Posted on 10/10/2016 in News 32 2016
Fire dangers of building insulation materials

Many very efficient heat and sound insulation materials are highly flammable, e.g. polymer foams, cellulose fibres, straw, recycled newspaper or textile fibres. This has been tragically shown in deadly fires, including recently in France (see this Newsletter).

Several papers at Interflam 2016 looked at different aspects of façade cladding and foam insulation fire safety. T. Hakkareinen et al. (VTT Finland) explained that rigid polyurethane foam provides better thermal insulation than all other standardly available building materials. He considers that a combination of flame retardant use, fire resistant coverings (e.g. aluminium, gypsum board) and appropriate installation (including protection of penetrations) can enable its use in large public buildings without compromising fire safety. Euroclass C-s2,d0 or B-s1,d0 can be achieved.

A. Hofmann (BAM Germany) discussed differences in testing of façade materials and implementation in building regulations in Europe. She underlined fire safety challenges for façade materials which need to be better taken into account including external storage of flammable materials next to buildings (including dustbins), weathering and modifications during building renovations (penetration of protective coverings).
M. Smokka et al. summarised different test methods to assess fire spread over façade materials in Europe, USA-Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
J. Hidalgo et al., M. Janssens & A. Joyce and D. Kolaitis et al. presented tests and modelling of fire performance, charring behaviour and installation of insulation materials. Their conclusions suggest that, if appropriately protected (e.g. 13 mm gypsum), these materials will not contribute to fire development or to pyrolysis gas release until after a room fire has in any case become untenable and has spread to other parts of the building.
B. Messerschmidt et al. compared fire regulations for insulating materials in ten EU member states, concluding that although combustibility is generally considered, the levels of fire safety are very different, in particular because reaction to fire is only taken into account at the product level with only two countries considering the performance of the complete assembly. Fire compartmentation application also varies widely. Most countries do not require active fire protection (sprinklers) even in high-rise buildings, and sprinklers are considered to not replace the need for passive fire protection (flame retardants).

Interflam 2016, London 4-6th July 2016
Proceedings of Interflam 2016 are now available at 
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