Building Code


August, 2008

Volume 1, Number 1

Vandergriff Code Consulting Services

A Division of Kitt Brown Enterprises

35 Cottonwood Canyon Road

La Luz, NM






Fax: 575-434-1980


We’re on the Web!

A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines. –

Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1059)

Vandergriff Code Consulting Services provides this newsletter free of charge with the help of our corporate sponsors.The purpose of this document is to shine a light on issues and questions within the building industry to insure that we provide the safest, most code compliant buildings to protect those who inhabit them to the greatest degree possible.If you know of someone else who might enjoy receiving this newsletter you can send us an email address and we will add it to our database. We are sincerely interested in any comments, code related questions you may have, or issues you have come across that you feel the industry needs to be made aware of. Please send any correspondence to: .

All addresses will remain private.

Misrepresented Construction Products

Combustible “Non-Combustible” Products?

It seems we have to be extra careful about products we use today. With the advent of things like “International Free Trade” we find a plethora of products streaming into the United States. But, is this what is best for the citizenry of our country.

We have to realize that many of the countries throughout the world may consent to the use of processes or materials that we do not permit in this country. We also have to realize that some of the companies shipping items into our country may not be as forthright in providing true information to the jurisdictions. We must rely upon the information provided to allow for reasonable review and approval processes.

We are inundated in the news with tainted toys and medication. The problem is that governmental oversight of products from some countries is not very strong.

As the government struggles, or quite frankly seems not to address the issues of medical products, food, toys, etc., we need to ask ourselves, what about construction products?

When you pick up a box of floor tile at the local home supply house you expect it to comply with U.S. laws concerning asbestos. Although other countries are starting to regulate the material, some do not and the U.S. has no mechanism in place to force them to comply with our requirements. Thus, you may see a note on a box of tile that says “contains rock products.” This may very well be asbestos, which is after all, a rock product. There are, in fact, some asbestos products finding there way back into our workplace without our knowledge.

All sorts of other materials are making their way into the system and are leading to a decreased level of safety than what we want to see in our structures. In this newsletter I want to discuss several products coming into our country that are being referred to by the suppliers as “non-combustible products” in accordance with ASTM E136.

In recent years we have seen a product known as CBPB (Cement Based Particle Board). CBPB is primarily an import product. This product is being sold under various names one of which is “Veroc”. I will include some documents within this newsletter that are provided by companies representing this product. One would think that anything with a cement component would have a degree of fire resistive capability that would provide for its use in fire rated assembly.

Another product that has been making inroads into the construction industry within the United States is a magnesium board, called “Dragon Board”.

In fact, these products are being sold in numerous places around the country with the stated goal of fire protection in mind. In various areas the Authority Having Jurisdictions (AHJ) provides approval for products and assemblies based on test data from laboratories indicating the compliance of this product with requirements to be considered fire resistive. But, in fact, these products do not comply.

What tests are required? For decades the code has required that to be classified as a noncombustible product the material must comply with ASTM E136 as stated in section 6002 of the 1976 Uniform Building Code. In the 2003 & 2006 International Building Code, the same testing requirement is referenced which reads as follows: “703.4.1 Elementary materials. Materials required to be noncombustible shall be tested in accordance with ASTM E 136.”

While the code remains unchanged, it is always important to refer to the current standard. Over the years, issues regarding standards may arise and the standard itself may change in some degree to address those issues. By adopting the codes with reference to the standard a change in standards can help to keep certain things current even though the jurisdiction may be operating under an older version of the code. Insuring the appropriate fire resistance for products used in construction saves lives. Updated fire resistive materials requirements have to be available to insure modern buildings are safe for the inhabitants. This is the prime directive for code officials.

Problems with CBPB

CBPB is an acronym for Cement Based Particle Board. This is a lower priced product that, if it truly met the standard, would be an economical product to achieve building safety. Documents have been provided to jurisdictions throughout the United States claiming that this material fits the classification of compliance with ASTM E 136. It does not.

So how did they achieve approval for use of their products as noncombustible? In May of 2004, US Architectural Products Incorporated obtained the Services of V-Tech Laboratories in New York to test their CBPB for certification purposes. V-Tech Laboratories issued a report indicating that the product was tested in accordance with ASTM E 136 protocol and that the specimens passed the test. According to V-tech’s report, “The material provided met all passing criteria for 10 minutes as specified by ASTM E 136.”

In addition the report contains the following statement: “Modification: the test was stopped after ten minutes.” Interestingly ASTM E 136 does not provide for modification of the test requirements. However, based on testing which was widely spread throughout the industry, the product has received approval as non-combustible.

One of the states where approval was given was Florida. When a plan reviewer in Florida became aware of the issue of the modified testing, independent testing was performed on the CBPB. The state of Florida gave consideration to the issue and removed approvals for the product with regard to the classification as a non-combustible product.

In answer to a January petition, the Florida Building Commission issued a declaratory statement on July 16, 2007, stating that, “the duration of the ASTM E 136 could not be reduced to ten minutes. Therefore, CBPB is considered a combustible product until it can pass an unmodified ASTM E 136-99e1 test.”

While the matter was under consideration by the Florida Building Commission, one of the suppliers of CBPB looked into the allegations that the product approval was based on improper information. Allied Building Products had testing completed at NGC testing services in Buffalo, New York. The sample did not pass. Since that time additional testing has been completed at the Southwest Research Institute, and the product also failed the test.

Allied acted appropriately in sending out a customer notification of the issue, but did they understand what had taken place up to this point. Mr. Bookspan, National Viroc Product Representative for the Allied Building Products Company, seemed confused that previous testing done by the manufacturer in Europe and by Allied products in the United States passed while all of the new testing failed. The answer is clearly in the statement on the cover page of testing provided previously where it is entitled, “Modified ASTM E-136” as stated on the V-Tech Laboratory document.

Until the question arose with regard to the testing criteria, the modification of the testing skewed the results so that all tests passed. When un-modified tests were run all failed to allow for this product to be classified as non-combustible.

Below is the customer notification letter from Allied Building Products in its entirety.

Allied Building Products Corp.

Viroc USA


PHONE (201-531-9680) FAX (201-933-6827)

TOLL FREE 888-OK-VIROC (658-4762)

June 6, 2007

Dear Valued Customer:

As you know, we have marketed Viroc as non-combustible, based not only on tests run by the manufacturer in Europe, but also based on three (3) ASTM E-136 tests Allied has run in the United States at two different independent labs, most recently in January of 2007. Because of recent suggestions from competitors that Viroc should not be labeled “non-combustible”, we ran yet another ASTM E-136 test at NGC testing services laboratory in Buffalo, New York. We just received the results, and unfortunately the sample did not pass.

We have contacted the manufacturer and are awaiting an explanation of why the product suddenly failed the non-combustibility test. We will keep you apprised of their explanation.

Viroc, of course, may continue to be marketed as fire resistant, for which it has received a U.L. certification, but until the manufacturer determines the cause of this recent setback and rectifies the problem, we must advise you that we are refraining from marketing it as non-combustible, hopefully for a temporary basis only.

Very truly yours,

Alan B. Bookspan

National Viroc Product Manager

Allied Building Products Corp.

It should be clearly noted that although the approval was retracted in Florida the products still continues to be used in other areas throughout the United States as a non-combustible.

In the City of New York approval was granted of this “non-combustible” through MEA 179-95-M and is based on modified testing by V-tech Laboratories test report # 100-525, dated April 17, 1995. MEA 453-04-M was issued on June 18, 2005, and approval was again based on modified testing by V-tech Laboratories test report #100-1960, dated May 5, 2004.

It should be clearly noted that in accordance with ASTM E 136 this product cannot be classified as non-combustible and therefore is not allowed for use within structures and assemblies where such non-combustible products are required.

The product approval for CBPB as a non-combustible in New York is still in place. It appears that Allied’s efforts to notify customers did not extend to jurisdictions where the product is being accepted and used based on the modified testing. I am very certain that there are other similar issues with products coming into the United States. There may be similar issues relative to products that are produced within the United States as well.

It is true that we should be able to count on information submitted to us to be accurate and for testing to be performed in exacting compliance with the standards. Sadly enough, as building professionals, it is incumbent upon us to read carefully all information submitted to us. We must understand the provisions of the standards and be able to see the nuances in written documents in order to insure that we fulfill our primary purpose of code compliance and building safety within our jurisdictions.

Patrick Vandergriff ·

Ø He has more than thirty years working in all areas of the Construction Industry.

Ø He has worked in all areas of the construction field including contracting, design and inspection services.

Ø He has worked and performed inspection in all fields of construction.

Ø He has worked on small, moderate, large and extremely large projects including management responsibilities over an inspection team on an approximately seventeen billion dollar project.

Ø He has a strong background in business administration and engineering.

Ø He has been active in Code Development Process throughout his career and has a strong grasp of historical information applicable to your code consulting needs.

Ø He has received numerous awards and certifications from the New Mexico Home Builder's Association of the NAHB, ICC and other organizations for his work in code development and adoption of International Codes in New Mexico and throughout the United States.

Ø He is a charter member of the New Mexico Building Official's Association and Southern New Mexico Association of Building Officials.

Ø He is a very highly ranked contract instructor for the International Code Council.

Ø He will do training in areas as requested, where such training would not conflict with those services offered by the ICC.

Ø He performs contract plan review and special inspections for Architects, Engineers, Project owners, Attorneys and Insurance Companies. He has offered expert witness testimony in cases dealing with construction related problems on numerous occasions but never on behalf of a losing party,

Ø He served as the Chief Building Official for the City of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Ø He also served as the Director of Construction Industries Division for the State of New Mexico.

Vandergriff Code Consulting Services

A Division of Kitt Brown Enterprises

35 Cottonwood Wood Canyon Road

La Luz, NM






Fax: 575-434-1980



W We’re on the Web!