Building Construction, Fire Prevention & Protection

Structural Collapse Under Fire Conditions

Issue 5 and Volume 161.

BY SEAN P. TOOMEY, P.E. Most fire service personnel learn basic building construction early in their careers but little on how to predict structural collapse. However, the newer materials and construction techniques used today, particularly truss systems, are more likely to collapse faster in a fire than traditional materials, thus making it all the more crucial to possess the knowledge to predict structural collapse at an incident scene. EVOLUTION OF CONSTRUCTION METHODS AND MATERIALS Over the past 30 years, construction methods have transitioned from heavy timber, larger steel, and concrete sections to smaller, lighter sections. The wood construction industry transitioned from using heavy timber sections (approximately 12 inches × 30 inches), to rough-sawn lumber, to dimensional lumber, and now to engineered lumber. Engineered lumber is presented in several ways, which may include larger pieces of laminated veneer lumber (LVL), I-joists, and wood trusses. Connection methods vary from glues to metal…

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