Defend Against Arson or Accidental Ignition in Malls, Assembly Areas, and Other Public Buildings

THE NEED FOR FIRE-SAFE INTERIORS IN PUBLIC BUILDINGS RESISTANT TO ACCIDENTAL OR ARSON-TYPE IGNITION

There are two recent significant fires that caused significant loss of life.

  1. Grenfell Tower fire in the United Kingdom – June 14, 2017
  2. Kyoto Animation fire in Japan – July 18, 2019

The Grenfell Tower fire appears to have been accidental ignition. The Kyoto Animation fire seems to have been caused by an arsonist.

There is a wealth of post-fire information that is available on the Grenfell Tower fire. As of the date of this bulletin, there is little information as to building content and the part it might have played in the rapidly destructive Kyoto Animation fire.

The Grenfell Tower fire was attributable to flammable exterior materials rather than building content, furnishings, and interior finish; however, the lessons learned from this fire should be instructive to all responsible parties who should be concerned with fire-safe interiors.

In the post analysis of the fire, the following questions come to mind:

  • Did the exterior material (cladding) meet code requirements?
  • If it met the code, was the code stringent enough to offer a sufficient degree of fire safety?
  • If the code appeared to allow extremely flammable materials, was there any action on the part of responsible parties to offer improved fire-resistant materials?
  • Did the cladding undergo actual fire testing? (In certain situations, computer modeling or desktop studies are used to qualify products.)
  • If fire testing was conducted on the cladding, were the reports applicable to the actual cladding installed? (In many instances, reports are tendered which sometimes date back to a product’s earlier production run.)

While product formulations may be the same as earlier production runs, current testing is always prudent as the actual manufacturing process doesn’t guarantee that the currently produced products will actually be the same as earlier production runs.

The list can go on and on.

In Govspec’s opinion, all who are concerned with building interiors have the responsibility to see that fire-safe building contents, furnishings, and interior finish are installed in public buildings.


It should not be assumed that code and the AHJ are guarantees of fire safety. All those represented in the supply chain should bear this responsibility. This includes:

  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Code Writers
  • Architectural and Design Firms
  • Buyers and Specifiers
  • Building Owners and Managers
  • Manufacturers
  • Suppliers
  • Installers

In the United States, there are four national consensus codes that specify fire test requirements for products used in the interiors of public buildings:

  • NFPA 101 Life Safety Code
  • International Fire Code
  • International Building Code
  • NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code

Most local and state codes are usually based on the texts of the national consensus codes.

The exemplar Govspec guides that are part of this bulletin offer the code requirements as understood by Govspec and recommendations by Govspec that go beyond the code requirements.


Grenfell Tower fire in the United Kingdom – June 14, 2017
Kyoto Animation fire in Japan – July 18, 2019

Fire Code Requirements for Building Contents, Furnishings, and Interior Finishes

Places of Assembly

(Guide Template)

Item Test Procedure Requirement
Bedding Items (i.e. Blankets, Sheets, Pillows, & Pillowcases) Not Applicable Not Applicable
Carpeting & Floor Coverings1
Area Rugs CFR 1630/1631 *
Interior Floor Finish (Including Carpeting)
1. Exit Enclosures CFR 1630
and
ASTM E648 (s)
ASTM E648 (u)
*

*
*
2. Exit Access Corridors CFR 1630
and
ASTM E648 (s)
ASTM E648 (u)
*

*
*
3. Spaces Not Separated by One-Hour Fire Rated Walls CFR 1630
and
ASTM E648 (s)
ASTM E648 (u)
*

*
*
4. All Other Applications CFR 1630
and
ASTM E648
*

*
Draperies/Curtains & Other Loosely Hanging Materials2 NFPA 701 TM1
or
NFPA 701 TM2
*

*
Mattresses Not Applicable Not Applicable
Upholstered Furniture3

1. Component Testing

2. Furniture Mockup/Actual Furniture Item

3. Actual Furniture Item


NFPA 260 (s)
or
NFPA 261 (s)
and/or
ASTM E1537 (u)

*

*

*
  • * Available from Govspec
  • s = Sprinklered
  • u = Unsprinklered
Item Test Procedure Requirement
Wall & Ceiling Coverings (Interior Finish)4
1. Enclosed Stairways ASTM E84 (s)
or
ASTM E84 (u)
or
NFPA 265 (u)
or
NFPA 286 (u)
*

*

*

*
2. Corridors & Lobbies ASTM E84 (s)
or
NFPA 265 (u)
or
NFPA 286 (u)
*

*

*
3. All Other Areas ASTM E84 (s)
or
NFPA 265 (u)
or
NFPA 286 (u)
*

*

*
4. General Assembly Occupancies - Over 300 ASTM E84 (s)
or
ASTM E84 (u)
or
NFPA 265 (u)
or
NFPA 286 (u)
*

*

*

*
5. General Assembly Occupancies - 300 or Less ASTM E84 (s)
or
NFPA 265 (u)
or
NFPA 286 (u)
*

*

*
Projection Screens5 ASTM E84
or
NFPA 701 TM1
or
NFPA 701 TM2
*

*

*
  • * Available from Govspec
  • s = Sprinklered
  • u = Unsprinklered

For other products and tests that might be required by the national consensus codes, the reader is directed to “Fire Code Requirements for Building Contents, Furnishings, and Interior Finishes: Supplemental Tests”.


Exemplar Footnote

1 Carpeting, Floor Coverings, Area Rugs, and Interior Floor Finish

Area Rugs

CFR 1630/1631 are federal standards which apply to all carpets and rugs. This includes area rugs and wall to wall carpeting. The reason for two standards is that CFR 1631 applies to small carpets and rugs such as bath mats and similar sized items. CFR 1630 applies to all carpets and rugs exceeding 24 ft.² or having any dimension longer than 6 ft.

Some of the codes might reference ASTM D2859 which is a voluntary industry version of the federal documents.

Interior Floor Finish

ASTM E648 and NFPA 253 bear the same title: “Standard Method of Test for Critical Radiant Flux of Floor Covering Systems Using a Radiant Heat Energy Source”.

The tests are essentially the same. The ASTM version is cited by the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. The NFPA version is cited by the International Fire Code.

It’s possible that the local code official might insist upon a particular version.

Consideration should be given to Class I, even in sprinklered areas.


Fire Code Requirements* for Building Contents, Furnishings, and Interior Finishes

SUPPLEMENTAL TESTS

(Guide Template)

Introduction

Scattered throughout the national consensus building codes, there are various other fire tests that do pertain to building contents other than those listed for the various primary occupancies. Those concerned with fire safety should consider these supplemental tests irrespective of the occupancy, where appropriate.

Govspec would like to reiterate that this is not to be considered a legal document. Its intent is to alert the reader to the availability of the tests, the performance levels that are listed throughout the codes, and Govspec recommendations.

Product to be Tested Test Method Requirement
Kiosks
Fire-retardant Treated Wood ** 25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
No Significant Progressive Combustion
10.5 ft. Max Flame Front Progression
Foamed Plastics **
OR
**
100 kW Maximum Heat Release Rate
Light Transmitting Plastics **
AND
**
OR
**
AND
**
650°F Minimum Self-Ignition Temp

450 Max Smoke Developed

75 Maximum Average Smoke Density

Class CC1 or CC2
Metal Composite Material (MCM) ** 25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
450 Max Smoke Developed
Textiles & Films **
OR
**
Pass

Pass
FOAMED PLASTICS **
OR
**
150 kW Maximum Heat Release Rate
Plastic Signs **
AND
**
650°F Minimum Self-Ignition Temp

75 Maximum Flame Spread Index
450 Max Smoke Developed
  • * See Disclaimer
  • ** Available from Govspec
Product to be Tested Test Method Requirement
Children's Play Structures
Fire-retardant Treated Wood ** 25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
No Significant Progressive Combustion
10.5 ft. Max Flame Front Progression
Foamed Plastics

AND they should be covered
with a textile or film
**
OR
**
100 kW Maximum Heat Release Rate
Metal Composite Material (MCM) ** 25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
450 Max Smoke Developed
Plastic Materials (Various) ** 400 kW/m² Max Heat Release Rate
Textiles & Films **
OR
**
Pass

Pass
Light Transmitting Plastics **
AND
**
OR
**
AND
**
650°F Minimum Self-Ignition Temp

450 Max Smoke Developed

75 Maximum Average Smoke Density

Class CC1 or CC2
Textiles & Films **
OR
**
Pass

Pass
Pool Balls **
OR
**
100 kW Maximum Heat Release Rate
Floorcovering ** Class I (0.45 W/cm² Min)
  • * See Disclaimer
  • ** Available from Govspec
Product to be Tested Test Method Requirement
Exhibit Booths
Fire-retardant Treated Wood ** 25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
No Significant Progressive Combustion
10.5 ft. Max Flame Front Progression
Foamed Plastics

Containing Foamed Plastics
**
OR
**
100 kW Maximum Heat Release Rate
Flame-redardant Materials **
OR
**
OR
**
OR
**
Pass

Pass

100 kw Maximum Heat Release Rate
Textile Wallcoverings
(such as carpeting or similar materials)
**

OR
**
OR
**
25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
450 Max Smoke Developed

Pass

Pass
Cardboard, Honeycombed Paper,
& Other Combustible Materials
**
OR
**
150 kW Maximum Heat Release Rate
Plastics ** Pass
Floorcovering(5) ** Class I (0.45 W/cm² Min)
Plastic Signs **
AND
**

OR
**
AND
**
650°F Minimum Self-Ignition Temp

25 Maximum Flame Spread Index
450 Max Smoke Developed

Pass
  • * See Disclaimer
  • ** Available from Govspec

** DISCLAIMER **

The information contained in the test procedure and requirements columns is a combination of the national consensus requirements and Govspec recommendations.

In many instances, the codes’ requirements are less restrictive if the area is sprinklered.

Govspec offers a more conservative approach and recommends a higher level of testing even if the area is sprinklered.

Rationale is offered in the footnotes for those particular items.

In some instances, Govspec recommends tests that beyond the code specified tests. Again, the rationale is offered in the footnotes.

In the event of legal claims resulting from fire damage or loss of life, the code requirement could be challenged.

While Govspec has prepared this document with a high level of diligence, Govspec does not certify the information as to its accuracy.

The information contained herein is meant to alert the reader to those code requirements and test standards (procedures) that exist for establishing a level of fire safety.

The reader is always referred to the actual documents herein to make his own determination. (This includes the code definition/s of the cited occupancy and product category.)

The items listed herein are not all-inclusive. Items other than those listed herein are regulated by the codes.

In addition, local codes might be more restrictive than the national consensus codes. Again, the reader is referred to the actual codes to make his own determination.

The reader is instructed not to attach any legal significance to the information contained herein.

References

Available From

NFPA 101 Life Safety Code

International Fire Code

International Building Code

NFPA 5000 Building Construction & Safety Code