ASTM E119, ASTM E84 and Fire-Rated Barriers: What You Need to Know

When conducting an occupied renovation in a hospital, a one-hour fire-rated temporary construction wall is often required by national or regional jurisdictions, particularly when a working sprinkler system is not in place. Requirements and testing specifications can vary by state, city, hospital and even by project - and can get a little complicated. One thing is clear: questions from our customers about fire-rated temporary walls have spiked significantly over the last few years. We suspect the rise in inquiries is driven by a combination of factors, such as increased fire-rated barrier requirement awareness and a realization of the lack of options.

We asked Fire Protection Engineer and Life Safety Special Projects Manager at Baptist Health, Joshua Brackett (PE, SASHE, CHFM), to help us answer testing, rating and fire-rated barrier questions we frequently field. You can also find Josh's guidance on a host of other fire safety during occupied healthcare renovation challenges here.  

Before looking into testing and rating requirements, the first and key thing to keep in mind is a fire-rated wall is treated and listed as an assembly. The assembly actually creates the containment.

To date, the traditional and only method for one-hour fire-rated temporary containment is building drywall. If a constructed assembly happens on-site with gypsum, all components must be built according to complete wall assembly listing test specifications. This includes:  

  • Stud types
  • Ceiling and floor tracks 
  • Gypsum joints placement 
  • Screw types 
  • Screw spacing 
  • Screw head covering, i.e., joint compound

Simple mistakes with any of these components can result in non-conformity. In fact, Josh says he sees these types of common mistakes occur with any of the numerous components happen all of the time - and they typically lead to added time/budget to remedy. 

ASTM E119 and E84: Understanding Fire Testing For Temporary Walls 

Knowing fire-rated barriers are treated as complete assemblies ties in importance with understanding the two well-known and commonly required American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM) tests and ratings.

Both tests are designed to keep people safe in the event of a fire. What each specifically tests for is often misunderstood.  

To help you ensure code conformity and prepare for inspection, we asked Josh to help us break down ASTM E119 and E84: 

What is ASTM E119?

ASTM E119 (UL 263): tests the fire resistance of an assembly. This test evaluates the duration for which building construction materials and assemblies can either contain a fire, retain structural integrity, or both. To become one-hour fire-rated, an assembly must withstand fire for one hour before penetration to the other side occurs.

What is ASTM E84?

ASTM E84 (UL 723): tests the outside material of the assembly for flame spread and smoke development characteristics. There are two testing indexes:

  • The flame spread index (FSI) measures the speed at which flames progress across the interior surface of a building.
  • The smoke development index (SDI) measures the amount of smoke a sample emits as it burns.

FSI and SDI test results determine Class A, B, C or D product ratings. Hospitals are required to ensure products meet a range of specific class ratings. Many facilities require temporary containment materials used during renovations meet Class A fire-rating standards. Here are key things to know about E84 Class Ratings:

  • What is a Class A Fire rating? Class A always denotes products that offer a higher degree of performance when subjected to a fire. 
  • All new hospitals occupied after July 5, 2016, must have Class A finishes, per CMS’s adoption of NFPA 1010 (2012).
  • When new interior finishes are provided, they must meet new construction requirements according to Chapter 43.4.3 - which points back to Class A requirements.

Check out our ASTM QuickGuide for everything you need to know about the two testing criteria when selecting fire-rated temporary containment.

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How does all of this impact your choice for a one-hour fire-rated temporary barrier?

When a one-hour fire-rated barrier is required in your containment plan, the crucial thing to keep in mind is ASTM testing requirements are based upon the entire assembly - and the assembly’s overall effectiveness is predicated on each individual component.

Additionally important are the primary ASTM test and rating differences: ASTM E119 evaluates the entire assembly for fire resistance - and test results determine a one-hour rating. ASTM E84 tests the flame and smoke spread attributes of the outside material and results of these tests generate the important Class ratings required by facilities.

The traditional - and to-date only - method of constructed gypsum fire-rated assemblies come with significant risks of simple mistakes with any of the many components, leading to non-compliance. Drywall also presents more serious risks - such as when construction or hospital equipment breaches the wall and releases dangerous dust and pathogens into the patient or staff area. 

Great news! Our new solution, the first and only reusable one-hour fire-rated temporary containment: FireblockWall™ exceeds ASTM E119 and E84 Class A requirements and installs 4 times faster than drywall. Like our other modular temporary containment solutions, FireblockWall is also durable, reusable and exceeds other healthcare safety requirements, such as ICRA Class-IV. 

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