What are some of the main concerns of using composite materials in the construction industry?

Regulations depend on how the product is supposed to be used. Will it be used as furniture, a fixture, interior finish or structural component? Primarily, the requirement for non-combustible building materials for highly protected structures would be the main concern. The combustibility of building materials is regulated in one way or another for most applications.

How often do you come across fabricators, contractors or designers that fail code requirements due to a lack of knowledge where composites are concerned?

Very frequently! It has been an ongoing educational process. That is the primary reason one of the areas I specialize in is composites in building construction. Not understanding the code requirements for the application proposed seems to be the biggest issue.

We (CCBD) have guidelines that address when it may be appropriate to regulate decorative materials as building materials called the unique interior guidelines. How big is an umbrella before it should be classified as a ceiling? This consideration is not only to limit fire concerns inside buildings but also to help assure reasonable structural aspects. This focus need not only take a conservative position and regulate decorative materials as building materials; it can also allow what some may consider building materials to be regulated less conservatively as decorative materials.

What is your favorite area when dealing with fire protection guidelines?

Working with the unique interiors guidelines happens to be my favorite area. If you really understand the physics, the combustibility, the material and the code applications you can look at it from a hazard standpoint rather than being black and white. It really takes into account a lot of different aspects and brings them together. The guidelines provide reasonable interpretive latitude between being a decorative material and being a building material.

ACMA’s Architectural Division CGI committee was integral in the adoption of section 2612 under the 26th chapter of the 2009 edition of the IBC: How have these new codes advanced/changed the use of composites within the industry?

I actually have to send out my congratulations to Bill Kreysler and ACMA’s Architectural Division for their proactive revisions to this section. When it was originally approved, I was concerned about the substantial allowances but with conversations with this group, I become comfortable that they revised the code to reflect a more conservative position. The modifications have established allowances for composites usage in the exterior of building construction; however, there’s still a long way to go.