Fire TestingA2P1039: A Guide to Understanding ASTM E84: Maximizing Fire Safety for Your Architectural Projects

March 14, 2023

As an architect, you never want to compromise on the safety of your projects. However, when it comes to fire safety in particular, specific principles and standards are incorporated into construction designs to protect occupants from potential fires. One such standard is ASTM E84: a test used for measuring the performance of materials when exposed to flame and smoke conditions.

By understanding this essential protocol, architects can ensure optimal protection for their projects and maximize fire safety for years down the road. In this guide, we’ll explore what ASTM E84 is, how it works, plus some tips — and best practices — for incorporating it into architectural designs with confidence.


Introduction: What is ASTM E84 & Why is it Important for Architects?

ASTM E84, otherwise known as the Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials, or a version of the Steiner Tunnel test method, is a vital tool architects use to evaluate the flammability of exposed surfaces of the materials they use in their buildings. This test can help architects decide which materials are safer and more suitable for their projects.

Although the ASTM E84 test is not required for building code compliance of all building products, the 2006 International Building Code (IBC) states that “interior wall and ceiling finishes shall be classified in accordance with ASTM E84.” Therefore, any building materials that have been ASTM E84 fire tested and approved can provide greater fire safety. In addition, the test results provide information on a material’s performance in specific fire exposure conditions in terms of flame spread and smoke developed index, which can be used to help determine the appropriate fire safety measures for a given application.

The ASTM E84 test involves exposing material test samples to high temperatures while measuring the flame spread, smoke density, and other parameters associated with fire safety. The results are then compared to a standardized reference scale to determine the surface burning characteristics of the material under test. ASTM E84 results provide valuable insight into how certain materials react when exposed to flames or intense heat sources. For instance, the results may indicate how easily flames can spread across its surface.

In addition to providing critical information about fire safety characteristics, ASTM E84 helps architects identify potential sources of unnecessary risk in their building designs. By understanding which materials are least likely to propagate flames under extreme conditions, architects can create designs that meet current fire safety standards and ensure that all occupants remain safe in a fire emergency.

ASTM E84 fire testing    ASTM E84 fire testing

Overview of ASTM E84 Testing Standards & Processes

While performing ASTM E84, a test sample of the material is placed on an inclined panel between two sources of heat or flame at 25 or 50 kw/m. The time taken for the flame to travel up the sample is measured along with surface flame spread and any resulting smoke production. The flame spread index (FSI) and smoke development index (SDI) ratings are then determined based on these observations. FSI measures how quickly the fire spreads up through the tested surface of a material, while SDI measures how much smoke is produced by a material when it’s ignited.

The ASTM E84 testing process is designed to evaluate interior wall, and ceiling finishes for commercial buildings, such as offices and schools. This helps ensure that these materials meet safety requirements before being installed in high-risk locations like stairwells, hallways, and exits where they could contribute to possible flame spread and accelerated evacuation times during an emergency.

This test can also assess specific exterior wall assemblies that contain combustible materials such as insulation boards or vapor barriers. By evaluating their performance in terms of flame spread index and smoke development index, the test surface of these assemblies can meet the safety regulations of exterior walls in commercial buildings.


Key Benefits of Incorporating ASTM E84 Approved Building Materials into Architectural Designs

As more and more architects are looking for ways to improve the safety and comfort of their designs, one option has become increasingly popular — incorporating ASTM E84 into architectural design. As a result, ASTM E84 is quickly becoming a go-to solution for fire safety and efficiency in building designs.

The results from this test allow architects to accurately evaluate the flammability of materials and ensure they comply with applicable codes and regulations. In addition, incorporating this test method into your design can result in better performance out of all the components included in the structure.

Overall, integrating the test methods of ASTM E84 into architectural designs is an effective way to protect occupants from potential fires while improving efficiency within the building’s design. By leveraging this test method during construction projects, architects can be confident that their buildings will be safe yet efficient for years.


Best Practices for Implementing ASTM E84 in Construction Projects

Critical best practices should be followed when implementing ASTM E84 in construction projects. The first step is to understand the project’s scope, as different projects may have additional requirements for fire safety. ASTM E84 is a test method used to determine a material’s flame spread and smoke development characteristics. For example, it is often required for materials used in interior wall and ceiling finishes of commercial and industrial buildings – but it can also be required for other materials, such as fabrics and draperies.

Once the extent of ASTM E84 requirements for a particular project has been determined, it is essential to source suitable materials that meet said criteria. This means finding a material with a low flame spread rating and low smoke developed rating – both of which can be found on product information or safety data sheets (SDS). Additionally, not all suppliers may carry products compliant with these standards, so researching the right supplier is vital.

Discussing the testing requirements with the manufacturer or supplier before purchasing is essential. Some manufacturers may provide certification documents such as a Declaration of Compliance (DoC) or Conformance Certificate (CC), while others may require formal testing at an accredited lab to determine compliance with ASTM E84 specs. Understanding these requirements ahead of time will help avoid any potential delays in meeting deadlines due to unforeseen issues related to testing or certification needs.

Finally, proper installation and maintenance are essential when implementing ASTM E84-certified materials in construction projects. Installers must follow proper installation methods outlined by the manufacturer to verify compliance and ensure the material performs optimally when exposed to fire hazards such as flames or smoke. Otherwise, it could result in inadequate protection for building occupants during emergencies.

Additionally, regularly inspecting materials for signs of wear or damage can help ensure compliance throughout the project’s life cycle and minimize any risks associated with possible non-compliance due to age-related deterioration over time.


Conclusion: How Fire-Safe is Your Building Design?

Modern buildings are designed to minimize the fire threat, but no building is completely fireproof. Building designers can take steps to make a building as fire safe as possible. Fire safety measures can be incorporated into the design of new buildings or retrofitted into existing structures.

Along with using ASTM E84-approved fire-safe building materials, additional fire safety measures can be taken, including firewalls between building sections to contain fires and limit smoke spread. In addition, fire doors should have sensors to detect heat and automatically close if needed. Automatic sprinkler systems are also critical: they rapidly deploy when they sense an increase in temperature, thus suppressing any potential fires before they become too large.

In addition to these features, there should also be proper routes for escape in case of an emergency. These escape routes should be clearly marked and easily accessible and provide adequate space for people to escape quickly without obstruction. In larger buildings, where people may need assistance getting out safely, elevators should not be used since they tend to fail when exposed to high temperatures or thick smoke. Instead, appropriate stairs with sufficient lighting must be provided so those requiring assistance can safely evacuate the premises.

By following these design principles, architects and engineers can help ensure their buildings are as safe from fire hazards as possible. Proper planning from the start helps reduce the risk of potential fires or other catastrophes endangering the lives of occupants or causing extensive damage to property inside a building or structure’s design will ensure its inhabitants remain safe in case of an emergency.

The ultimate goal of any architect or designer is to create structures that are as safe as possible. By understanding ASTM E84 and incorporating its testing standards into architecture and design, a higher level of fire safety can be achieved. In addition, utilizing ASTM E84 when creating new builds or renovations allows architects to think critically about potential dangers and plan for them ahead of time.

As our world advances, ensuring that the built environment meets specific safety protocols is more important than ever – ASTM E84 provides an excellent tool for achieving these goals. Therefore, in the end, fire safety should be a priority for all construction projects regardless of their size – because the right solution could make all the difference in an emergency.


Additional Fire Testing

Along with the ASTM E84 test, additional fire testing standards are available. The specific fire tests recommended for building materials depend on the application and the local building codes. Generally, building materials must pass fire tests for flame spread, smoke development, and fire resistance to meet building code requirements. Additional standard building material fire tests include NFPA 285 and UL 94. Check with your local building code officials and code requirements to learn more about your regional-specific fire testing requirements.


GreenGirt® CMH™ Sub-Framing & SMARTci Continuous Insulation Systems

Best practice GreenGirt composite metal hybrid (CMH) sub-framing and SMARTci continuous insulation systems, created by Advanced Architectural Products (A2P), is an ASTM E84 Class A material approved for additional fire standards, including NFPA 285 and UL 94. To learn more about GreenGirt CMH sub-framing and SMARTci systems, visit our website or contact us today!


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