To provide that translation, ACMA’s Architectural Division has released a new document featuring a comprehensive set of guidelines and recommendations for using FRP in architectural products and designs. “Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Fiber-Reinforced-Polymer (FRP) Architectural Products” is available free for a limited time at svy.mk/1SSF7nX and will be distributed at ACMA’s Composites Pavilion at the AIA Convention May 19-21 in Philadelphia.

“In the past we’ve been able to show some photos and cursory documents, but nothing that has all the information [architects] need,” Steffen says. “Now if a project comes along they can go to the document and know if seismic is handled, how bending loads and attachments are taken care of, etc.”

Gaining Acceptance from Architects

Seeing more composites in architectural applications will take more than code changes; it will require education. For example, although composite fabricators take for granted their product’s durability and strength, these are among the first questions asked by many architects. “They have a misconception that it’s only for light loads or there are no long-term durability studies,” Steffen says. That’s largely due to a lack of familiarity with the product.

“In the educational requirements for accredited schools of architecture, there are entire curriculum blocks dedicated to covering building construction materials and systems,” Riebe says. “However, as a relatively new building material, FRP is not included in most of these curricula. All the time is spent on steel, timber, concrete and glass. There needs to be a concerted effort by the composites industry to help introduce composites into these types of courses and to equip the educators with the most current and relative data.”

To this end, Riebe explains that ACMA’s Architectural Division held the first “Composites Challenge.” It invited five architecture schools to participate in a semester-long composites design exploration. “We held workshops for 75 students earlier this spring and are looking forward to incredible results. These are the types of activities that are crucial to introducing the future leaders of the architectural industry to the possibilities of composites,” Riebe says. The strongest and most imaginative entries in the challenge will be on display at CompositeBuild.com’s booth in the Composites Pavilion at the AIA Convention.

Koerner adds that the costs of materials and fabrication equipment may hold some schools back from adding composites to their curriculum. UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design Department works with donated materials from local composites suppliers.

Matthew J. Glawatz, associate principal of The Clark Enersen Partners, an architecture firm in Lincoln, Neb., adds that education for practicing architects also is crucial. “Due to our lack of understanding of these products, I would encourage manufacturers to expand their efforts to engage the architectural community,” he says. “We do like to be on the cutting-edge of building technology, but at times it eludes us if we are not presented with the possibilities that exist.” Education could range from a simple 30-minute presentation on the benefits of a specific product to a customized continuing education session, says Glawatz.