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Flammability specifications

Resources | May 1, 2011 | By:

I’m making some fabric structures that are being used in a camp for kids, and the local inspector is asking if the fabric meets ICC. I tried to tell him that ICC is the group that writes the International Building Code, but he says I should know what the flammability of the material is. What can I tell him?

You’re absolutely right in that the ICC is the International Code Council, the entity that promulgates the IBC, the International Building Code. Neither the ICC nor the IBC is a flammability specification per se. Rather, the IBC references flammability specifications, depending on the type of structure.

– Fabric structures that are erected for more than 180 days fall under the IBC. Specifically, Chapter 31: Special Construction. The section that addresses flammability of the material is 3102.3.1: Membrane and interior liner material:
Membranes and interior liners shall be either noncombustible as set forth in Section 703.4 or meet the fire propagation performance criteria of NFPA 701 and the manufacturer’s test protocol.

– Fabric structures that are erected for 180 days or less fall under the IFC, the International Fire Code. Specifically, Chapter 24: Tents, Canopies and Other Membrane Structures. The section that addresses flammability of the material is 2404.2:
Flame-resistant treatment. Before a permit is granted, the owner or agent shall file with the fire code official a certificate executed by an approved testing laboratory, certifying that the tents, canopies and membrane structures and their appurtenances, sidewalls, drops and tarpaulins, floor coverings, bunting, combustible decorative materials and effects, including sawdust when used on floors or passageways, shall be composed of flame-resistant material or shall be treated with a flame retardant in an approved manner and meet the requirements for flame resistance as determined in accordance with NFPA 701, and that such flame resistance is effective for the period specified by the permit.

As a result, testing the fabrics you use to NFPA 701 should give your local code official the information that is sought, since it is referenced in both the IBC and the IFC. (Please note that IBC 3102.3.1 uses the word “or”—materials that pass NFPA 70 are as acceptable as ‘noncombustible.’)

Juli Case is IFAI’s information and technical services manager.

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