Meeting Standards for Metal Wall Panels: An Important Consideration in Building Design

There are thousands of building materials and products globally and virtually all of those used in a manufactured environment are subject to some form of testing and standards.

There are a host of international standards organizations that set standards for and test all kinds of products. There are de facto standards which means they are followed by informal convention or dominant usage, de jure standards which are part of legally binding contracts, laws or regulations and voluntary standards which are published and available for people to consider for use.

Picture of metal wall panels used in construction.The people who use an item (architects, engineers, contractors, etc.) or specify it (building codes, government, industry, etc.) have the responsibility to consider the available standards, specify the correct one, enforce compliance, and use the item correctly.

By the end of the 19th century, differences in standards between companies, was making trade increasingly difficult and strained. Hence the establishment of professionally supported standards organizations.  Progress was nevertheless slow. Suppliers in many industries including construction objected to standard material specifications and testing procedures because they feared that strict quality controls would make customers more inclined to reject items and default on contracts.

There was plenty of back and forth on the issue but the demand by material end users like the powerful railroad industry finally led to the formation of the American Society of Testing and Materials in 1898.

To this day, the ASTM remains one of the key standards organizations in the world. And in the area of wall panel, it provides some of the key standards for materials used in building design and construction.It is important to note that the ASTM standards are widely used by metal panel manufacturers to validate their products. But it should also be pointed out that not all suppliers have paid for the independent testing necessary to earn an ASTM rating on their wall panel products. Their products might meet those standards but they have never undergone the required testing that will validate them.Wall Panels used in commercial construction

And then there is another issue. Not all wall panel products are equal and architects, engineers and specifiers should make certain that the products they are suggesting meet certain standards for strength and heat resistance.

The following are the ASTM test methods most commonly used to determine a wall panel material’s efficacy:

  • E84-ASTM-The purpose of this test method is to determine the relative burning behavior of the material by observing the flame spread along the specimen. Flame spread and smoke developed index are reported. However, there is not necessarily a relationship between these two measurements.
  • ASTM 283-The purpose of this test is to make certain the material conforms to required values of tensile strength, yield point, and elongation.
  • ASTM 330-This is the standard test method for structural performance of exterior by uniform static air difference.
  • ASTM 331-This is the standard test method for water penetration of curtain walls by uniform static air pressure difference.
  • ASTM E72-This is the standard test methods of conducting strength tests of panels for building construction.
  • ASTM C 518—This is the standard test method for steady-state heat flux measurements and thermal transmission properties by means of the heat flow meter apparatus.
  • ASTM1363—This is the standard test method for thermal performance of building materials and envelope assemblies by means of a hot box apparatus.

A detailed explanation for each of these tests can be found in the ASTM Annual Book of Standards Section covering wall panel.

There are two other standards that have evolved that are not ASTM driven. Both have become the benchmark for measuring the ability of metal wall panels to perform in hurricane conditions. The first is the Florida Building Code wind uplift test which provides the design wind speeds, exposure categories and requirements for wind-borne debris.

Metal wall panels look great on this commercial building.The other is the Miami-Dade County wind uplift testing and certification for Miami-Dade County approvals which lets architects, specifiers, buyers and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) know that wall panel products meet the unique requirements for a hurricane prone area.

Most metal wall panel manufacturers and suppliers, including Englert, will indicate whether their products meet strength, thermal and wind uplift requirements. They’ll also provide certification documentation from independent laboratories upon request. Many suppliers however, do not have the testing. And it is incumbent on the designer or specifier to make certain before choosing a product that might put them and their client at risk.

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