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Are Fire-Resistant Fiber Cement Wall Panels the Key to Durable Buildings in the Arid Western U.S.?

Nov 08, 2019 / Admin

In October and November of this year, more fires erupted across California, burning through thousands of acres of land and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. Sadly, for the past several years, wildfires in California and several other states in the Southwest — Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico — have increased dramatically as extreme weather turns parts of the country into a tinderbox.

The reality and threat of perennial fires in the western United States have architects scrambling to use fire-resistant building materials to create commercial and residential projects. But short of designing everything out of concrete blocks, few materials offer complete protection from fire. Wood becomes fuel and vinyl melts. However, more architects are discovering that Nichiha's fiber cement wall panels comply with some of the industry's most stringent fire-code standards.

Organizations such as ASTM International, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) the Canada/Unlimited Liability Corporation (CAN/ULC) and Underwriter's Laboratories have developed tests that organizations use to measure ignition resistance, combustibility and flame spread in building and wall products.

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Here's how Nichiha's architectural wall panels measure up against a range of fire tests:*

⁃ No vertical flame propagation to 10 feet above the top of the window.

⁃ No lateral flame propagation to 5 feet from the centerline of the window.

⁃ Surface temperature readings did not exceed 1000 ̊ F at any time.

⁃ Temperatures in the air cavity did not exceed 1000 ̊ F at any time.

⁃ Flame propagation did not occur in the second-floor test room at any time, nor did temperatures exceed 500 ̊ F at any time.

⁃ No vertical flame propagation to 5 meters above the top of the window.

⁃ Highest flames measured at 2.5 m

⁃ The maximum one-minute averaged value of the total heat flux density

⁃ at 3.5 m above the top of the window did not exceed 35 kW/m2.

⁃ Max one-minute averaged value was 25.4 kW/m2

Note that both NFPA 285 and ULC S134 tests evaluate the superior ignition resistance qualities of Nichiha fiber cement cladding, which makes the material nearly impervious to wildfires (see NFPA 268 and CA SFM 12.7A-1 below). 

*Test results have been verified by independent consulting firms Intertek and Priest & Associates Consulting.

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The Rising Importance of Fire-Resistant Building Materials

As architects design new buildings in fire-prone areas of the U.S., it's essential to specify fire code-compliant materials such as Nichiha for your commercial projects. Nichiha manufactures its architectural wall panels with only 15 percent wood mixed with cement.

When tested to the ASTM E-84 standard for surface burning characteristics, Nichiha cladding qualifies as a Class A building material due to a flame spread index of zero, which means fiber cement doesn't easily ignite or spread flames.

The fire-resistant characteristics of Nichiha's fiber cement panels were proven amid California's Mendocino Lake Complex fire in October 2017. This fast-moving fire incinerated every structure in a neighborhood near Redwood Valley. Except for one. The property owners had a large house and a 1,400 square-foot office in a separate building nearby. Their home constructed of natural wood cladding went up in flames quickly, but the office — sheathed in Nichiha's fire-resistant wall panels — survived and is still standing today.

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As more structures built with Nichiha's wall panels survive fires and close calls, architects are taking notice. Yes, commercial building designers choose our panels for their beauty and flexibility. But when fire resistance and durability is a project priority — and its 15-year warranty — the Nichiha architectural wall panel is a game-changer.

From limitless color possibilities to the fire-resistant design of our architectural wall panels, Nichiha USA is a top choice among architects working in the arid Western United States. To see and feel the Nichiha difference for yourself, click here to request a sample or contact your local rep to learn more.

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