The University of Queensland, in collaboration with the Non-Conforming Building Products (NCBP) Audit Taskforce in the State of Queensland, have proposed a framework to provide a robust methodology to assess the fire hazard of cladding materials in existing buildings based on a thorough understanding of the relevant fire phenomena.
To enable this, a comprehensive database (Cladding Materials Library) with relevant fire performance criteria to assist the fire safety engineering community has been developed. The methodology is not intended to determine if any specific façade design is safe. It is intended to provide the data necessary for a competent fire safety engineer to conduct the analysis required to determine the safety of a façade system corresponding to a specific set of materials, a specific configuration and a specific building context.
The Cladding Materials Library is to be used within the context of the following framework:
- The risk that products pose to the life safety of building occupants (including emergency services personnel) is determined by (i) the potential external fire spread through the building façade system and (ii) the response of the fire safety strategy of the building to this event.
- This risk is to be established by competent fire safety engineers, who shall (i) identify (quantify to the extent and precision possible) the fire spread rate and the contribution of the façade fire to the onset of internal fires and (ii) identify the vulnerabilities of the current fire safety strategy of the building to such an event. Upon the completion of that assessment, the competent fire safety engineer shall propose remedial works (where necessary) so that the life safety of building occupants is guaranteed with adequate engineering safety margins.
- The competent fire safety engineer must be provided with tools and data to enable the quantification of the performance of a façade system under fire conditions. These data must include the performance of materials and systems in a quantitative manner, rather than based on a pass-fail (compliance) framework. It should be noted that if a compliance framework is to be followed, a conservative solution based on a non-combustibility criterion should be provided, as implicitly stated by prescriptive code-based solutions.
- In order to develop data and tools to inform the competent fire safety engineer, there are two possible approaches:
- A material data approach that, if thoroughly developed, is a cost-effective path that allows understanding of the individual performance of the components based on fundamental principles. However, the extrapolation of these data to a system behaviour must be done with extreme care.
- A system data approach that allows understanding of the macroscopic performance of the system under specific conditions, without necessarily establishing a good understanding of the fundamental behaviour of its components. This is a costly approach and is limited by the validity of the testing scenario, the establishment of sufficient detailing of the system to enable extrapolation of the results, and the use of adequate and sufficient instrumentation to allow a good interpretation of the behaviour.
- Given the lack of public research and available data in this area, combined with the unidentified number of different cladding systems and materials in existing buildings, a material data approach, while more conservative in nature, is the preferred approach. A comprehensive database is urgently required to assist the fire safety engineering community. The database can complement the interpretation of tests focused on a system data approach.
The Cladding Materials Library comprises an extensive database of cladding materials based on their composition and flammability as individual components, and which may be used to perform hazard analyses. The database is a tool for qualified engineers to enable an adequate fire hazard identification and quantification of the potential fire spread of cladding materials.
The flammability of cladding materials (aluminium composite panels, insulation, and any other materials such as sarking) is defined based on well-established testing frameworks widely accepted in the fire safety engineering community. These frameworks have been applied and peer reviewed within the scope of fire research studies on the fire performance of aluminium composite panels and insulation materials at The University of Queensland and the University of Edinburgh.
Protocols for the Cladding Materials Library
The Cladding Materials Library project has developed a series of reference documents (protocols) necessary to fully comprehend the scope of the data provided within this website. These reference documents are published in The University of Queensland's institutional repository (UQ eSpace) and are freely accessible.
- Part I: Framework [status: published - available online]
This document provides a review of the fire safety issues involving combustible cladding and an extended overview of the framework developed for the Cladding Materials Library. The different testing protocols (screening and detailed) that this framework is based on are explained in detail.
Cite this document as:
Hidalgo, Juan P., McLaggan, Martyn S., Osorio, Andrés F., Heitzmann, Michael, Maluk, Cristián, Lange, David, Carrascal, Jerónimo and Torero, José L. (2019). Protocols for the Cladding Materials Library – Part I: Framework. Fire Safety Engineering Research Group, UQMLCM2019-01, School of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:733236
- Part II: Sample preparation and testing methodologies [status: published - available online]
This document highlights the process required for preparing the samples in order to carry out the different tests that the screening testing and the detailed testing protocols are based on.
Cite this document as:
McLaggan, Martyn S., Hidalgo, Juan P., Osorio, Andres F., Heitzmann, Michael, Carrascal, Jeronimo, Lange, David, Maluk, Cristian and Torero, Jose L. (2019). Protocols for the Cladding Materials Library – Part II: Sample Preparation and Testing Methodologies. Fire Safety Engineering Research Group, UQMLCM2019-02. School of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:e4fe2d0
- Part III: Sensitivity studies [status: published - available online]
This document provides a series of calibration and sensitivity studies carried out throughout the project for the screening testing protocol.
Cite this document as:
Heitzmann, Michael, McLaggan, Martyn S., Hidalgo, Juan P., Osorio, Andrés F., , Maluk, Cristián, Lange, David, Carrascal, Jerónimo and Torero, José L. (2019). Protocols for the Cladding Materials Library – Part III: Sensitivity studies. Fire Safety Engineering Research Group, UQMLCM2019-03, School of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:1d87ca0
- Part IV: Use and interpretation [status: published - available online]
This document provides a series of guidelines on an adequate use and interpretation of the Cladding Materials Library.
Cite this document as:
Hidalgo, Juan P., McLaggan, Martyn S., Osorio, Andrés F., Heitzmann, Michael, Maluk, Cristián, Lange, David, Carrascal, Jerónimo and Torero, José L. (2019). Protocols for the Cladding Materials Library – Part IV: Use and Interpretation. Fire Safety Engineering Research Group, UQMLCM2019-04, School of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland. https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:0aec94c
This website includes a series of main features:
This feature allows you to submit data from new materials to be included in the Cladding Materials Library.
This feature allows you to submit an enquiry for testing of new materials to be included in the Cladding Materials Library.
This feature allows you to submit enquiries and feedback regarding the Cladding Materials Library.
- Interactive sorting tool (under development)
This feature will allow you to sort the materials within the library as a function of specific quantifiable parameters.
Continuous Professional Development opportunities
If you want to learn more about the Cladding Materials Library (its philosophy, development, and use), The University of Queensland and the Department of Housing and Public Works have developed continuous professional development (CPD) programmes where dedicated sessions on the Cladding Materials Library are provided.
The University of Queensland, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and University College London, has developed a 5-day CPD course on 'External Fire Spread Risk in Tall Building Design' for engineers. The purpose of this course is to provide practising engineers with the specialist knowledge to address the fire safety strategy of buildings and understand the implications of using cladding products capable of supporting external flame spread.
The Department of Housing and Public Works and The University of Queensland have developed a 2-day CPD course to provide building certifiers and other industry professionals with the specialist knowledge to understand the key principles regarding building fire safety strategy, façade design and the interactions between a façade and the building in the event of a fire involving the external wall of a building. In addition, the course gives practitioners a full understanding of the application of the National Construction Code (NCC) and Queensland Building Regulation 2006 cladding requirements.
Use and Interpretation of the Cladding Materials Library
The data presented on this website must be used with extreme care by qualified engineers. A few guidelines are provided below regarding an adequate use and interpretation of the Cladding Materials Library data. Thes guidelines are provided in the reference document Part IV: Use and Interpretation of the Cladding Materials Library.
Information provided in the Cladding Materials Library
- The screening testing protocol provides a characterisation of a chemical fingerprint (uniqueness) of the material. This characterisation requires a robust assessment based on the chemical composition identification (A) and the thermal decomposition (B).
- The detailed testing protocol extends from the characterisation of the uniqueness of the material (i.e. screening) to further provide a thorough characterisation of the flammability of the material (not a system). This characterisation requires a robust assessment based on the protocols A to F.
- In isolation, the screening, i.e. material identification (A) and thermal decomposition (B), do not provide a comprehensive characterisation of the flammability of the material.
Identification of flammability of an unknown material sample through a cross-referencing approach with the Cladding Materials Library
- The Cladding Materials Library contains both materials that have been tested using the screening testing protocol alone as well as through the full detailed testing protocol.
- In order to develop an identification of the flammability from an unknown material using the Cladding Materials Library framework, a cross-referencing process shall be applied. The cross-referencing process consisting of these steps:
- Conduct a characterisation of the chemical fingerprint (uniqueness) of the studied sample through a screening testing protocol (A - material identification and B - thermal decomposition). Attempting solely a material identification is insufficient and discouraged for use and comparison with the Cladding Materials Library.
- Search for a match of the screening data in the Cladding Materials Library.
- Based on the material identification (A) and the thermal decomposition (B), identify whether there is a good match between the Cladding Materials Library and the studied sample.
- If an exact match is identified with the Cladding Materials Library, qualified engineers can use the detailed testing data (flammability characterisation) from the Cladding Materials Library for an engineering analysis.
- If no exact match is identified and similar materials are identified, qualified engineers can still make use, if appropriate, of similar test data for an engineering analysis.
- If no exact match and there are no similar materials in the Cladding Materials Library, further testing (detailed testing) shall be conducted to characterise the flammability of the material for an engineering analysis.
- The data from detailed testing protocol in the Cladding Materials Library provides a fundamental flammability assessment of materials, not of systems.
- The behaviour of materials in a system would be dependent on the interactions among different components and the nature of the thermal conditions encountered.
- The data reported in the Cladding Materials Library was obtained by removing all forms of encapsulation. Most products are a combination of materials, which present a challenge for fire testing methods because the ultimate flammability of a system will be a complex combination of different material behaviour.
- The Cladding Materials Library provides relevant data that serves the qualified engineer to develop scaling-up protocols but also support extrapolation exercises that allow the use existing scenario tests (e.g. AS 5113) to fully understand the behaviour of complex systems. Scaling-up is an extremely complex process, and thus the use of the Cladding Materials Library for this purpose requires a qualified engineer.
- Medium- and large-scale system testing is recommended to demonstrate the performance under a specific scenario. The data in the Cladding Materials Library complements the assessment and analysis of the fire engineer.
How to cite the Cladding Materials Library database?
Users are required to use the following reference to cite the Cladding Materials Library:
McLaggan, Martyn S., Hidalgo, Juan P., Osorio, Andres F., Heitzmann, Michael, Carrascal, Jeronimo, Lange, David, Maluk, Cristian and Torero, Jose L. (2019). Cladding Materials Library. Data Collection. https://doi.org/10.14264/uql.2019.441
The materials presented in this website are distributed by The University of Queensland as information source only to be used by fire engineers as part of their analysis of cladding material fire safety. The website has been developed by The University of Queensland in response to a collaboration project with the Department of Housing and Public Works ('Department'). This website is not under the control of the Department. Therefore, the Department does not warrant, guarantee or make any representations regarding the correctness, accuracy, reliability, currency, or any other aspect regarding the characteristics or use of the information presented on this website.
The University of Queensland and the Department disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs (including consequential or indirect loss or damage or loss of profits) you might incur as a result of the information being inaccurate, inadequate, or incomplete in any way for any reason.
The University of Queensland and the Department disclaim all liability for any losses or damages arising from your access to use of or downloading of any material or part thereof from this website. The University of Queensland makes no warrant that the information on this website is free of infection or corruption by computer viruses or other contamination.
The material contained in this website is made available on the understanding that The University of Queensland is not providing professional advice, and that users exercise their own skill and care with respect to its use, and seek independent advice if necessary.
The University of Queensland makes no representations or no warranties as to the contents contained in this publication, including but not limited to the suitability of the material for use within a building. To the extent permitted by law, The University of Queensland disclaims liability to any person or organisation in respect of anything done, or omitted to be done, in reliance upon information contained in this publication.
The testing results presented on this website were carried out using dedicated high-end equipment, with the best practice procedures and scientific rigour.