This response was previous sent to RCI representatives.
The tragic events of June 14 at the Grenfell Tower are subject to an ongoing investigation, that might very well result in new fire testing and codes for London. As investigators and other building experts continue to analyze next steps, others have taken advantage of this tragic event by including it as the opening for articles about other materials and systems.
Recently, an article was featured in RCI Interface, entitled Fire Resistance of Exterior Cladding Materials. It comes as no surprise that the initial hook is the Grenfell Tower tragedy, next was the New Year’s Eve 2015 Dubai Hotel fire, and then a list of other examples that would help prove the author’s point. The first example on the list stung, it was the 2008 Monte Carlo fire. There was nothing personal about the reference, but it’s a common example that’s been used in the past when referencing notable fires in the US. It’s also the poster child example of when people watch, listen, and read the initial wave of reports, but fail to read the investigation’s conclusion. What’s interesting is that Monte Carlo was the sole United States example on the author’s list.
The Monte Carlo example is nothing like the Grenfell Tower fire, which is why it was so disappointing to see referenced here. For those looking to dig deeper, they would find that the Monte Carlo fire was a result of welding that occurred along the roof’s wall. The fire then began a lateral progression over decorative materials. While the fire did eventually involve the EIF system, the findings also concluded that neither the decorative materials or system met the required code. EIFS is a system and works as such. What was identified in this situation, was not that system. If you’re looking for an example of a US fire to compare to the Grenfell Tower, this isn’t it.
While dragging EIFS through an article that begins with horrible tragedies from Europe and Asia, the authors remain way off base. When discussing EIF systems, the foam plastic insulation typically has ignition temperatures that are greater than wood. Additionally, in an EIF System, the EPS foam is protected from direct flame impingement by the lamina coating. This reduces the potential for open flaming of the EPS and assists in providing the EIF System with its excellent performance.
When looking for an example of exterior wall cladding systems and materials that have passed fire resistance, ignitability, intermediate multi-story, and full scale corner tests, you’re going to see EIFS included. ASTM E 119, NFPA 268, and NFPA 285 are required and act as a benchmark for fire-testing in the United States, all tests that EIFS successfully passed.
We need articles about fire safety, prevention, and appropriate testing. We all need examples, education, and an understanding that a level of due diligence was undertaken. Unfortunately, this time it seems to fall short. If you don’t make it to the final paragraph you’re going to have a lot of questions. If you do read the article in its entirety, you’re probably going to wonder why certain inclusions were made.
Unless there was some other purpose in writing this entire article, the final paragraph is where the authors get it right. The United States is doing a good job, and individuals should remain mindful of potential changes to codes and standards. Grenfell Tower does not meet the stringent fire testing our building codes have in place – EIFS and others do.