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NFPA 285-2006: Approval for Wall Assemblies Using Foam Plastic Insulation

May 15, 2010

NFPA 285-2006: AN OVERVIEW
This white paper briefly describes the
National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 285-
2006 standard fire test, which has attracted
a great deal of attention in recent years. It is
important to note, however, that some version
of this critical test standard has been
codified since the late 1980s.
The assembly test UBC 17-6 and other
requirements for use on noncombustible
walls were inserted into the 1988 edition of
the International Conference of Building
Officials (ICBO) Uniform Building Code
(UBC). The UBC 17-6 was developed using
tests of Insulated Metal Panel systems
(IMPs) and an Exterior Insulation and
Finishing System (EIFS). Also, at approximately
that time, the other model building
codes (the Southern Building Code
Congress Inter –
national code and
the Building Offi –
cials and Code Ad –
min istrators Inter –
national, Inc. code)
included language
requiring testing of
exterior wall as –
semblies containing
foam plastic for
vertical flame
spread. The largescale
UBC 17-6
was renamed UBC
26-4, and within a few years, the intermediate-
scale UBC 26-9 was developed and referenced
in the UBC.
When the International Building Code
(IBC) was promulgated in 2000, NFPA 285
was cited since it was an ANSI-approved
version of UBC 26-9. At the time, UBC 26-4
was also included to allow for manufacturers
with tested and approved wall assemblies
per UBC 26-4 to
continue and update
their approvals to the
new NFPA 285 standard.
UBC 26-4 was
subsequently re –
moved from the 2003
IBC, leaving NFPA
285 as the require-
Figure 3 – NFPA 285
assembly test 285
with brick veneer
wall and foam plastic
insulation.
Figure 4 – NFPA 285 assembly test with an
NFPA 285-approved metal composite metal
(MCM) veneer and ASTM C1289 Type 1
Class 2 fiberglass-reinforced ISO insulation.
Figure 1 – Side view of burner
placement in first-story test room
(not to scale).
Figure 2 – Limits of flame
propagation (not to scale).
34 • I N T E R FA C E J A N U A RY 2010
ment per Section 2603.5.5 of the IBC (IBC
2003-2009).
NFPA 285 testing provides a method of
determining the flammability characteristics
of exterior, non-load-bearing wall assemblies/
panels that contain foam plastic insulation.
The test method described is intended
to evaluate the inclusion of combustible
components within wall assemblies/panels
that are required to be of noncombustible
construction. It is intended to simulate the
multistory flammability fire performance of
entire exterior wall assemblies.
An international nonprofit membership
organization, NFPA is the world’s leading
advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative
source on public safety. The NFPA’s
mission is to reduce the worldwide burden
of fire and other hazards on the quality of
life by developing and advocating consensus
codes and standards, research, training,
and education.
NFPA 285 APPROVAL REQUIREMENTS PER IBC
As stated, Section 2603.5.5 of the 2000,
2003, 2006, and 2009 editions of the IBC
requires that exterior wall systems on
buildings of any height that incorporate
foam plastic insulation of Type I, II, III, or IV
classification must meet the requirements
of NFPA 285-2006, Standard Fire Test
Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation
Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-
Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Com –
bustible Components Using the Inter me –
diate-Scale, Multistory Apparatus.
Foam plastics can be open-cell and
closed-cell SPF insulating foams, or rigid
board stock insulations of EPS, XPS, and
ISO chemistries. Type IV and Type X ex –
truded polystyrene and polyisocyanurate
insulation products classified as foam plastic
insulation for exterior applications must
pass NFPA 285-2006 testing.
It is important to understand that the
NFPA 285-2006 standard fire test is an
assembly test, not a component test. The
details of the test assembly and application
materials should be strictly followed in
practice. According to Chapter 26 of the
IBC, Section 2603.5.5:
The wall assembly shall be tested in
accordance with and comply with
the acceptance criteria of NFPA 285.
Exception: One-story buildings complying
with Section 2603.1.4.
NFPA 285-2006 TESTED SYSTEMS USING FOAM
PLASTIC INSULATION
Requirements
The NFPA 285-2006 testing apparatus
is a two-story wall assembly that includes a
framed window opening on the first floor.
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Figure 5 – NFPA 285 assembly test with an
NFPA 285-approved MCM veneer and
ASTM C1289 Type 1 Class 2 fiberglassreinforced
ISO insulation (post-fire view).
J A N U A RY 2010 I N T E R FA C E • 3 5
The pass/fail criteria
are that flame
propagation must
not oc cur either vertically
or laterally
beyond an acceptable
distance from
the area of flame plume im pingement on or with in the wall assembly.
Thermocouples are placed throughout the wall, and the defined temperature
limits cannot be exceeded; otherwise, the test is considered a failure.
Diagrams of the NFPA test assembly are shown in Figures 1 and 2. Views
of the test itself are
shown in Figures
3, 4, and 5. Figures
6, 7, 8, 9, and 10
show some of the
approved wall as –
semblies that in –
clude foam plastic
insulation. The
manufacturer of
foam plastic insulation
or veneer
can answer technical
questions related
to specific as –
semblies or veneer
types not shown
here.
The NFPA 285-
2006 standard fire
test is an assembly
test, not a component
test. The de –
tails of the test as –
sembly and application
materials should be strictly followed
in practice.
36 • I N T E R FA C E J A N U A RY 2010
Jeff Hansbro is the commercial construction applications
technology leader in North America for Dow Building
Solutions. He is responsible for defining sustainable products
and systems for building enclosures as measured by their
resistance to heat, air, and moisture properties in a specified
climate. His previous positions at Dow include senior technical
service development specialist and senior product development
engineer. Prior to his employment at Dow, Hansbro
worked at Celotex Corporation and BASF in their urethanes
research divisions. Hansbro graduated from Wayne State University with a B.S. in
chemical engineering and is presently pursuing a M.S. in engineering and marketing at
Northwestern University. He is certified as a Six Sigma MAIC black belt.
Jeff Hansbro
Figure 9 – Steel stud
assembly with metal
panel or an NFPA
285-approved MCM
veneer (Type 1,
Class 2 ISO foam
insulation with
integral drainage
plane and air
barrier).
Figure 6 – XPS foam insulation in steel cavity wall. Mineral
wool fire safing (minimum of 1 in thick) is required in the
header of all openings.
Figure 7 (above) –
XPS foam insulation
in block-backed
cavity wall. Mineral
wool fire safing
(minimum of 1 in
thick) is required in
the header of all
openings.
Figure 8 – Steel stud assembly
with brick veneer (Type 1,
Class 2 ISO foam insulation
with integral drainage plane
and air barrier).
Figure 10 – Steel-stud assembly with exterior gypsum
and metal panel or an NFPA 285-approved MCM veneer
(Type 1, Class 2 ISO foam insulation with integral
drainage plane and air barrier).