DESIGNING FOR FIRE

FirePrecast concrete provides inherent fire protection and resiliency. Concrete does not combust and therefore helps maintain fires to a controlled space, or sometimes referred to as compartation. Precast concrete provides passive fire protection, which means it does not rely on another system or someone to take action. This section includes many design resources and information about fire design.

Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. Report on Fire Tests

Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. (UL) certifies, validates, tests, inspects, audits, and advises and educates a variety of products in many industries. PCI sponsored a series of fire tests conducted at the UL. The reports from these tests are below.

Concrete and Masonry Industry Firesafety Committee Position Statements

The following publications were produced by the National Codes and Standards Council of the Concrete and Masonry Industries as well as the Concrete and Masonry Industry Fire Safety Committee. PCI was a member organization of these groups.

Fire Protection Planning Reports:

The following publications were produced by the National Codes and Standards Council of the Concrete and Masonry Industries as well as the Concrete and Masonry Industry Fire Safety Committee. PCI was a member organization of these groups.

These publications are intended for the use of professional personnel competent to evaluate the significance and limitations of its contents and who will accept responsibility for the application of the material it contains. The National Codes and Standards Council of the Concrete and Masonry Industries disclaims any and all responsibility for the application of the stated principles or for the accuracy of the sources other than work performed or information developed by the Council.

Firesafety in Residential Buildings

The need for firesafe construction in single-family homes, town houses, and garden apartments is often ignored. The steady growth of multifamily, low-rise buildings (townhouses with common walls and apartment buildings of three or four floors), which are constructed essentially the same as single-family residences but with many families living under one roof, multiplies the fire danger.

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Six Fundamentals of Firesafety in Buildings

Fire in a high-rise building* can mean flame and smoke beyond the reach of firemen's ladders and hoses, but the risk associated with fire and smoke is usually lower in a high-rise than in other buildings. Each year there are about 12,000 fire deaths in the United States. Of these, an average of fewer than 12 occur in high-rise buildings. Both large and small cities have tall buildings with excellent safety records. The reason is that for years building codes have required fire-resistive, compartmented construction for high-rise buildings. If building codes are changed to provide less restrictive structural requirements, then poorer performance should be expected.

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Significance of Fire Ratings for Building Construction

When evaluating the significance of fire ratings it is important to consider how a specific building assembly might behave if an actual fire were to occur. Users of fire-test reports and fire ratings should be aware that limitations in testing procedures affect their applicability.

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Building Fire Protection into Low-Rise Multifamily Homes

This publication considers several construction practices and methods that can be readily achieved to increase firesafety in low-rise multifamily construction. Although these construction safety methods and materials are currently being used, there is an immediate need for more communities to upgrade building codes.

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An Introduction to Rational Design of Concrete and Masonry for Firesafety

Fire tests on walls, floors, columns,· and roofs as well as the performance of actual buildings in fires have demonstrated that concrete and masonry are h1ghly fire-resistant materials. Much information has been developed from these tests about the factors that determine the fire resistance of concrete and masonry assemblies. This research information, together with the analytical procedures now available, make it possible to calculate the fire endurance of concrete and masonry components of a building. The procedure, known as rational design, is becoming an accepted means of designing for structural firesafety.

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New Study Emphasizes Need for Fire-Resistant Construction in Low-Rise Multifamily Buildings

The information obtained in this study is especially significant because it examines the results of real fires. If applied to the planning and construction of multifamily buildings. the new findings can be valuable in reducing loss of life and property damage due to fire. The influence of construction type on fire damage is shown for the states studied. As the use of fire-resistant construction increases, the extent of fire damage and the risk of extensive fire damage decrease. Data are limited for evaluating smoke-detector and sprinkler-system performance; however. The data analyzed indicate that failure rates of both detectors and sprinklers may be significant. Relationships between construction type and fire casualties cannot be stated until the data base is increased.

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Effects of Thermal Insulation on Fire-Resistive Assemblies

Model building codes are beginning to recognize that the addition of thermal insulation in some fire resistive assemblies can adversely affect their performance. Evaluation of assemblies with increased levels of thermal insulation should be required to substantiate new hourly fire ratings. Fire-resistive assemblies provide the barriers essential for providing the time and protection necessary to allow building occupants a safe means of egress, for providing the structural integrity necessary to permit firefighters to safely extinguish a fire, and for containing a fire and limiting its spread. Deterioration of the fire resistance of these assemblies can be caused by added thermal insulation. This should be recognized in the design of buildings for fire protection.

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Fighting Arson with Fire-Resistive Construction

  1. Arson has become a common fire scenario, accounting for nearly 25% of all building fires and over 30% of the total dollar loss.
  2. Arson is primarily a crime against property. Most often arson is committed for reasons other than profit, making arson prevention difficult and protection against arson necessary.
  3. Arson protection coincides with the fundamentals of building firesafety and property protection. The most important protection features are the use of fire-resistive, noncombustible construction; firewalls; and compartmentation.
  4. Due to the high rate of arson and the susceptibility of automatic sprinklers to accidental or intentional failure, the concept of trading off lifesafety and property-protection features is unjustified. This trend should be reversed.
  5. The use of concrete and masonry construction in multifamily buildings has been statistically proven to reduce the extent of flame spread and minimize property damage. Compartmentation using two-hour noncombustible tenant separations can limit the spread of fire and contain it within the compartment of origin, protecting occupants from the careless or intentional acts of a neighbor.
  6. The use of firewalls in commercial properties to limit fire spread has long been regarded as one of the most basic and dependable methods of reducing risk.

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Fire Protection and Community Planning

Fire, in its uncontrolled state, is one of the great killers of people and the destroyer of economic wealth. Nearly 7000 people lose their lives in fires each year; thousands more are injured and tens of thousands lose their homes and possessions to its ravages. In an effort to protect the public from the devastating effects of fire, modern-day building codes have established minimum standards for the protection of life and property. During the last 10 to 15 years, life safety has surfaced as the motivating force behind building code changes. This is justified since life is so very precious and can never be replaced. The fire protection community has alerted the public exceedingly well to the need for greater life safety measures. Now, however, there is also a need for emphasis on property protection.

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Confirmed: Fire Losses in Multifamily Buildings Depend on Type of Construction

The information used in the study of the relationships between fire losses and construction type and building size was based on actual fire losses, and the results are indicative of the real-world fire performance of the different construction types. This information, if applied to the planning and construction of new multifamily buildings, can be most valuable in increasing life safety and reducing property damage due to fire. The report recommends that "serious consideration should be given to prohibiting the use of wood-frame construction [types 7 and 8] in multifamily residences with more than 20 living units." This is based on the high average property losses and injuries experienced in this combination of building size and construction type. If the same fires had occurred in buildings of ordinary construction (types 5 and 6), the report estimates there would have been a 12% savings in the total dollar loss from fires extending beyond the area of origin and a 60% reduction in injuries.

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Fire Protection for Industrial and Warehouse Buildings

In one of the most costly structure fires ever, one of the world's largest and most modern retail distribution centers burned to the ground along with all of its contents. Losses to K-Mart's 1.1 million-sq ft warehouse located near Philadelphia are expected to exceed $110 million. In a little over one hour the huge warehouse and its contents were totally destroyed in spite of the presence of an operating, full-coverage, automatic sprinkler system and quick response by dozens of firetrucks. Only the general offices and computer center survived, separated from the rest of the structure by masonry walls. How could such a fire happen? There were many factors contributing to the destruction, all of which appear common to storage-type occupancies. This report presents a rationale for good fire protection design in industrial and warehouse buildings.

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Constructing Firesafe Single-Family Homes

Careful planning for room layout and exiting in the design of single-family homes can greatly improve firesafety. Also, the choice of construction materials figures significantly in regard to the development and spread of fire. Use of noncombustible materials is recommended since they (1) Do not add fuel to a fire (2) Do not support combustion in concealed spaces (3) Do not generate toxic gases or smoke (4) Will act to confine and limit the fire to the area of origin Many new and innovative systems and materials have emerged that are making the use of firesafe noncombustible building materials easier and less costly.

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Analytical Methods of Determining Fire Endurance of Concrete and Masonry Members – Model Code Approved Procedures

Calculation of fire endurance of concrete and masonry members has progressed from pure research to practical structural design applications. Further refinements of analytical methods are going on now, aided in great part by computer simulations of concrete and masonry performance under fire-test conditions. The information contained in this report scratches the surface on the topic of analytical and empirical design. The practicing structural engineer will find references 1, 2, and 3 excellent sources of additional information on the rational methods for calculating fire resistance. The engineer, architect, or building official will find this a handy and usable guide in assessing concrete and masonry requirements with regard to fire endurance. Calculation procedures provide a viable timesaving and cost saving means of determining a member's fire endurance without running full scale ASTM E119 fire tests. Along with savings of time and money, the building official, architect, or engineer will have a much clearer concept of how certain variables affect fire endurance if analytical procedures are utilized.

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Separating the Structural Fire Resistance and Barrier Fire Resistance End Points

Allowing both structural fire-resistance ratings and barrier fire-resistance ratings to be determined for load-bearing walls will make possible significant savings in materials, labor, and construction time. The rationale for making this distinction is already present in the model codes, although not explicitly stated. In order to take advantage of the potential savings, two changes should take place. First, ASTM E 119 should be revised to allow specific determination of both a structural fire-resistance rating and a barrier fire-resistance rating. Criteria for determining both types of ratings are already specified. However, only one rating is currently recognized based on the first end point reached. Second, required fire-resistance ratings specified in the model codes should be modified to indicate both a structural fire-resistance rating and a barrier fire-resistance rating. This can be accomplished by adopting a rating format such as 4/2 to specify a four-hour structural fire resistance and a two-hour fire-barrier resistance. Currently only one rating requirement is indicated.

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A Comparison of Insurance and Construction Costs for Low-Rise Multifamily Dwellings

The purpose of this report is to make prospective building owners, building officials, developers, landlords, and tenants aware of the advantages of concrete and masonry low-rise multifamily dwellings. The report will focus on the economic benefits of constructing with concrete and masonry building materials and, through a life-cycle cost analysis, will show that it is actually less expensive to own a concrete and masonry building than one constructed of wood frame. Although energy and maintenance savings are also realized in constructing with concrete and masonry, only construction, sprinkler, mortgage, and insurance cost considerations will be addressed in this text.

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Guide to BOCA/NBC Requirements for Concrete and Masonry Fire Walls

The purpose of this report is to provide building officials and the design community with information on the code requirements germane to concrete and masonry fire walls. The report contains 1. The code's definition of a fire wall and characteristics common thereto 2. Fire-rating requirements for fire walls and their components (parapets, opening protectives, and so forth) 3. Conceptual drawings of wall-roof connections and restraining conditions necessary for fire walls to meet the code's stability criterion during a fire

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Guide to SBC Requirements for Concrete and Masonry Fire Walls

The purpose of this report is to provide building officials and the design community with information on the code requirements germane to concrete and masonry fire walls. The report contains:

  1. The code's definition of a fire wall and characteristics common thereto
  2. Fire-rating requirements for fire walls and their components (parapets, opening protectives, and so forth)
  3. Conceptual drawings of wall-roof connections and restraining conditions necessary for fire walls to meet the code's stability criteria during a fire.

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Guide to UBC Requirements for Concrete and Masonry Area Separation Walls

The purpose of this report is to provide building officials and the design community with information on the code requirements germane to concrete and masonry area separation walls. The report addresses the following items:

  1. Characteristics common to all area separation walls
  2. Fire-rating requirements for area separation walls and their components (parapets, opening protectives, and so forth)
  3. Orientation of wall configurations that qualify as area separation walls

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Is One-Hour Fire-Rated Compartmentation of Dwelling Units Adequate in Low-Rise Multifamily Housing?

This report shows why one-hour fire-rated separation of dwelling units in multifamily housing represents an inadequate level of property protection. Model building code requirements for fire resistance of dwelling-unit separations are also examined, along with the methodology used in establishing these requirements. Finally, a balanced design approach to firesafety is proposed for multifamily housing, identifying concrete and masonry construction as the primary component in a system comprised of compartmentation and automatic suppression and detection elements.

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A Balanced Design Approach to Firesafety for Low-rise Multifamily Construction

The purpose of this report is to:

  1. describe the concept of a balanced design approach to firesafety,
  2. explain why it is needed,
  3. emphasize the urgency of its implementation; and,
  4. illustrate the cost benefits of concrete and masonry construction used in a balanced design approach to firesafety of low-rise multifamily housing.

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Assessing the Condition and Repair Alternatives of Fire-Exposed Concrete and Masonry Members

The sections within this report describe an approach for assessing the condition of fire-exposed concrete and masonry building construction. Various testing and analytical methodologies are described and some general information is provided about restoration procedures. Detailed repair techniques are beyond the scope of this report.

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