designers who specialize in the construction of ships. The companies metrica GmbH und Co. KG and Oldenburger Interior GmbH & Co. KG have drawn up a catalogue of requirements, which we use for orientation, and verify the workability of our material developments.

A further project objective is the reduction of production costs for cabin walls made from plywood in order for them to be competitive compared to conventional cabin walls.

Project partners

  • Patrick Leleu Furnier GmbH
  • metrica GmbH und Co. KG
  • Oldenburger Interior GmbH & Co. KG


Funding body: Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the ”KMU-innovativ”

Project management: Projektträger Karlsruhe (PTKA)

Duration: 1.5.2019 to 30.9.2021