The walls of popular consumer attractions such as restaurants, department stores, and hotels are prime areas for advertisements and beautification. Plain white walls no longer cut it, and print service providers (PSPs) are eager to please, adding wallcoverings to their product mix. However, the application of these graphics is subject to local, federal, and corporate restrictions and codes. Fire regulations are at the top of the list, as well as public safety codes that concern chemical exposure.
Ritchie Daize, international digital account manager, Arlon, Inc., says flame retardant regulations are common to enclosed public areas, such as schools, indoor arenas, locker rooms, and shopping malls. He notes that very stringent regulations are in place for smoke and fire emissions in enclosed public areas.
“Before offering wallcovering services, local fire and building codes must be referenced to determine a product’s suitability,” says Jeffrey Stadelman, technical marketing manager, MACtac Graphic Products. He notes that typically, local codes should reference applicable federal and state codes.
All PSPs working with commercial grade wallcovering for commercial applications should be familiar with National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Class A federal codes, which test a substance for flame and smoke resistance. PSPs should expect media manufacturers to provide a specification sheet that denotes which tests their product has passed. Proper media installation includes making sure the substrate satisfies all necessary safety standards. To meet Class A performance levels, products must meet a zero to 25 flame spread index and a zero to 450 smoke developed index.
Digital wallcoverings fall under interior finish material and are treated the same way as standard wallcoverings and other interior finish products. “Most nationally recognized fire codes are updated on a two to three year cycle. However, other than minor changes the basic requirement for an interior finish with a Class A rating unchanged since several major fires occurred in hotels and other public buildings approximately 25 years ago,” says Bruce I. Barden, technical manager, wallcovering, KoroGraphics Digital Wallcoverings.
Additional standards are outlined by ASTM International, a voluntary standards development organization originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). A primary flammability standard for building interiors is ASTM E-84, which was first adopted in 1950. It is also known as the flame spread test and determines surface burning characteristics. According to ASTM, the test method exposes a nominal 24-foot-long by 20-inch-wide specimen to a controlled air flow and flaming fire exposure, which is adjusted to spread the flame along the entire length of the select grade red oak specimen in five and a half minutes.
There three classes, A, B, and C. The Class A performance level is the same as NFPA standards. Class B and C both must meet a zero to 450 smoke developed index as well, however Class B’s flame spread index is 26 to 75 and Class C’s is 76 to 200. Class A, B, and C correspond to Type I, II, and III in other regulations.
Wallcoverings should adhere to three main federal specifications, CC-408-D, Chemical Fabrics and Film Association (CFFA) CFFA-W-101, and CCCW-408-D. “These are the specifications such as ASTM E-84, NFPA-286, and NFPA-101 that are the actual flame and smoke test. CFFA sets quality standards and testing for color fastness; wash- and scrub-ability; breaking strength; stain-, abrasion-, tear-, cold crack-, and mildew-resistance; among others. Wallcoverings must pass ASTM-G21 for mold and mildew resistance,” explains Peter Spotto, manager, sales, DreamScape.
Additionally, Underwriter Laboratories (UL) conducts testing according to ASTM E-84, specifically for wallcoverings with ASTM E-84, or as this research firm refers to as UL723. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), NFPA, and Uniform Building Code (UBC) set the rating, which is referenced in the building codes.
Wall treatments, such as digitally printed wallcoverings, have been governed for the past 40 to 50 years. Tim Boxeth, business manager, 3M Graphics Market Center, explains there does appear to be a growth in interest in regulation of chemicals in certain applications. This could be attributed to an increased use of digitally printed wallcoverings. “Non-governmental organizations are also involved in bringing attention to certain chemicals in wallcovering products,” he adds.
Molly Waters, sales support manager, technical services group, Avery Graphics, also noticed an increased interest in media meeting safety codes and regulations in the last seven years. “The request for testing increased shortly after a fire at a Great White concert in 2003,” she says.
Before a PSP considers offering digital wallcovering services, either acting solely as a graphics provider or with the intent to install, emphasis should be placed on local and federal regulation education and awareness. Variables such as ink, a strict policy on air quality, and chemical product regulations sometimes affect a media’s conformability.
In the second installment of this Web-exclusive series on wallcoverings, we highlight new and popular media choices in the space.