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How Alucobond ACM Has Evolved To Meet Strict Building Standards

Alucobond Plus, Rush University Medical Center, Hospital, Perkins + Will, Chicago, Photos by Robert R. Gigliotti

Alucobond® aluminum composite material (ACM) has been used for exterior cladding products in the North American building construction market for over forty years. Throughout these years, we have continued to be on the forefront of all fire and building code developments. However, the national and international building codes have recently challenged the construction market with design-oriented goals of sustainability and energy efficiency. The increasing demand for high performance, energy-efficient buildings has led to the evolution of building enclosure designs that incorporate durability, longevity, and thermal and weather protection. Architects and building owners are now required to meet stringent energy codes which has resulted in a systems approach to designing the building envelop components. As a result, fire protection and life safety issues have significantly affected the development of the fire codes and has become integral with recent International Building Code (IBC) updates. A lot is now dependent on the correct usage of materials and systems, especially when it comes to the facade of a building and ACM.

Alucobond PE, Alucobond PLUS, Aluminum Composite Material ACM

Alucobond can be provided with a choice between two types of core products: standard polyethylene (PE) and fire retardant Plus. While these product lines typically differ from one another in core composition, both are regulated by the IBC. The performance requirements for choosing one ACM product type over another primarily depend on panel height above grade or grade plane and separation distance to the property line or to other structures within the property boundaries. Moreover, these provisions have changed significantly in the 2012 version of the IBC due to the stringent energy code requirements. Choosing the correct ACM so as to mitigate the risk caused by fire has become challenging. Making the correct choice of core material can be a complex process and has become the most frequently asked question.

The 2012 IBC established criteria that determine when a standard core or a fire retardant core must be used. The major elements that dictate the type of ACM to use include: ACM height above grade or grade plane, wall construction type (rated or non-rated fire assemblies), and proximity to the property line or other structures within the property boundaries. When the construction conditions are within the limitations as outlined in the IBC, a standard core material can be used. When these installation conditions are not within the defined limitations, either the fire retardant core material must be used or the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) must provide an approval. A number of specific performance tests are referenced to define allowable use, including several American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) tests as well as an intermediate-scale fire test, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 285 (Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components).

Alucobond Plus, MassArt Residence, ADD, Boston, Kate Hensley Suffolk Construction

The 2003, 2006, and 2009 editions of the IBC used two critical height options, 40’ and 50’, that defined the correct choice of ACM core material. However, with the revisions included in the 2012 edition of the IBC, there are now three critical height options that impact the correct choice of ACM core material. These heights are 40’, 50’, and 75’ above grade or grade plane and the basic requirements are as follows:


Standard ACM Core Installation Less Than 40’ Above Grade Plane
The use of the PE core material on all construction types to a height of 40’ above grade plane is allowed in several sections of the IBC. Limitations include a fire separation distance of 5’-0” or greater.

Standard ACM Core Installation Greater Than 40’, but Less Than 50’ Above Grade Plane
Installations of standard core ACM up to 50’ above grade plane are defined in Section 1407.11.2 and are based on the allowable use of plastic veneer defined in Chapter 26. Limitations include section size and vertical separation of sections.

Standard Core ACM Installation Greater than 50’, but Less Than 75’ Above Grade Plane
This provision was adopted for ACM cladding assemblies in the 2012 version of the IBC. There are two options defined. The first option is based on occupancy type while the second option is based on fire separation distance. Where the building is equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system, the maximum height and area can be modified. The use of a flame barrier may also impact the vertical separation requirements.

BAUHAUS Berlin, Muller Reimann Architekten, Alucobond Plus Brilliant Silver Metallic, Photography by Stefan Muller

Additional criteria are noted in the IBC for all conditions noted above and special care should be taken to fully understand these requirements. The stringent fire protection provisions coupled with energy codes have dramatically changed the way wall assemblies are designed. As expectations for building performance, facility life, and occupant health and safety continue to increase, Alucobond is dedicated to providing value-added capabilities regarding performance standards and code compliance. Let our technical expertise help you through the complex process of choosing the core material needed for your project.

Christina Saunders, Alucobond, From The Experts

Christina Saunders has been named architectural application engineer, Americas, supporting sales of Alucobond ACM.  In this role, Saunders will represent the company in building codes and standards issues; manage technical development, testing and qualification of architectural products; develop product technical materials and training; and design/develop new products and applications for the architectural market. Saunders has more than 25 years’ experience in the building construction industry. Saunders most recently served as owner/president of CSi of the Carolinas, a construction consulting firm founded in 1991.  Prior to starting CSi, Saunders served as a technical sales engineer for both H.H. Robertson and for J.R. Morton Co.

Photography: Rush University Medical Center Hospital by Perkins + Will Chicago, Photo by Robert R. Gigliotti; MassArt Residence by ADD Boston, Photo by Kate Hensley of Suffolk Construction

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9 Comments

  1. emcnamara
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Hello – Do you have a list of assemblies that have been tested using Alucobond Plus and PE panels ??

    • Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Are there specific tests that you are looking for? -Christina M. Saunders, Applications Engineer

      704-838-7048 Office
      704-907-5535 Mobile

  2. Posted May 10, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi – we are considering using Alucobond panels on an office furniture product. Is there a way to get Class A fire rating with this product?

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Holbrook, yes our Alucobond Plus 4mm material meets the requirement of the Class A rating criteria from the IBC and NFPA Life Safety codes. Please let me know if we can help you further

  3. James Lynch
    Posted November 30, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Are there exterior metal panels made by Alucobond that have been tested with spray foam insulation to comply as an assembly with NFPA 285

    • Posted December 6, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      James, I forwarded your contact information to your local sales rep and he will be in contact with you as soon as possible to answer your question and any others you may have

  4. Lars
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    the IBC and several NFPA reports for NFPA assemblies state the need for MCM system to meet NFPA 285

    How is a single material within an exterior wall to meet NFPA 285.

    Do you test the MCM panel to the NFPA 285 test and pass? and therefore “meet” NFPA 285?

  5. Emily Jim
    Posted March 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I am looking for a NFPA 285 test with closed cell polyurethane foam insulation. can you tell me if there is one?

    • Posted March 24, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Emily, we forwarded your question to our Applications Engineer, Christina Saunders, she will email you directly with the information you’re seeking

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  1. By Download Blog on July 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Strict Building Code Requirements

    […] A rating criteria from the IBC and NFPA Life Safety codes. Please let me know if […]

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