Recently, national and international building codes have challenged the construction market with design-oriented goals of sustainability and energy efficiency. The increasing demand for high performance, energy-efficient buildings has led to the evolution of building enclosure designs that incorporate durability, longevity, and thermal and weather protection, and architects and building owners are now required to meet stringent energy codes, resulting in a systems approach to designing the building envelope components. As a result, fire protection and life safety issues have significantly affected the development of the fire codes, becoming an integral part of recent International Building Code (IBC) updates. A lot is now dependent on the correct usage of materials and systems, especially when it comes to the facade of a building and aluminum composite materials (ACM).
Alucobond® ACM can be provided with a choice between two types of core products: standard polyethylene (PE) and fire retardant Plus. While these product lines differ from one another in core composition, both are regulated by the IBC. The performance requirements for choosing one ACM product type over another primarily depend on panel height above grade or grade plane, and separation distance to the property line or to other structures within the property boundaries. Moreover, these provisions have changed significantly in the 2012 version of the IBC due to the stringent energy code requirements. Choosing the correct ACM to mitigate the risk caused by fire has become challenging. Making the correct choice of core material can be a complex process and has become the most frequently asked question about the product.
The 2012 IBC established criteria that determine when a standard core or a fire retardant core must be used. The major elements that dictate the type of ACM to use include: ACM height above grade or grade plane, wall construction type (rated or non-rated fire assemblies), and proximity to the property line or other structures within the property boundaries. When the construction conditions are within the limitations as outlined in the IBC, a standard core material can be used. When these installation conditions are not within the defined limitations, either the fire retardant core material must be used or the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) must provide an approval. A number of specific performance tests are referenced to define allowable use, including several American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) tests as well as an intermediate-scale fire test, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 285 (Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components).
The 2003, 2006, and 2009 editions of the IBC used two critical height options, 40 feet and 50 feet, that defined the correct choice of ACM core material. However, with the revisions included in the 2012 edition of the IBC, there are now three critical height options that impact the correct choice of ACM core material. These heights are 40 feet, 50 feet, and 75 feet above grade or grade plane
Additional criteria are noted in the IBC for all conditions noted above and special care should be taken to fully understand these requirements. The stringent fire protection provisions coupled with energy codes have dramatically changed the way wall assemblies are designed. As expectations for building performance, facility life, and occupant health and safety continue to increase, Alucobond® is dedicated to providing value-added capabilities regarding performance standards and code compliance. Let our technical expertise help you through the complex process of choosing the core material needed for your project.