Chapter 7 of the 2018 International Building Code puts architects on the horns of a dilemma.

Compliance with Fire and Smoke Protection Features puts an architect at odds with LEED v4 Low Emitting Materials for schools, hospitals, and other high-stakes designs. Why? Formaldehyde, a Living Building Challenge Red List item, is present in the fire perimeter control materials required to achieve Chapter 7 compliance for perimeter joints and safing.

If only there was a formaldehyde-free way to manufacture mineral wool, the gold standard material for perimeter fire control. That idea has tantalized building material scientists for years: A mineral wool binding system that eliminates formaldehyde. Recently one company discovered an alternative binding method that plays nice with both 2018 IBC Chapter 7 and LEED v4.

Their surprise announcement came in the early morning hours of Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.

“It wasn’t an easy task,” recounts Angie Ogino, LEED AP, and Engineering Lead for Owens Corning Thermafiber group, the company behind the breakthrough. The 20-year industry veteran knows what the long-sought advance means to scores of project designers caught in the standards conflict.

“Life safety comes first. No other insulation material has proven its ability to contain fire at the perimeter of the building like mineral wool. Now architects and specifiers finally have a formaldehyde-free solution without compromises. No LEED v4 documentation worries. No Greenguard Gold documentation worries. No Red List worries. It’s one and done for a code-compliant, LEED-compliant exterior wall assembly,” Ogino says.

Ogino cites five other objectives that next-generation mineral wool achieves in high-stakes projects:

  1. When All Else Fails. Mineral wool is part of a passive fire containment strategy that isn’t dependent on mechanical or electrical systems that can fail during a natural or man-made catastrophe.
  2. UL Certification. “The new mineral wool formulation is UL certified. They provide independent verification that the new product meets the same strict fire performance standards as before,” Ogino explains.
  3. Sustainability. The ICC-ES has certified the new mineral wool products. Thermafiber FireSpan and Safing are composed of a minimum 70 percent recycled content.
  4. Design Innovation and Flexibility. “Every building is unique,” says Ogino. “With uniqueness comes different exterior façade considerations—the design, the geometry, the height of the spandrel. Our technical team has 45 years of test data as well as listed systems to assist with building design. This advisory service is available without cost to architects and has proven its value time and time again in high-stakes projects.”
  5. Reduced Liability. Terrorism is a fact of modern life. To mitigate its impact on building design and construction, SAFETY Act designation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides important legal liability protection when certain designated goods are used, like Owens Corning Thermafiber Fire Performance Products. “We are the only building material manufacturer that has been awarded SAFETY Act Designation,” says Ogino.

To learn more about formaldehyde-free commercial insulation solutions for both interior and exterior wall design without compromising performance, visit https://www.owenscorning.com/formaldehyde-free.

The terms Thermafiber and FireSpan are registered trademarks of Owens Corning. © 2019 Owens Corning. All Right Reserved.