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The International Code Council (ICC) recently voted to uphold the 2012 requirements for NFPA 285 testing in exteriors with combustible weather (including air and vapor) barriers, thus facilitating the development of fire resistant materials.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 285 fire test is a large scale wall assembly test used to determine the potential for flame spread from one story of a building to another through the exterior wall.  As an assembly test, (see image below) products cannot be accepted as having “passed” the NFPA 285 test by themselves, they can only be considered as having acceptance in an assembly. What the NFPA 285 test demonstrates is that the industry is striving to prevent a fire from starting in the first place when combustible components are used within wall assemblies of buildings that are required to be of non-combustible construction. 


Be NFPA 285 Smart

How many of these NFPA 285 Facts do you know?

The NFPA 285 test provides a method for determining the flammability characteristics of exterior nonload-bearing wall assemblies. The test method is intended to evaluate the combustible components within the wall. The test simulates a multistory fire performance of an entire wall assembly. The NFPA 285 testing apparatus is a two story wall assembly that includes a window opening on the first floor. Pass / Fail criteria are given and are based on flame propagation and temperatures within the wall assembly. Flame propagation must not occur either vertically or laterally beyond an acceptable distance. Temperatures are measured by use of thermocouples that are placed within the wall assembly.

What is the Importance of NFPA 285

Fact #1: The fire exposure duration for NFPA 285 is 30 minutes.

Fact #2: Several combustible materials are typically used in non-combustible wall construction including foam plastic continuous insulation, air and water barriers, high-pressure laminates, metal composites, and fiber-reinforced polymer panels.

Fact #3: NFPA 285 is directly referenced in 2015 IBC Section 1403.5 and Section 2603.5.5.

Fact #4: NFPA 285 is an assembly test so all components must be tested together to be compliant, meaning an individual component of an NFPA 285 compliant assembly cannot be labeled as “passing NFPA 285.”

Fact #5: The idea behind the NFPA 285 test goes back to the building codes of the early 1980s.

Fact #6: The NFPA 285 fire test is performed with a full, two-story wall assembly.

Fact #7: A successful NFPA 285 fire test must limit fire spread vertically and horizontally.

Fact #8: Rising energy standards like ASHRE 90.1 are driving the use of continuous insulation and thus the need for more NFPA 285 testing.”

Fact #9: NFPA 285 fire test standards may be applied to exterior wall assemblies in Type I, II, III, and IV construction.