A Focus on the Combustibility of Building Materials

In the realm of architecture, design and construction, the safety and integrity of buildings hold a central position. The selection of building materials is not merely a matter of aesthetics and function but is intertwined with the safety and resilience of the structures they compose. This topic has inspired a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) presentation by the Innova™ technical team, which is approved by Refuel, the Australian Institute of Architects brand for the External CPD Provider Network. Additionally, Architecture & Design have published a Whitepaper on the combustibility of building materials.

CPD Presentation Overview

The comprehensive CPD presentation entitled ‘The Combustibility of Building Materials’ presented by the Innova™ team is an exploration of fire safety in Australian buildings, specifically discussing the use of fibre cement materials and their levels of combustibility. Innova™’s ‘Combustibility of Building Materials’ presentation is a critical look at the aspects of fire safety when designing and building. This demands a deep understanding, not only for the architects and designers who plan the built environment but also for the builders who construct and building surveyors who certify these buildings.

By the conclusion of the Innova™ CPD presentation on ‘The Combustibility of Building Materials’, participants will be able to grasp fundamental terminology and concepts concerning fire ratings and the combustibility of various building materials including fibre cement and plasterboard. Additionally, participants will gain the ability to distinguish between combustible and non-combustible building materials as stipulated by the National Construction Code (NCC). The Innova™ technical team also covers the essential principles of passive and active fire control measures. The CPD presentation is tailored to address specific competencies as outlined in the National Standard of Competency for Architects 2015.

Architecture & Design Whitepaper Publication

Architecture and Design have published a Whitepaper based on Innova™’s Combustibility of Building Materials CPD presentation. By definition, a whitepaper is an informative document designed to educate readers about complex issues and offer technological solutions, often presenting the author’s perspective on the matter. Its primary purpose is to help readers gain a clear understanding of a topic, address challenges, or make informed decisions.

Architecture and Design’s whitepaper highlights the significance of assessing building materials in terms of their combustibility and fire resistance, particularly concerning structural elements crucial for stability. It emphasises the importance of architects, designers, and specifiers possessing a comprehensive understanding of how fire performance and testing criteria influence the selection of building materials and systems. The whitepaper offers valuable insights into key fire safety concepts within the National Construction Code and relevant Australian fire standards, serving as an informative guide for industry professionals.

Understanding the Role of Building Materials

Building materials serve various functions in the construction of a building, from providing structural support to enhancing aesthetics. However, the role they play in fire safety cannot be underestimated. It’s not just about how materials look or perform under normal conditions, but also how they behave when exposed to fire. The ‘Combustibility of Building Materials’ CPD presentation and the A&D Whitepaper delve into greater and specific details about materials and their levels of combustibility and their applications. 

The Fire Safety Imperative

Fire safety is a paramount concern in architecture. Fires can be devastating, causing loss of life, property, and irreplaceable assets. Architects and designers and builders are tasked with the responsibility of minimising the risk of fire incidents and ensuring the safety of building occupants and the surrounding environment.

Classification of Building Materials

As discussed in detail throughout the ‘Combustibility of Building Materials’ CPD presentation and the A&D Whitepaper, building materials can be classified based on their combustibility, ranging from highly combustible to non-combustible. This categorisation is essential to determine where and how different materials should be used in a building.

Some examples provided by the Innova™ team are: Highly Combustible Materials: materials like untreated wood, certain types of insulation, and some plastic-based products are highly combustible. They ignite quickly and contribute to the rapid spread of fire.

Moderately Combustible Materials: many commonly used construction materials fall into this category. They have varying degrees of combustibility and should be used with fire safety in mind.

Non-Combustible Materials: these materials, such as steel, glass, and certain types of cladding, do not ignite and contribute to the spread of fire.

The Role of Australian Standards

In Australia, the National Construction Code (NCC) and various Australian Standards play a pivotal role in setting fire safety requirements for building materials. Understanding these standards is critical for architects and designers as well as builders, highlighted in detail throughout the ‘Combustibility of Building Materials’ CPD presentation and the A&D Whitepaper.

Bushfire-Prone Areas

The presentation highlights the importance of considering fire safety when building in bushfire-prone areas. AS 3959:2018, “Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas,” specifies construction requirements to enhance a building’s resistance to bushfire attacks.

Key National Construction Code (NCC) Concepts

Throughout the ‘Combustibility of Building Materials’ CPD presentation and the A&D Whitepaper, key NCC technical provisions are explored in detail. Understanding key concepts in the NCC is crucial for architects and designers to navigate the complexities of fire safety: Combustibility, Fire Resistance Level (FRL), Group Numbers, Resistance to Incipient Spread of Fire (RISF), and CodeMark Certification.

The Role of Building Materials

The CPD presentation emphasises the role of various building materials in fire safety:

fibre cement, plasterboard, glass, timber, steel, solid aluminium, aluminium composite panels (ACPs) and

masonry.

In the realm of architecture and design, fire safety is a fundamental aspect that cannot be overlooked. The combustibility and resistance to fire of building materials is a crucial factor that architects and designers must consider creating safe, resilient, and compliant structures. By understanding the significance of fire safety concepts, Australian Standards, and NCC requirements, architects and designers can make informed choices that prioritise the safety and well-being of building occupants and the community as a whole.

Download Combustibility of Building Materials Whitepaper

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