Systems Approach to Creating FRP to Meet 2009 International Building Code Requirements for Interior Composites

John Rowen and Barry Herring (Avtec Industries)
Nicholas Dembsey (WPI Fire Protection Engineering)


In a giant leap forward for the Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) industry, the 2009 update to the International Building Code (IBC) now explicitly permits FRP in building construction, both interior and exterior, allowing FRP to compete with wood, aluminum, steel, concrete and gypsum board. Since most FRP materials contain flammable hydrocarbon resins, the IBC code requires that for interior use FRP must be fire tested and meet both flame-spread and smoke-obscuration criteria. IBC Chapter 8 specifies those criteria, and IBC Chapter 26 enforces them by requiring that FRP components carry an IBC-sanctioned Label that indicates that the material has passed the required fire tests. These Labels are affixed only when the material becomes Listed with an independent product safety testing organization that has certified the fire test results. These include Underwriters Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute, Intertek and others. The details of exactly how a Listing is accomplished are specified by the testing laboratory, and may be simplified for FRP fabricators by the existence of an “umbrella” Listing by a resin manufacturer who pre-qualifies a manufacturing regimen with the testing lab. Once an FRP component acquires its own Listing and is issued the Label identifying the testing laboratory, architects and professional engineers may then call out the credentialed FRP in construction plans.

The purpose of this article is to explain a methodology (systems approach) for fire-hardening FRP materials so that they can meet both flame spread and smoke obscuration specifications required by IBC. If a fabricator follows these recommendations, Listing and Labeling should be achievable.  More….