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Understanding and managing the fire hazards of exterior walls containing combustible components

The tragic fire that occurred in London in June 2017 represents the latest in a series of high-rise fires that have occurred worldwide over the past decade – from Melbourne to Jakarta to Berlin to Las Vegas. All of these fires involved high-rise buildings with exterior wall coverings or insulation that include combustible components. The public, code bodies, local, regional and federal governments as well as the design and build communities are all affected by high-rise building safety, including the exterior wall construction.

Decoding Exterior Wall Requirements: An interactive tool
NFPA has developed a free interactive tool to help navigate the code requirements that apply to exterior walls containing combustible components. It also helps determine when those requirements apply for testing to NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components. Requirements within the tool are based on the 2015 edition of NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, and the 2015 International Building Code

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Watch a demonstration of this interactive tool in action.




Related resources

  • Comments sought on proposed standard on fire tests for wall panels
    NFPA is considering the development of a new standard to address the combustibility of exterior and interior wall panels. Submit comments by October 13.
  • Report: Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components
    Fire Protection Research Foundation, June 2014
    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. This report looks at combustible exterior wall systems in common use, existing research and mechanisms of fire spread, fire statistics, fire incident case studies, and test methods and regulations. Download the report.
  • 'The System is Broken'
    In June 2017, the media was consumed with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, where 79 people died or were presumed dead. News stories covered the flammability of exterior cladding, the lack of fire sprinklers in the building, the notion of “shelter in place,” and other subjects. On its own, it was a horrendous tragedy. In combination with other recent events, it suggests disturbing trends that could represent a serious setback for fire safety worldwide. NFPA President Jim Pauley looks at why the deadly London fire and other events at home and abroad require a worldwide call to action.
  • High-rise building safety
    High-rise buildings present several unique challenges not found in traditional low-rise buildings; longer egress times and distance, evacuation strategies, fire department accessibility, smoke movement and fire control. See NFPA resources on high-rise building safety.