Overcoming the Challenges of Noncombustible Construction Systems

As building systems become more complex and technology drives product innovation, construction systems have evolved to protect building occupants, owners and communities from the devastating effects of fire.

Although the fire and life safety benefits gained from noncombustible construction systems shouldn’t be overlooked, these methods often present contractors with a myriad of challenges and limitations depending on the application and project requirements.

Navigating the transportation, delivery and installation of extremely heavy products (3 in. thick concrete generally weighs 40–50 lbs. per sq. ft.), managing and scheduling multiple trades, extended timelines due to long cure times and more complex engineering requirements are common challenges contractors face with traditional noncombustible construction.

Here we look at the traits of traditional noncombustible solutions, and how new product innovations are providing alternatives that combine the best qualities of both combustible and noncombustible systems.

Poured Concrete 

This self-leveling option provides sound isolation, inhibits mold growth and offers a finished look to poured flooring applications. These advantages are weighed against the product’s wet application, which requires a longer curing time and multiple trades to be involved (pan cutting, welding, and a separate trade to pour the deck), ultimately impacting project timeline and scheduling.

Precast Concrete Panels

At 30 psf, precast panels are one of the heaviest noncombustible solutions and require industrial equipment to maneuver through a jobsite — in addition to a special trade for installation, which can translate to added costs. These panels, known for their inorganic and structural properties, are generally specified for unique applications such as stadiums or bridges.

Recent product innovations, including structural cementitious panels from USG, offer contractors the versatility of combustible and noncombustible solutions, while eliminating the headaches of heavy product weights, long curing times and other complex construction challenges.

By combining the speed and lightweight nature of plywood with the strength and noncombustible qualities of a poured concrete utilizing the typical tools and practices already employed by contractors, these products are set to revolutionize fire containment systems.

To learn more about structural cementitious panels and how they can improve your next project with noncombustible requirements, check out USG’s Structural Solutions Portfolio.