When you’re in commercial construction, you hope that worst-case scenarios never happen. But developers and builders across the nation know the devastation that could result from earthquakes, wind storms, wildfires, hurricanes and more. It’s why local building codes include strict requirements on exterior cladding materials to make sure they can withstand extreme weather.
For decades, fiber cement siding has been a go-to choice for developers, architects and builders. Nichiha is proud to provide a variety of fiber cement products that meet and exceed local code requirements. They are low-maintenance and fire-resistant, and they are also available in a huge variety of sizes and textures to meet your design vision. Max Rietschier, the technical services manager at Nichiha, is here to help you learn more about the exterior cladding code changes coming in 2024 and beyond.
The new code cycle occurs every three years, and because The International Code Council (ICC) had its last code cycle occur in 2021, we are looking ahead at 2024 codes. The ICC code cycle works two years ahead of the industry with three stages of code hearings, with the final hearing having public officials vote on code changes.
Nichiha focuses on code changes because we are committed to the durability, quality and safety of our products. While we are still waiting for the changes to come out, we are able to predict some changes we’re likely to see and go over current codes and how we meet them.
All states in America adopt the ICC codes as a base code, but there are region-specific codes that states can adopt on an individual basis. Individual states will make changes to the ICC codes based on regional needs and adapt it to their specific area.
For example, colder states may adopt a more strict insulation code. More green states, like Vermont or New York, may adopt more sustainable changes to the code. Fire-prone states, like California and Texas, may increase their material fire resistance requirements. In areas with high rises, like New York, fire resistance is also important due to the limitation of fire services to reach the upper heights of high rise exterior walls.
Also, wind load code requirements vary geographically because wind speeds vary. While parts of south Florida can often expect the highest winds during hurricane season, cities farther north and inland are more protected, and therefore, their code ratings are based on lower wind speeds.
At Nichiha, we adjust our product offerings to meet energy efficiency, fire resistance, wind resistance and more in order to meet the most stringent codes and certifications across the country. When regulations become more restrictive, we adjust our offerings to ensure the highest safety levels for our panels.
Nichiha’s fiber cement cladding satisfies, and sometimes even exceeds regulations for fire and wind.
When it comes to the International Building Code (IBC) that pertains to exterior wall claddings, there is one standard that provides the most useful data about how building products respond to fire and can help architects design with confidence: NFPA 285.
NFPA 285 is the Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components. To put it simply, it’s the standard that garners the most attention when it comes to exterior wall fire protection.
To test for this standard, it requires a two-story test structure with a 78-inch x 30-inch window opening. It tests for vertical and lateral fire propagation for a particular combination of exterior wall assembly components. That means all the components of the particular exterior wall assembly need to work together to prevent a fire from spreading up and across the exterior wall of the building. Nichiha has multiple NFPA 285 approved wall assemblies. The criteria in order pass the NFPA 285 test is:
When it comes to wind resistance, there are many factors that go into whether or not an exterior cladding material will meet code requirements. You have to look at the material size, the fasteners involved, basic wind speeds, height and exposure.
When choosing exterior cladding in coastal areas affected by high winds, like Florida, size matters. During extreme weather, wind can slip under points of overlap in lap siding, creating strain and causing panels to be lifted off during storms. The smaller the panel profile, the higher the wind load rating, so choosing a narrow profile can add peace of mind.
When reviewing siding and wind load ratings, make sure city-specific requirements that take local wind speeds into consideration are examined.
If a developer is building a multi-story home or multi-family building, they must address the issue of height when selecting exterior cladding. You must have a product that is rated for the designated wind design pressure at the tallest part of the building.
The most widely accepted test standard for determining the allowable wind design pressure of an exterior cladding assembly is ASTME330. This is the Test Method for Structural Performance of Exterior Windows, Doors, Skylights and Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference. This is a long way of saying it tests a wall assembly by essentially placing it in a vacuum. The test simulates different pressure preset intervals and notes when a failure occurs, either by fastener pull-out or fastener pull-through.
Nichiha has tested many different structural wall assemblies with a variety of Nichiha exterior claddings to the ASTM E330 test standard, this gives designers a wide variety of Nichiha products to choose from with multiple levels of wind design pressures ratings. Nichiha products also hold Miami-Dade Certification; this is due to many reasons and testing capabilities, but for the AWP product a lot of it has to do with Nichiha’s Ultimate Clip System. It consists of a starter track and a 26-inch clip system that simplifies installation. Creating a built-in rainscreen with a 10mm air space to drain moisture and dry the wall, the Ultimate Clip system improves the system’s wind rating by up to 83%.
At Nichiha, we’ve built relationships with officials in government agencies responsible for keeping occupants safe, and we work hard every day to improve the performance of our products to go beyond even the latest published building codes.
For more information on Nichiha’s fire resistance and wind load ratings, contact a rep today.