Architectural Composites Guidelines - FREE

Architectural Composites Guidelines – FREE


There is a new guide to the architectural applications of FRP composites. ACMA (The American Composites Manufacturers Association) has issued its Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Fiber-Reinforced-Polymer (FRP) Architectural Products, and it’s available for download, free, at, but only for a very limited time, so you should probably go get it as soon as you finish reading this.

Building construction, because of the conservative nature of the business and its emphasis on cost reduction, has remained a relatively low-tech industry when compared to other types of large-scale constructed objects such as automotive, marine, or aviation. The three latter industries have been taking advantage of the benefits of composites for decades. Building construction – architecture – has adopted FRP in much more limited ways.

One of the limiting factors has been a lack of widespread knowledge about what FRP is good for, how to design with it, and how to build with it. It’s been a chicken-and-egg type problem: because it’s not used much, very few people know how to use it, and vice versa. Materials standards and construction standards are not well known by the A/E/C community. Standards are crucial to the construction industry because public health and safety are involved, and because the investments in buildings tend to be large and failures or mistakes result in high-dollar lawsuits.

The new ACMA Composites Guidelines are an enormous step towards removing these barriers. The Guidelines provide a thorough basis for people outside the composites industry – specifically architects and other design professionals – to understand what composites are, how to design with them and handle them, and what standards are applicable and useful for achieving design success and code compliance. The book is, potentially, a landmark in construction history.

Bill Kreysler, president of Kreysler and Associates and chair of the Architectural Committee of ACMA (and, full disclosure, sponsor of this blog) notes that this is actually the third edition of the Guidelines, the first having been issued almost 20 years ago.  “This edition is much more comprehensive, more sophisticated.  We believe it will much better serve the professional design community in not only evaluating FRP, but also in designing architectural products made from FRP.”

Kreysler credits Robert Steffen, PhD, PE, Western Carolina University, who is listed as “Technical Chairman” of the guide committee, as the leading force in bringing about this new edition.  It has been in the works for almost three years.

The nine chapters that begin the book provide a good overview of the issues, and where to find detailed information about them: Introduction, Raw Materials and Fabrication, Characteristics of FRP Composites, General Considerations, Design, Tolerances, Quality Assurance, Loading and Delivery, and Installation.

The 12 appendices, which comprise the bulk of the book, are deep information-mines that can provide a thorough basis for any professional to understand the materials, how to design with them, how to specify them, how to interact with the FRP fabricator, and how to handle the finished products in the construction environment. The appendices include, among other things, an extensive list of ASTM and other applicable test methods, a detailed description of the raw materials available, a CSI-compliant 3-part guide specification, and two Fire Decision Trees (one for designers, one for fabricators). There is also a detailed design example: the Snohetta-designed FRP façade of the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion (SFMOMA), believed to be the largest FRP façade in the world and the first high-rise composite façade to be approved in the US.

APPENDIX A: Characteristics of FRP Composites

APPENDIX B: The History of FRP Composites

APPENDIX C: FRP Composites Architectural and Building Applications

APPENDIX D: FRP Composites Raw Materials

APPENDIX E: Fabrication Processes

APPENDIX F: Test Methods

APPENDIX G: CSI Guide Specifications

APPENDIX H: Fire Decision Tree for Architects

APPENDIX I: Fire Decision Trees for Manufacturers

APPENDIX J: Engineering Design Guide

APPENDIX K: Typical Connection Details

APPENDIX L: Design Example

In short, Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Fiber-Reinforced-Polymer (FRP) Architectural Products is probably the best single source currently available for understanding and using composites in architectural applications.

Get it now, while it’s free:


Images from Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Fiber-Reinforced-Polymer (FRP) Architectural Products, published by the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA), 2016.