On Friday, September 2nd, 2022, Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute (ZAG) officially opened the new Fire laboratory in Logatec – the largest and only such facility in this part of Europe. On this occasion, for the first time in its history, ZAG awarded Turnšek awards for special achievements in science.
The festive event was attended by more than 170 guests from Slovenian and foreign companies, research organizations and local and national leadership. Among the guests of honor was the Minister of Education, Science and Sports, prof. dr. Igor Papič.
ZAG has been dealing with fire engineering and testing for almost 50 years and has been waiting for this event for more than 10 years. "Over time, the capacity of the existing space in Gameljne became too small, so we decided to build a new laboratory," said the director of ZAG, doc. dr. Aleš Žnidarič, and added that the investment would not have been possible without the successful operation of ZAG in the last 20 years, namely, a large part of its own income was invested in its construction.
The new Fire Laboratory will ensure further development, spatial capacity and scientific excellence in the field of testing the fire properties of materials and structures. On this occasion, the director said that during the decades of its existence, ZAG strived for progress and excellence, supports industry and the state, but today it is intensively devoted to the field of research and development. “The goal is to transfer advanced solutions into practice. The scientific and development-research component is key to our operation, and the research is predominantly application-oriented and closely related to the profession, which also applies to the fire laboratory.” He emphasized that scientific and research performance needs an adequate infrastructure, on the basis of which it can maintain a good research condition. "This kind of investment for a public research institute is not something usual, especially in this case, since the technology or laboratory equipment is produced by only a handful of suppliers. As a result, the choice of suppliers dictated the construction and presented us with many challenges," he described the progress of the project implementation.
ZAG consists of 17 sections and laboratories that cover the entire spectrum of construction, from traditional materials, structures, geotechnics and building physics to interdisciplinary topics that include the green transition, digitalization and people. The new laboratory, on an area of almost 3,500 square meters, will provide the institute with facilities for testing the fire resistance of products from Slovenian and international industries. The facility has 2 large furnaces, an associated cleaning plant and other modern equipment for testing samples from the micro level to 4 by 8 meters in size. The total value of the construction of the building together with the purchase of equipment reached almost 11 million euros. Of this, 2 million was contributed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, and 2.8 million euros of cohesion funds were allocated for testing equipment through the InnoRenew project.
According to the director, the FRISSBE project acquired last year from the EU Horizon 2020 programme also plays an important role in the laboratory's future. It is one of only 4 EraChair projects that Slovenia has acquired so far and within the framework of which a team of international and established researchers has the task of "building excellent fire science in Slovenia and transforming the institute into an even better and internationally successful institute" within 6 years.
The minister and the director symbolically and appropriately to the occasion lit the ceremonial ribbon instead of cutting it and thus officially opened the new Fire Laboratory. "I am convinced that this is a very good and important acquisition not only for ZAG, but for the entire Slovenian research sphere", said the minister, adding that Slovenian knowledge is thereby gaining a strategic position in the region and strengthening Slovenian "know-how" also internationally. Among the keynote speakers were prof. dr. José Torero, (University College London), Edwin Van Wesemael, (European association EGOLF), and prof. dr. Andreja Kutnar, (InnoRenew CoE). Two ZAG’s employees, doc. dr. Ana Mladenovič and dr. Boris Azinović, received the Turnšek awards. The event was moderated by Bernarda Žarn, while the program was enriched with excellent music insters by a string quartet Nocturno.