Home > Architecture, Building, Consumer Products, Design, Health & Science > An Update: Achieving Class A Designation for Fire Safety

An Update: Achieving Class A Designation for Fire Safety

May 13th, 2010

Craig Thompson - 1By Craig Thompson, Copper Development Association, Project Manager & Architectural Applications Specialist

Craig Thompson is an Illinois-registered architect.  He holds a graduate degree in architecture and, in 1972, began working in construction on residential, commercial and retail projects.  He joined the CDA in 1992, working primarily with architects.  He provides them with information for working with copper, including design assistance and help locating products and installers.

I recently attended hearings of the International Code Council (ICC) on the subject of copper roofing and fire ratings.  Some Building codes exist to enable architects and builders to specify the level of fire safety of the materials chosen for new construction – Class A, Class B or Class C.  For example, if someone building a home in an area of California where there are brush fires wanted to do something extra to protect the home, they would go with Class A materials.  For decades there was an exception for copper in the building code because it had always been considered non-combustible.

IMG_0237The ICC building codes are revised every three years, and in the last cycle (2009), the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) removed the exception for copper and some other materials until thorough testing could be conducted to prove that they earn the Class A designation.  Different municipalities adopt the codes in different years, so theoretically, if someone in a municipality that adopted the 2009 code wanted to specify a Class A roofing material, copper would be out of the running.

We enlisted the services of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio to conduct the necessary tests according to UL protocol.  The tests were done in 2008 and copper passed every one of them.  But that was only the first step.  The second step was the code hearings I attended last fall, held by the Fire Safety Committee of the ICC.  The committee is made up of engineers, consultants and code officials.  We passed this step, too.  But, again, the process is not complete.  The public is given a period of time during which they can comment on the committee’s decision.  Then there will be a final code hearing.  If nobody comments on the Class A copper designation, then it will pass and be included in the 2012 code.  That will be a good event for everyone concerned with copper as a building material.

Comments are closed.