Fire Performance of Different Membranes

Fire Performance of Different Membranes

Fire Performance of Membranes IconTo compare the fire performance of different membranes, we have looked at the four main categories of tensile membrane materials. Within these tensile membrane categories, there is a huge range of different products from many manufacturers. Listed in the table below are some example results that show a typical material fire-testing performance for each main tensile membrane type. This can be used to determine appropriate material types for your projects.

The various membranes MakMax Australia works with will almost always have been subjected to Australian and International fire testing standards by the manufacturer. As a general guide, PTFE coated glass fibre membranes provide the best fire hazard properties, followed by ETFE foil, PVC polyester fabrics and finally woven HDPE shade cloth.

This is a guide only and within each product category there will be a range of different results and performance outcomes.

Example BrandGale Pacific Commercial Heavy 430Mehler FR900NAGC Fluon 200micronChukoh FGT600
Expected Lifespan10+ years20+ years40+ years50+ years
Fire Performance Indices
Duration of Sustained Flaming¹N/AN/AN/A0
Flammability index²:21860
Spread of Flame Index³:8700
Heat Evolved Index³:5100
Ignitability Index³:131600
Smoke Developed Index³:780-10-1
ObservationsVisible smoke, melting, flaming debris. Visible smoke and melting. Will not propagate flame spread.Self-expiring drops (will melt away from fire source but does not drip). Self extinguishing immediately when fire source is gone.Will not propagate flame spread.
RecommendationUsually not suitable for fire escape routes or adjoining buildings.May be suitable for connecting to existing buildings, but usually not suitable for Type-A constructions or fire escape routes.Often accepted for Type-A construction with performance solution from fire engineer, sometimes sprinklered and usually as an externally facing element.Usually accepted for Type-A construction with a performance solution from a fire engineer.
¹ AS 1530.1 Methods for Fire Tests on Building Materials, Components and Structures. Part 1: Combustibility test for materials.
² AS 1530.2 Methods for Fire Tests on Building Materials, Components and Structures. Part 2: Test for Flammability of Materials.
³ AS 1530.2 Methods for Fire Tests on Building Materials, Components and Structures Part 3: Simultaneous Determination of Ignitability, Flame Propagation, Heat Release and Smoke Release.

A Note on Non-Combustibility for PTFE fabrics

PTFE fabrics comprise of a structural base cloth of woven fibre glass, which is finished or coated with a thin film of PTFE. The majority of the material is the structural fibre glass core, and this part of the material passes AS 1530.1 and is deemed non-combustible.
The PTFE coating does not pass AS 1530.1 and so the surface finish would be deemed combustible.
The NCC provides limited guidance on how to integrate tensile membranes into building construction, and generally design must be developed to meet or exceed the minimum building performance standards required, rather than to select prescribed materials. Volumes 1 and 2 of the NCC both list two material types that are permitted to be used as non-combustible materials:
  • Pre-finished metal sheeting having a combustible surface finish not exceeding 1 mm thickness and where the Spread-of-Flame Index of the product is not greater than 0.
  • Bonded laminated materials where;
    • each lamina, including any core, is non-combustible; and
    • each adhesive layer does not exceed 1 mm in thickness and the total thickness of the adhesive layers does not exceed 2 mm; and
    • the Spread-of-Flame Index and the Smoke-Developed Index of the bonded laminated material as a whole do not exceed 0 and 3 respectively; and when located externally, are fixed in accordance with C2D15.
PTFE coated glass fibre membranes are similar to both of those options in that the material strength and performance comes from a non-combustible core, and the outer coating is a very (<0.3mm) thin film material. The composite product when tested to AS 1530.3 gives a Spread-of-Flame Index of 0 and a Smoke-Developed Index of 0-1.
A final decision on PTFE’s acceptance as deemed to satisfy as non-combustible, or requiring a performance solution, will normally be made by the building certifier and/or the project fire engineer.