What Makes Interior Aluminium Composite Panels Fire-Retardant?

2023/07/16

Interior Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) are a popular choice in the construction industry due to their lightweight, durability and versatility. The panels consist of an aluminium core sandwiched between two thin layers of aluminium, creating a rigid, flat and smooth surface. ACPs are commonly used for cladding, wall lining and signage on commercial and residential buildings.


However, one of the most significant concerns with using ACPs is their fire risk. Without proper treatment, ACPs can rapidly spread fire in a short time, putting lives and properties at risk. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that the ACPs used for interior applications are fire-retardant.


So, what makes interior aluminium composite panels fire-retardant? Let's take a closer look.


Subheading 1: The Danger of Non-Fire Retardant ACPs


Before discussing the fire-retardant properties of ACPs, it is crucial to understand the dangers of non-fire retardant ACPs. Non-treated ACPs have a high combustion rate, meaning they can spread flames rapidly. Once the fire catches the panels, it can release toxic fumes and gases, making the fire even more dangerous.


The Grenfell Tower tragedy in London in 2017 serves as a stark reminder of the catastrophic consequences of using non-fire retardant ACPs. The fire, originated from a faulty refrigerator, spread over the ACP cladding on the building's exterior, killing 72 people. This tragedy prompted the authorities to initiate a nationwide ACP safety regulation.


Subheading 2: How Fire-Retardant ACPs Work


Fire-retardant ACPs are designed to slow down the ignition and spread of flames, limiting the fire's damage and giving occupants more time to escape safely. These panels have a fire-resistant core, which can withstand high temperatures for an extended duration without breaking down.


The fire-resistive core has two primary types: mineral-filled and polymer-filled. Both types work by releasing a non-combustible gas or char when exposed to fire, creating a barrier between the flame and the core. This barrier helps reduce the heat transfer and prevents the fire from spreading.


Mineral-filled cores are made of non-combustible material, such as magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and aluminium trihydrate. These materials absorb heat, release water vapour and carbon dioxide when exposed to high temperatures, creating a barrier that inhibits the fire's spread.


Polymer-filled cores, on the other hand, use a mixture of thermoplastic resins and flame-retardant additives to achieve fire resistance. When exposed to fire, the core melts and turns into a carbonaceous char, which helps suppress the fire's spread.


Subheading 3: Testing Standards for Fire-Retardant ACPs


The safety standards for fire-retardant ACPs depend on the building codes of the specific region or country. In Australia, for example, ACPs must pass the Australian Standard AS 1530.1, which measures the material's combustibility, heat release rate, and energy released during combustion.


Additionally, ACPs must pass AS 1530.3, which tests the panels' resistance to fire spread on the surface and through the core. The panels are exposed to a temperature of 750 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, and their performance is evaluated based on the spread of flame, heat release rate and the integrity of the sample.


Subheading 4: Other Safety Measures


While using fire-retardant ACPs is crucial, it is not the only measure that can enhance building safety. Several other factors play a role in mitigating the risk of fire, including:


- Adequate fire detection and alarm systems

- Proper installation and maintenance of ACPs

- Proper compartmentalisation of fire to prevent it from spreading

- Installation of passive fire protection measures, such as fireproof doors, walls and windows

- Regular fire drills and training for the occupants


Applying a holistic approach to fire safety can significantly reduce the risk and impact of a fire on a building.


Subheading 5: The Importance of Using Fire-Retardant ACPs


Using fire-retardant ACPs is critical in ensuring building safety and preventing tragedies like Grenfell Tower. These panels are cost-effective, lightweight and easy to install, making them a popular choice in construction. However, it is crucial to use fire-retardant ACPs that have passed the relevant safety standards to minimise the risk of fire.


Moreover, specifiers, builders and architects must ensure that the panels' installation and maintenance comply with the relevant safety codes and regulations. Regular inspections and replacement of damaged or worn-out panels can also contribute to building safety.


Conclusion


In conclusion, fire-retardant ACPs play a crucial role in ensuring building safety, and it is essential to use panels that have passed the relevant safety standards. It is also crucial to install and maintain the panels correctly and implement other fire safety measures to reduce the risk and impact of a fire. By taking a proactive approach to building safety, we can minimise the risk of fire and protect occupants and properties.

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