Fire Safety in High Rise Exterior Facades

Mineral Wool Design Strategies for ASTM E 2307 and NFPA 285 Compliance





One of the most complex yet least understood areas where fire can spread is at the perimeter of a building. Fire can not only spread from floor-to-floor via the edge-of-slab/curtainwall intersections but also along the exterior of the building enclosure. This is a rapidly growing concern for AEC professionals. As energy standards and building codes continue to evolve, the process of designing buildings (while also addressing energy efficiency) has become increasingly challenging. For example, to enhance energy efficiency, codes are prescribing air barriers and increasing amounts of continuous insulation in every climate zone. These components are often combustible and sometimes seem at odds with the building code. Moreover, there is a proliferation of exterior claddings (also often combustible) which designers can choose from. The objective of this white paper is to explore design and construction best practices, which are based on decades of full-scale fire testing and wall assembly performance during actual building fires.

Readers will:

  • Gain a stronger understanding of the vertical spread of fire in high rise buildings and why fire containment is important for occupants in the building as well as emergency responders.
  • Learn how to identify proper wall design techniques that will help provide fire safety in multi-story wall applications.
  • Learn how common building materials, used in wall construction, behave when exposed to the rigors of fire per NFPA 285, ASTM E 2307 and ASTM E 119 fire tests.
  • Be provided with the tools needed to design code compliant assemblies so that the fire can be contained to the floor of origin, allowing more time for occupants to evacuate the building.
  • This white paper also provides an understanding of what design criteria are required for a rated assembly and assembly performance.


Recent international news headlines reporting catastrophic fires in high-rise buildings have brought renewed attention to the importance of perimeter and exterior wall fire performance. Now more than ever, commercial building

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Fire Spread at an Exterior Curtain Wall Assembly

The foundation to specifying code compliant perimeter fire containment begins with understanding the three primary paths of fire propagation in a commercial

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Dyanmics of Vertical Fire Spread

To explore the dynamics of vertical fire spread at the building perimeter, it is important to understand how curtain wall materials perform in commercial

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The data from the full-scale fire testing and wall assembly performance during actual building fires illustrates design and specification best practices for preventing fire spread at the perimeter of the

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In the event of a multi-story building fire, the first line of defense for the occupants is the integrity of the building design. Through trial and error of perimeter fire

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Conclusion and Future Work

In this high stakes design scenario where commercial building occupants depend on architects and specifiers for their safety, perimeter fire containment and continuous insulation system solutions can help alleviate the

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The author wishes to acknowledge the following organizations: International Firestop Council (IFC), UL® Laboratories, Loss Prevention Council, Drew Clausen, Herbert Slone.

Rights and Permissions

ASTM E2307 Standard

Commercial Architecture podcast on Perimeter Fire Containment.

International Code Council- International Building Code, Chapter 7 Fire and Smoke Protection Features, Section 715.4 Exterior curtain wall/floor intersection.

International Firestop Council.

Morris, Brian. Fire Spread in Multi-story Buildings with Glazed Curtain Wall Facades.Loss Prevention Council, 1999.

NFPA 285 Standard

Owens Corning NFPA Design Guide.

Slone, Herbert. “The Evolution of Continuous Insulation.” BDC University.

Thermafiber Technical Library, Technical Papers.

UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI).

Video on perimeter fire containment.