Still, these norms are tough to meet, and it’s this challenge that Beitel predicts will keep FRP confined to small portions of façades for the foreseeable future. “[The industry has] got to do a lot of work with respect to formulations and doing the testing to verify that this works,” he says.

Innovation Strategies

Nanni notes that the existing codes aren’t meant to deter use of FRP in any application. “Chapter 1 Section 11 of IBC says that the intention of the model code is not to prevent innovation,” he says. “So if there is a technology that is being tested according to a set accepted criteria, and that technology shows compliance with intent of this code through an evaluation service report, then the building official is compelled to adopt it – or you might say, should consider it.”

The International Code Council Evaluation Services (ICC-ES) works with innovators to publish acceptance criteria documents that outline new criteria or revisions to criteria. Those documents, once approved during open public hearings or public comment through icc-es.org, can be used to apply for an evaluation report. AC454, for example, lays out criteria for use of FRP Bars for Internal Reinforcement of Concrete Members and is used to issue ICC-ES evaluation reports to applicants, allowing use of new technologies in construction. “This is a methodology for deploying innovation without having to wait for code development that obviously takes years and is a very long process,” Nanni says.

Still, these types of exceptions are most helpful for large-scale landmark projects. Making FRP as common a structural product as wood or steel will take easily accessible guidelines. “The next step is to get FRP written into the structural codes,” Kreysler says. “I always hear how expensive and hard this would be, but all we need is a definition of structural FRP. Simply being recognized as a material is half the battle. The next step is to define the properties.”

Getting FRP incorporated into building codes – and gaining public buy-in surrounding composite materials in vertical construction – gets a little bit easier with every new project in which composites play a role. “It’s a matter of getting contractors familiar with the material,” Nanni says. “It takes education.”