Firefighting

Lightweight Construction: Is Now the Time To Push for Sweeping Industry Changes?

Issue 6 and Volume 162.

BY AZARANG (OZZIE) MIRKHAH and DAVID C. COMSTOCK JR. The use of engineered floor and roof systems in residential occupancies across the United States is skyrocketing. Most newer residential occupancies incorporate lightweight, engineered wood or composite structural components, including trusses, wooden I-beams, and lightweight flooring and roofing systems. In most cases, these systems are structurally sound and designed to support the appropriate loads under normal conditions. However, they are likely to fail very quickly under fire conditions. As a result, firefighters have been dying in residential structure fires at an ever-increasing rate despite the fact that fire service authors have been warning of these dangers for more than two decades.1 For example, in 2007 a 24-year-old male volunteer firefighter died at a residential structural fire involving lightweight wood trusses. The home was built in 2004 and was a two-story, single-family residence of ordinary construction that encompassed approximately 2,200 square feet…

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