Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Construction: An NFPA Research Report

By Owen Davis
For NFPA Today

In the commercial building industry, many combustible materials are used in exterior wall construction to improve energy performance, reduce water and air filtration and allow for aesthetic design flexibility. These exterior wall assemblies include Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS), metal composite claddings, high-pressure laminates, and weather-resistive barriers (WRB). Given a number of documented fire incidents involving combustible exterior walls, a better understanding of these incidents was needed to inform current material test methods and potential fire mitigation strategies.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated a research project to develop the technical basis for fire mitigation strategies for fires involving exterior wall assemblies. The goal of this first phase project is to compile information on typical fire scenarios, relevant test methods and listing criteria, and approval/regulatory requirements for these systems. In addition, phase I worked to identify the knowledge gaps and the recommended fire scenarios and testing approach for potential future study.

The full report “Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components” is available as well as an executive summary.