The US NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) Vice-President, Donald Bliss, underlines the risks to life and property of non fire-safety treated external façade cladding on buildings across the world.
Polyurethane foam or extruded polystyrene, for example, with a covering, provides weather protection and thermal insulation. Fire standards such as NFPA 285 (Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components) define fire testing for such components. But in many countries, there are no fire safety regulations or no enforcement to enable implementation of such standards. The result in such situations is that many buildings are clad in foam materials which are not fire-safety treated, and as high-rise building accelerates in developing nations without appropriate standards being put into place, the extent of risk is increasing. Donald Bliss concludes: “The stark reality is that jurisdictions without modern building codes and effective regulatory systems have a high potential to experience large-loss-of-life fires if nothing is done to address the problem.” A reader response to the NFPA article indicates that a building cladding fire in China in 2000 caused 58 deaths and injured over 70 people.
“Skin Deep. Exterior facade fires become an increasingly worrisome international problem”, D. Bliss, NFPA Journal July – August 2016