About Foam Insulation

Why Is Foam Insulation Important?
What Are the Benefits of Insulation for Homeowners?
Are Different Types of Foam Insulation Available?

About Building Codes, Fire Performance and Foam Insulation

What Is the ICC?
How Are Building Codes and Fire Standards Developed?
How do the ICC Codes Address Fire Safety?
Do Other Organizations Develop Codes and Standards that Address Building Fire Safety?
Does the Coalition Believe the Fire Test Provisions in the Building Codes Should Be Changed?
How Do Building Codes and Fire Standards Protect Building Occupants from Fire Hazards?
How Does Foam Insulation Meet Fire Performance Standards?
What Are Flame Retardants?

Additional Resources


About Foam Insulation

Why Is Foam Insulation Important?

Foam insulation is a state-of-the-art building material that architects, builders and contractors can use to meet the increasingly stringent energy code requirements of today and tomorrow. Under-insulated homes and buildings, or roofs and walls, with gaps, holes, and air leaks, can make energy bills unnecessarily high and waste valuable resources. High-performing foam insulation can help to effectively seal gaps, close air leaks, maintain indoor air temperature and reduce a building’s energy usage.

What Are the Benefits of Insulation for Homeowners?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for approximately half of the energy used in a typical home in the United States. Further, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homeowners who air seal and insulate their homes can conserve an average of 15 percent on their heating and cooling needs.

A 2009 study by the consulting firm McKinsey found that a $520 billion investment through 2020 in energy-efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings, such as adding insulation, sealing ducts, and replacing inefficient appliances, could produce $1.2 trillion in savings.

Foam insulation can help consumers increase energy efficiency by reducing air leaks and by decreasing the transfer of heat between indoor and outdoor environments. In addition, foam insulation products can reduce drafts and noise, and provide increased comfort and durability.

Are Different Types of Foam Insulation Available?

Numerous types of foam insulation are available to meet the diverse needs and applications of consumers, architects, contractors, specifiers, and others. Foam insulation can be made from a variety of plastics, including polyisocyanurate, polystyrene, and polyurethane.


About Building Codes, Fire Performance and Foam Insulation

What Is the ICC?

The International Code Council (ICC) is an organization responsible for developing model codes and standards used in the design, building and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. The ICC administers the International Building Code (IBC), the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), and the International Residential Code (IRC), among others. Learn more about the ICC on its website.

How Are Building Codes and Fire Standards Developed?

The ICC establishes building codes and other codes that serve as the standard in many U.S. states and municipalities, and in many countries around the world. The ICC process draws on an array of experts, including builders, contractors, building owners and regulatory officials, as well as experts from industry, academia and product testing organizations. The fire safety provisions in the ICC codes are based on years of careful analysis, extensive testing, and a robust and inclusive public development process. To learn more about the code development process, download the EEFC’s fact sheet.

How do the ICC Codes Address Fire Safety?

The ICC codes incorporate product standards to establish performance requirements for building materials. The standards require product manufacturers to test materials for performance attributes. Fire standards help ensure that materials used in the built environment provide a desired fire safety margin for specific building types and applications. Like building codes, these standards are developed in an open, consensus-based process, and are regularly reviewed to reflect changes in technical and building practices.

Do Other Organizations Develop Codes and Standards that Address Building Fire Safety?

Yes, in addition to the ICC, other notable organizations have code and standards related to building fire safety. These include the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and ASTM International. In many cases, the ICC codes may cross-reference the codes and standards developed by NFPA and ASTM International. Both NFPA and ASTM International have code development processes that provide opportunities for public input.

Does the Coalition Believe the Fire Test Provisions in the Building Codes Should Be Changed?

The Coalition strongly believes that the current fire test provisions in the building codes provide a robust level of fire safety that should not be weakened. Any change to existing building code fire safety provisions should come only after careful study, analysis and deliberation through an open and transparent code development process. Any lowering of fire protection can present increased danger for occupants and change potential risks for manufacturers and building professionals. The potential for a building fire can be mitigated to a large extent here in the United States and Canada through the continued adoption, education, and enforcement of the most recent versions of the building codes and the fire safety standards in the codes. Fire safety standards are means to assess performance in the event of a fire, and they are incorporated into the codes with appropriate acceptance criteria so the codes can be enforced.

How Do Building Codes and Fire Standards Protect Building Occupants from Fire Hazards?

Building fire safety is typically achieved through the adherence to the building codes and fire standards adopted by relevant authorities. The codes and standards, based on years of experience and expertise, create layers of protection designed to help protect both life and property in the event of a fire. For example, codes and standards set fire performance requirements for all types of products used in building construction, including foam insulation products and assemblies containing them. Product performance requirements supplement other building code provisions that may require the use of smoke detectors or fire suppression systems, installation of fire doors, compartmentalization, or the construction of multiple means of egress for emergency situations. Collectively, building codes and fire standards are designed to mitigate the potential for fire and, in the event of a fire, provide building occupants adequate time to escape danger and prevent the spread of fire in a building. We can achieve a high level of fire safety by educating stakeholders on the requirements of building codes and fire standards, and advocating that authorities having jurisdiction adopt and enforce the requirements.

How Does Foam Insulation Meet Fire Performance Standards?

Foam insulation manufacturers add flame retardants to their products to help prevent fires from starting, to limit the spread of fires, and to minimize fire damage. Flame retardants in foam insulation are an important line of defense when it comes to fire safety. They can help protect building occupants, construction workers, and first responders from fire-related death and injury, and owners and occupants from property loss. Download the EEFC’s fact sheeton foam insulation and fire safety.

Foam insulation manufacturers also perform rigorous testing on products in multiple assembly applications to determine how the product will perform in a constructed wall, opening, roof, or floor application. To meet relevant standards, this information must follow standard tests required by ICC, such as those described in ASTM E119 or NFPA 285, to provide analysis of the assembly’s expected performance in different construction types.

What Are Flame Retardants?

Flame retardants are a key component in reducing the devastating impact of fires on people, property and the environment. They are added to or used to treat flammable materials, including foam insulation. The term “flame retardant” refers to a function, not a family of chemicals. A variety of different chemicals with diverse properties and structures can be used as flame retardants, and they are often combined for effectiveness.

To learn more about flame retardants, including insight from leading researchers, visit the North American Flame Retardant Alliance’s website.


Additional Resources


Fire Safety Guidelines for Use of Rigid Polyurethane and Polyisocyanurate Foam Insulation in Building Construction
This document provides fire safety guidelines for polyurethane and polyisocyanurate foam insulation, as well as information about the storage and disposal of the materials.

Question and Answer: Smoke and Toxicity
Learn more about toxicity risk in fires.

Polyurethane Products: Overview of U.S. Model Building Code Fire Performance Requirements
This document provides general information for persons interested in building codes and fire performance requirements for polyurethane insulation. Information on tests to measure the fire performance is also included.

Technical Bulletin 103: Fire Performance in Walls and Ceilings
Technical bulletin 103 discusses polyisocyanurate insulation as it relates to building codes in construction and fire tests in walls and ceilings, including ASTM E84 and ASTM E119.

Technical Bulletin 104: Fire Performance in Roof Systems
Technical bulletin 104 provides an overview of polyisocyanurate insulation requirements for roof systems and key issues in fire performance, including the importance of the FM 4450 Calorimeter Tests and the UL 1256 resistance to interior spread of flame test.

Technical Bulletin 105: Fire Test Definitions
Technical bulletin 105 provides an in-depth look at fire test procedures to building applications. Specifically, the bulletin reviews the following tests:

  • ASTM E84 Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials
  • ASTM E119 Standard Test Method for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials
  • Factory Mutual Roof Tests · Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
  • Roof Tests FM Calorimeter Test
  • ANSI/UL 1256/Resistance to Interior Fire Spread Test
  • The White House Test FM 4880 25" High Full Scale Corner Test

Technical Bulletin 111: Class A and Class 1 Roof Assemblies Are Not the Same
Technical bulletin 111 explains why Class 1 and Class A are not the same.

Technical Bulletin 111C: Roofing Regulations in Canada: Class A and Class 1 Roof Assemblies Are Not the Same
Technical bulleting 111C explains why Class 1 and Class A are not the same.

Technical Bulletin 405: Fire Resistance Properties of Polyiso Foam Plastic Insulation Used in Wall Assemblies - Facts and Comparisons
Technical Bulletin 405 looks at the minimum fire resistance properties required for foam plastic insulation and compares data on polyisocyanurate insulation with other recognized combustible materials.


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