Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components
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 or ETICS), metal composite claddings, high-pressure laminates, foam plastic in cavity walls, and water-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 Insulated Panel Systems (SIPS)) 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 is needed of the specific scenarios leading to these incidents to inform current test methods and potential mitigating strategies. Accordingly, the Fire Protection Research Foundation undertook an international project with CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia's national science agency) and FireSERT, the Institute for Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology at the University of Ulster, with the objective to gather information on fire incidents involving combustible exterior walls, compile relevant test methods and listing criteria, identify the knowledge gaps, and identify relevant fire scenarios and a testing approach for future efforts.
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