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A major difference in building codes for residential versus commercial building involves combustible components. For the most part, residential construction is not restrictive in materials used. Commercial buildings, specifically Type I-IV of the International Building Code, restrict the use of combustible components in exterior walls. This includes air barriers, combustible cladding, and foam plastic insulation. Fortunately for manufacturers of these materials, the code provides a path for establishing compliance to the non-combustible intent, via testing per "NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test for Evaluation of Fire Propogation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Assemblies Containing Combustible Components". NFPA 285 is a duanting fire assembly test. Roughly, a 14' wide by 30' tall wall is assembled, complete with base wall such as steel stud with interior and exterior gypsum sheathing, exterior air barriers, flashing, insulation, wall ties, and exterior cladding such as brick. A 6' wide window opening (no glass) in the lower part of the wall is flashed and fire blocked per actual field conditions. The test simulates a fire occuring inside the building by positioning a large burner at the window from the inside. After 5 minutes, another large burner is added to the exterior of the window. Every 5 minutes after, until 30 minutes, the gas flow to the burners is increased. Many commercial air barriers, common foam plastics, and combustible claddings have been tested via NFPA 285. EPS-IA members with an Fire Code Approval for EPS in Commercial Walls interest in serving the exterior commercial wall segment commissioned testing at Intertek to assess EPS for NFPA 285 approval. The assembly chosen for the test emphasized high fuel content components and marginal fire protection elements to simulate a higher fire risk than would ever typically be encountered in the built world. The resulting test report validated approval of EPS in wall assemblies with cementitious claddings such as brick, natural stone or stucco. The International Building Code requires that foam products sold for use in commercial walls bear the mark of an approved agency to validate the NFPA 285 and other associated approvals. EPS-IA members who have participated in the NFPA 285 program can be found listed in approved product directories such as Underwriters Laboratories Certification Directory, Intertek Warnock Hersey Directory, ICC-ES Evaluation Reports, etc. Addition of EPS foam products to NFPA 285 approved wall assemblies provide architects with another option for meeting ASHREA 90.1 and IECC continuous insulation requirements. EPS offers stable R-value that increases as temperatures decline, closed cells that only contain air, vapor permeance higher than other foam plastics and availability from local manufacturers to reduce transit emissions. For more information contact EpS-IA | tECh talk |

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