Report Issued on Plastics In Building Construction
Southwest Research Institute recently released a detailed report of its year-long study of fire safety aspects of plastics in building construction. The study, sponsored by the Plastics Group of the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association, Washington, D. C., was directed by Calvin H. Yuill, Fire Technologist of the Institute.
The actual and potential uses of plastic building materials in a single-family residence and in a multistory office building are considered and discussed in terms of the fire safety requirements of buildings, the means by which control is exercised through building codes, and the effect of such controls on product utilization. The aim of the plastics industry to assure safest use of its products in building construction and the means of achieving this objective within the framework of building codes are examined and recommendations presented.
The report points out that on the one hand the building official must learn the significance of terms relating to classes and types of plastics. He should know the meaning of terms such as thermosetting and thermoplastic . . . and familiarize himself with the basic types of plastics, and the form in which they are used in buildings. He should recognize terms used within the industry to distinguish between plastics that are alike in appearance but differ widely in other important characteristics.
On the other hand, the producers must learn the terms of reference under which building officials operate and the importance of a mutual understanding and acceptance of definitions.
The term “self-extinguishing,” for instance, has been used within the plastics industry for many years to differentiate between plastics that continue to bum after ignition and those that bum only while exposed to a small test flame. The term itself and the test method upon which it is based are not related to conditions of exposure in building fires and any attempt to use it in that manner can only lead to confusion.
While the report states that many of the fire safety standards incorporated in building codes are based upon arbitrary definitions of fire hazards, it also presents recommendations that will undoubtedly benefit fire and building officials as well as the plastics industry.
It points out, for example, that smoke emissions, toxic gases, and deformation under fire exposure are areas in particular need of study. It recommends as a corollary that additional research Ire directed toward improved product performance in areas where hazards may exist. The report states that the plastics industry at present is particularly active in this effort. It also recommends a concerted effort to obtain information on the reaction of plastics in actual building fires.
The report contains an extensive bibliography. One section lists literature on the use of plastics in buildings; another, fire safety and building design; a third, plastics and fire safety; and still another, plastics and fire hazards.
Copies of the report are available at $5 each from William Demarest, at the Association, 1825 Connecticut Ave., N. W., Washington 9, D. C.