This year, architects in Texas won the flexibility to clad their commercial building projects with modern and innovative materials, such as durable fiber-cement wall panels. Thanks to the passage of H.B. 2439, local governments can no longer enforce restrictive building codes that make it difficult for architects to use any material in their designs that are not a masonry material, such as brick.
However, the new law means the state's 220-plus local codes and ordinances can no longer prevent builders from incorporating other materials into their commercial projects. Groups from contractors, builders, plasterers and construction industry trade groups have unanimously welcomed the change.
With the passing of H.B. 2439, architects now have free rein to specify highly durable, engineered wall claddings, such as Nichiha's fiber-cement architectural wall panels for new building construction or renovation projects. Architectural wall panels are engineered to echo scores of textures and colors, a benefit creative architects appreciate when designing structures that stand apart from or blend in with the surrounding community.
For instance, Nichiha wall panels closely match numerous brick styles and colors, concrete blocks, sandstone, stacked stone and tile finishes. But for architects looking for benefits beyond skin-deep beauty, these fiber-cement panels offer durability that withstands the harsh effects of Texas weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
Manufactured from a durable, cementitious material, Nichiha architectural wall panels have built-in rain screens, which keeps moisture from penetrating walls in hurricane-force storms and tornadoes. To be sure, the panels meet the country's strictest resilience guidelines, which are mandated by Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In testing, Nichiha panels withstand and deflect 75 mph winds, rain and pressures of 12 to 16 psf (pounds per square foot).
What's more, under the stringent Florida building code, approved products are required to pass the following tests conducted by a laboratory in compliance with the International Code Council's Testing Application Standard (TAS) 301:
With performances like the above, you'll find that Nichiha's panels easily pass the rigors of the industry's informal standards governing building enclosures: Deflection, Drainage, Drying and Durability, otherwise known as the four Ds. Additionally, the Texas Department of Insurance has said Nichiha panels meet the performance requirements it mandates through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), which oversees insurance claims for the state's Gulf Coast counties.
While designing buildings to stand up to environmental threats such as extreme wind and rain is significant, architects must specify materials that exhibit robust fire-resistant properties at the same time. By this measure, Nichiha delivers. When tested to the ASTM E-84 standard for surface burning characteristics, Nichiha cladding qualifies as a Class A building material because of a flame spread index of zero. In other words, fiber cement doesn't easily ignite or spread flames.
Finally, Nichiha cladding meets the industry's gold standard NFPA 285. This test evaluates the fire propagation characteristics of exterior non-load-bearing wall assemblies containing combustible components. It must pass each of these requirements:
Texas's H.B. 2439 has leveled the playing field for the first time in years — making it possible for architects and designers to leverage a broader assortment of cladding materials that'll stretch your creativity, yet provide the durability and long-lasting qualities you expect in traditional masonry materials.
From limitless color possibilities to the durable design of our architectural wall panels, Nichiha USA is a top choice among architects across the country. To see and feel the Nichiha difference for yourself, click here to request a sample or contact your local rep to learn more.