We hear it all of the time in the fire service and many of us agree; we don’t spend enough time training and learning building construction and fire behavior. So, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here is a short lesson on Type I construction, or otherwise referred to Fire Resistive construction.
This first picture shows all non-combustible structural components of an addition to our local hospital. This is the basement, but the floor above is of similar design with interior wall studs of metal.
The floor above is concrete on metal decking, which you can see in this first picture.
You have a steel column, a steel beam with metal bar joists as the primary structural components with the exterior walls all of concrete.
As I mentioned before, the floor above is the same with the exception of the exterior walls being non-combustible metal stud walls.
Here is the same area from a different angle with a fire resistive coating sprayed on the structural members.
The data cable that you see is plenum rated and is for the computer and communications networking inside the facility.
In addition to the spray coating, the entire facility is fully sprinklered and has a monitored alarm.
The spray coating is designed to be applied to a specific thickness depending on the rating that is being achieved. Normally, and in this instance, a third party inspector is present to randomly inspect the thickness and provides a report to the building commissioner and the fire marshal.
What characteristics of this type of construction are important when sizing up a building like this?
What are some tactical importances in regards to operating at this building or one of Type I construction?
If you have any experiences or suggestions to add, please post them.
Stay safe and train hard,
One concern we have had with this type of construction was post inspection building life if you will. Running extra wires, plumbing, or heating ducts where contractors are cutting away this insulation to make their runs. The other issue we have found on inspections is lofts or maintenance plenum fire doors being blocked open while crews or maintenance workers were in there and never getting them closed.
One thing to ensure when doing inspections is to verify that those areas are recovered and any holes in the walls are properly sealed with approved fire caulking or insulation. I know as far as inspecting we should instruct our members on what they need to look for and identify like the plenum approved cables.
For size up, a few things to consider would be, fire origination? Is the fire in the construction area? Are the monitoring systems and sprinkler systems in those areas fully or partially operational or even installed yet? This will greatly affect your attack and resource needs for a fire in the area where protection is minimal. As with the potential lack of suppression and monitoring, high heat or large fire will severely degrade the protective covering and possibly compromise structural integrity of the supporting members. Also fire may possibly find those areas missed and not sealed properly and spread to other areas in the hospital that were designed to be protected in place. Because the other side of that wall was thought to be protected or sealed and is now not, could potentially become compromised and result in having to evacuate those and other patients once thought protected.
-One of the most important concerns for me is to insure the sprinkler system is operational. There are too many times that inspections have shattered our confidence that was placed in the knowledge that the building is sprinkled; only to learn the sprinkler was out of service, not hooked up or hadn't been serviced in years.
-We had a fire in City Hall of all places, in the 12th floor lunch room. Lots of smoke and excitement. The building is equipped with a sprinkler and stand pipe system as well as a lot of "state of the art" protection systems. The only fire protection system that worked was someone actually calling 911. Turns out the sprinkler was disconnected and didn't function at all neither did the alarms... in CITY HALL!!!! Seems they had been cutting corners and "saving money" by not servicing the fire protection systems in addition to telling the Fire Marshal to stay out. Dumb a****!
-Before trusting in the sprinkler be certain it actually works.
If you have ever watched IT people go about their work, you will quickly discover that they are not carpenters; nor are they remotely familiar with the behavior of fire. Walls that are impediments to their cables are sliced and diced to a size ten times bigger than they need. They don't "fill in" the h*** around their cables. They have to get done and get over to the company president's house because his wi-fi is down and he can't work from home, which means he would have to actually go "in" to work.
This can also become problematic for the folks at home when they run cables for their home theatre and direct tv to all of the rooms that have TVs which is every room. So, unless the voids are plugged with fire resistant material, fire could follow this path.
You all bring out excellent points.