Understanding Materials Testing to Ensure Your Project’s Success

The world of building materials testing might seem foreign (even scary) to some.

But for the architect who wants to stay ahead of the game, understanding code requirement around building materials and how they’re tested can greatly impact your project’s success.

Building Materials and Relevant Codes

There are a variety of codes that apply to building materials and their applications. These include requirements for how long materials can resist fire, what design layouts can prevent the spread of fire, where fire sprinkler systems must be present, etc.

When it comes to fire-related requirements of the International Building Code (IBC), building materials are also subject to the codes used by state and local authorities. These codes are often based on those developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Consider the Materials and Their Applications

Frequently, many building materials and products are tested with a small-scale (or bench-scale)  test. Depending on the application of the product, though, a more rigorous test may be required to ensure that it meets local standards.

In many cases there’s a bit of wiggle room when it comes to compliance. The code itself isn’t always expected to address all applications of a material or product. Sometimes becoming compliant requires too much time or too many resources, and there are other ways that you can achieve equivalent standards and protection.

For instance, if it can be demonstrated that with the proposed approach (whether it’s a product or design) you’re providing at least the level of protection provided by the code, then the jurisdiction can approve it. Code consultants are especially helpful in this situation: they can help you find a solution for code equivalence that satisfies the authorities. In some cases, you can even approach the building authorities directly and make your case for code equivalence.

So what if you’ve got an unusual product or application that doesn’t quite meet code? Code consultants also have the authority to write an opinion or letter that acts as an alternate to the code, and they will often work with code officials directly to gain compliance.

Staying Code-Savvy

Above all, architects today need to stay informed when it comes to relevant codes and standards. And always remember to verify which version of the code your region specifies. In many regions, specifications can be a code cycle (or more) behind.

For example, the codes come out in 3 year cycles: the most recent set of codes came out this year. But some regions may still be using the 2015 or 2012 version of the IBC. To help navigate this, the IBC website offers a wide selection of helpful references to assist architects and other professionals with all phases of construction as well as implementing new codes.

Knowing how your project’s materials meet local requirements can greatly impact your project’s success. If you want to learn more about navigating building codes, you can check out our blog or download our guide on meeting code.

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