The facade of a building not only contributes to its aesthetic and design, but also plays an important role in fire safety.
George Michalatos, technical manager at Elval Colour, explains how the company’s etalbond A2 panel helps to create fire-safe facades that protect buildings and their occupants.
Could you tell us what etalbond A2 is?
George Michalatos: Etalbond A2 is the most advanced aluminium composite panel that is categorised as A2 due to its incombustible core. In case of fire, etalbond A2 does not actively contribute to combustion.
The panel covers the need for fire safety in buildings according to the strictest European and international standards. It is an ideal material for high-rise buildings and buildings with high visitation or occupancy, such as airports, shopping malls, hospitals and elderly care centers.
The demand for fire-safe facades against fire has surged after recent incidents in the UK and Middle East. Could etalbond A2 be the answer?
GM: Elval Colour is fully aware of the contribution of building materials to fire and overall building safety, and has thus invested in research and development of etalbond A2. The fire resistance of etalbond A2 is proven from its reaction to fire tests according to EN13501-1, category A2-s1, d0 and NFPA285, which is a full-scale fire test used in the US, the UAE and Australia.
Full-scale tests address the need to evaluate the facade as a system, including all the elements that form it. So yes, etalbond A2, together with appropriate facade system elements, is the answer for safer facades against fire. It offers maximum fire resistance and is the only material in this category that is lightweight, absolutely flat and easily formable. It is available in a large variety of colours, textures and shades, giving the architect freedom to realise their vision, without compromise on the fire safety of the building.
What are the directives of the International Code? Does etalbond A2 comply with them?
GM: In the facades of buildings over 23m high, it is mandatory to use materials categorised as A2-s1, d0. This is because 23m is usually the maximum height reachable by the fire department using terrestrial means.
Etalbond A2 complies with the most stringent fire safety specifications in the world and meets the highest demands for materials that prevent fire from spreading. Yet, due to the importance of our role in the market, and also our corporate social responsibility, we decided to offer only etalbond FR and/or etalbond A2 for high-rises and buildings with high visitation or sensitivity, regardless of whether or not the local regulations allow the use of PE-based materials.
Why is it important for a facade material to be classified according to EN13501-1?
GM: The European directive tests and classifies the behavior of the material under fire and this is done by examining and combining the results from three criteria. The first of these is the flammability of the material. Etalbond A2 is categorised as A2, which means that it consists mainly of inactive material with a minimal contribution to fire. Furthermore, it has approval from most national technical approval bodies.
The second is the release of smoke: etalbond A2 is categorised as s1, which means limited smoke release. This is very important, as smoke is the reason for most of the casualties during a fire incident.
The third criteria is the ejection of burning droplets and particles. Etalbond A2 is categorised as d0, which means that none of the above are produced, preventing development of a secondary source of fire. Moreover, the safe evacuation of the burning building, as well as the approach of firefighting crews, is not impeded.
How can a material with higher classification, according to 13501-1, increase the level of fire safety of a building?
GM: In the case of fire, the important issues are evacuating the building quickly and safely, preventing the spread of the fire and giving easy access for firefighters. As its classification proves, etalbond A2 has the characteristics that offer maximum safety to human life, as well as the protection of the building and the buildings nearby. It also does not produce environmentally hazardous emissions or toxic fumes.
Is this classification enough in order to ensure the high level of fire safety of a facade?
GM: Through meticulous study, continuous product development and the certification process, we came to realise that, while a material must have certain safety attributes, the whole facade system should be also tested to ensure the desired behaviour in a fire.
This is necessary because many additional factors affect this behaviour, such as the insulation material, application of fire barriers and detailing. This is now well understood by the authorities in several countries, and more regulations demand that a material should be also tested in a fire in the configuration that it is supposed to be placed on the building. Etalbond A2 has already successfully passed the NFPA285 facade system test.
What should we expect from Elval Colour in the near future?
GM: While our product range is wide and of high quality, we do not rest on our laurels, and never cease to learn and improve. Our customers are always coming up with new ideas and designs.
We will never tire of evolving, not only to serve our customers, but also to improve the company’s impact on the world. Every year, we launch something new and we aim to keep up this pace.