On June 7, the NFPA Fire Test Committee is set to vote on a revision that would effectively change the NFPA Standard 285 (multi-story fire test for exterior walls). A proposed amendment will require a new configuration for the test: it will now require a new joint (horizontal) about 4 feet above the window opening with another joint extending perpendicular from that joint upward. 

While changes that center around health and safety would seem logical, this proposal lacks any just reason. The EIFS Industry Members Association (EIMA) is being joined by many others in objecting to this proposal, for the simple reasons that it adds a cost that won’t result in a higher level of safety.

On June 7, EIMA and its members will vote against this proposal for these five reasons:

  1. If this proposal is approved, ICC will likely adopt it during the next code cycle. As a result, previous testing will no longer comply with the code forcing retests to occur. This process could cost manufacturers a staggering $25,000 per wall system variation.
  2. Several evaluation services base their acceptance on test data. If the proposed language is adopted, “older” tests may no longer be allowed. This process would add time and cost, while not addressing any safety concerns.
  3. There is no data that shows the current requirements are insufficient for testing exterior walls. Again, this proposal does not stem from safety concerns.
  4. If the lack of data or justification for this proposal wasn’t frustrating enough, the lack of clarity in the proposed language should do the trick. A typical wall system includes several components, so we have to ask ourselves, what type of joint is required at the specified locations. Are we testing joints in the veneer, joints in the insulation, or something entirely different?
  5. Finally, we must continue to criticize the proposal’s language. While the text provides information on where the vertical joint is specified, it does not account for information that could result in variability in the testing arrangement, while still meeting the proposed text.

The only logical thing to do is reject this current proposal. If deemed necessary to address the health and safety of buildings, the Fire Test Committee should set-up a group to evaluate whether the specified joint locations in the proposed amendment to the NFPA Standard 285 are predictive of real fire performance.