Research

Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components

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Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components" (PDF, 3 MB)
Author: Nathan White, CSIRO, Highett, VIC Australia and Michael Delichatsios, FireSERT, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Northern Ireland
Date of issue: June 2014

Introduction

Many combustible materials are used today in commercial wall assemblies to improve energy performance, reduce water and air infiltration, and allow for aesthetic design flexibility. These assemblies include Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS), metal composite claddings, high pressure laminates, and weather-resistive barriers (WRB). The combustibility of the assembly components directly impacts the fire hazard. For example, the insulation component of EIFS, and other emerging related systems (for example Structural Insulation Finish Systems (SIFS)) is combustible foam which exhibits rapid flame spread upon fire exposure. There have been a number of documented fire incidents involving combustible exterior walls but a better understanding was needed of the specific scenarios leading to these incidents to inform current test methods and potential mitigating strategies.

The Foundation initiated a project with an overall goal to develop the technical basis for fire mitigation strategies for fires involving exterior wall systems with combustible components. The goal of this first phase project is to compile information on typical fire scenarios which involve the exterior wall, compile relevant test methods and listing criteria as well as other approval/regulatory requirements for these systems, and to identify the knowledge gaps and the recommended fire scenarios and testing approach for possible future work.