Builders' choice. Exteriors can be clad to look good on the outside, weather the elements or provide energy efficiency. But can they take the heat?
To improve fire prevention, FM Global outlines the strengths of a proposed fire testing protocol in a new research technical report, Evaluation of the Fire Performance of Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) Assemblies Using ANSI/FM 4880. It complements the recently released FM Global white paper, Grenfell: The Perfect Formula for Tragedy, that explores the dangers of combustible cladding.
In that paper, Christopher Wieczorek, Ph.D., FM Global manager of international codes and standards, explores deadly 2017 high-rise building fires, including those at the Marco Polo Apartments in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, and the Torch Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as well as the Grenfell Tower fire in London, England. These fires resulted from a common formula: Highly Combustible Construction + Lack of Automatic Fire Sprinklers = Tragic Catastrophic Loss.
Stoking the flames
Costly and sometimes fatal fires in some of the world's newest and tallest buildings have recently been stoked by highly combustible exterior cladding chosen for aesthetics, energy efficiency, weather proofing and cost-effectiveness—not safety.
Some cladding combinations are not subjected to fire testing. Rather, they meet desktop combustibility assessments that can fall short and lead to tragic results in an actual fire.
FM Global regularly conducts fire research and participates in global building-code improvement efforts. That's why FM Global proposes a better testing protocol that follows in-depth examination of exterior wall systems made of metal composite materials (MCMs) or ACMs using 16-foot-high (4.9 meter) parallel panels.
"While many fire engineering firms perform desktop assessments in good faith," explains Louis Gritzo, Ph.D., vice president, manager of research at FM Global, "current practices and regulations introduce the possibility that substandard, dangerous assemblies will slip through the cracks."
"We can't afford to take this risk as buildings burn and lives are lost, even in the developed world," Gritzo explains. "We believe the protocol in ANSI/FM 4880 is a key to the solution."
Evaluation of the Fire Performance of Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) Assemblies Using ANSI/FM 4880
Grenfell: The Perfect Formula for Tragedy