Blunders of Fireproofing.

Blunders of Fireproofing.

The chief cause of the blunders of modern fireproofism lies in the fact that its authors in their period of incubation confined their view of the subject to the scope of the mind’s eye of the architect solely, instead of embracing that of the fireman and others incident to fire and its work.

It requires a heterogeneos-mind to evolve a successful fireproof system—a mind composed of a fair portion architect, a large amount fireman, a decided dose of chemist, a goodly share of sensible underwriter, and a modicum of fire editor.

Theory should be tightly bottled and laid up on the top shelf, care being taken to have the death’s head label in full view.

Then the power to send for persons and papers should be freely used, and out of such a combine it is reasonably sure that a decided improved system of fireproofing would be the result. Withal, the ready elimination of many present asanine features.

The slow-burning type is a monster that would have been instantly rejected as abhorrent by the practical mind of the fireman.

The conception of such a system of fireproofing is only the spawn of malformation, the unnatural issue of joint brother and sister theory, possessing not a single virtue or redeeming feature, and dubbed slow-burning in a burst of comical satire. Such a type is not even entitled to the bar-bastard in the heraldry of fireproofism.

The puzzling part is that our underwriters should have been brought to recognize its purulent claims of legitimacy, and have blotted their fair books by its eutry thereon.

Perplexing also is the fact that owners could have been seized with the noxious fever, and in its delirium pour their gold into its devouring crucible.

A claim by Punch and Judy to the throne of the Guelphs would be in fellow touch with the claim of this slow-burning system to the merits of fireproofism.

Chief Foley is right. Law should be evoked to prohibit the erection of these menaces within the confines of all corporate limits.

The burning of vast forests of giant trees teach us that wood will burn in bulk, as it also will in strips.

An architect may focus his ideas so that he will conceive and design a type of structure wherein bulky beams, giant girders, abnormal floors and sturdy columns will retard and perchance resist the spread of some ideal fire, created within tender confines of the architectural brain, simply to be thus successfully resisted. But. alas ! the every day fire, with its attendant ugly mood, its vicious spirit, its relentless fury, its dogged obstinacy and. above all, its perplexing success, is indeed another kind of beast altogether to deal with, instead of this mild-manered, cultured and obedient fire of the architects gentle imagination.

1 would have it understood that I have a profound respect for the profession of the architect, and am not aiming to impute anything but what is noble and elevating in his efforts and inspirations in the pursuit of his grand art withal the mother of all arts.

But I sincerely believe that his grasp or scope of the true question of fireproofing buildings has been erroneous, in fact has been a blunder.

I am free to confess that with an active practice of a quarter of a century as an architect myself, such are my convictions and views, and I am free to say I am forced to these conclusions by having to stand passively by and see my own fireproof efforts go mockingly up in flame and smoke.

The evidence I have been so fortunate to secure from our great fire masters, and which have appeared in these columns, all goes positively to prove that our system of fireproofing is a blunder.

Blunders of Fireproofing.


Blunders of Fireproofing.

Part 5.

(Written for FIRE AND WATER.)

How clean and healthy has been the testimony given by those conservative and practical fire chiefs, Swenie of Chicago, Lindsay of St. Louis, Foley of Milwaukee and Runge of Minneapolis, on the subject of modern fireproofism.

And how all closely agree and positively assert that the present system of fireproofing for mercantile structures is a failure.

How conclusively and convincingly they clinch their assertions by giving physical examples of these fireproof buildings burning up with impunity.

Similar testimony from other fire chiefs is at hand, and it comes from all quarters of our country, thus establishing the fact that the present system of fireproofism is a blunder, that is, if the fact that these fireproof buildings arc not proof against fire goes for aught.

The fault, in a nutshell, is this: We have no fireproof materials fit for the spanning component of our buildings, that is, for constructing our joists, beams, girders, rafters and trusses out of.

The brick and other baked clay products practically fills the bill for wall purposes, but for our floor and roof supports there exists no reliable fireproof or heat resistant material or materials.

Our architects’ efforts to case or cover iron or steel structurals by use of terra cotta or other baked clay has proven futile, because the heat penetrating the clay blanket is absorbed by the metal, and the evils of expansion at once begin, but these evils and injuries have been clearly set forth heretofore.

The metal is too susceptible to the effects of heat, and the expansive force is simply irresistible and uncontrollable, and it is patent, even to a child, that iron, in any of its forms, is unfit for fireproof building uses.

The ingenuity of our architects or other authors of progressive building should be turned to evolving a composition, at once fireproof and insensible to expansion or construction.

As a suggestion, it might prove feasible should our electricians turn their search towards the producing of a current or wave (or whatever it properly is) of electricity possessing the faculty of mesmerizing (as it were) our wood, metal, or other material now used in the spanning or supporting purposes of buildings.

is it possible to subject any of these materials to the influence of a certain electricity, whereby the effects of heat would be nullified?

Only research and tireless experiment can truly answer this.

Is it impossible to generate an electric current, which, when applied to wood, would so hold and control the oxygen and hydrogen as to prohibit htat from uniting them, and also prevent the release of the carhon, in other words, simply preclude the possibility of combustion.

With our present limited knowledge of electricity and its limitless possibilities who dare gainsay that such a thing cannot be.

If man’s genius should happily discover or invent such a current what a godsend it would prove to mankind to thus be enabled to mesmerize our inflammable building materials, stock, contents, etc., and then lay back on downy beds of ease and laugh at our underwriters in the same breath that we would commiserate our firemen.

This all may be Utopian, and again it may not, aye, there’s the rub.

As the matter now stands, the most palpable blunder made by our fireproof authors was in the conception of that bastard system called “ slow-burning combustion, or mill construction type of fireproof buildings.”

A goat in form is gothic, but it should not follow that the architect need keep a goat in mind while designing an example of gothic architecture. Still one is led to the conclusion that some ideal about as incongruous must have been the inspiration of the author of this slow-burning system.

In this type the units of combustion are multiplied and magnified, so that in case of fire in the structure, or its stock, these bulky structurals hold and maintain the mass of flames and heat aloft in the air, thus allowing the full, free and infectious radiation of intense heat, to the hazard of all surrounding buildings, and this is simply a direct and fierce factor of the spread of fire, in short a conflagration promoter.

Again referring to the standard materials of the building art, the brick (or any baked clay) may be considered practically a fireproof material, since it is a product of heat of a higher degree than usually generated in burning buildings. But it must be borne in mind that while the brick is a fairly good fire resistant, the mortar necessary to accomplish the use of the brick is a very poor resistant, not that it possesses properties of combustion, but absorbed heat from ordinary fire disastrously affects its powers of cohesion and destroys the unity of the wall, wlierin lies its sole utility.

Iron or metal in any of its forms is a product of heat of comparatively low degree, and it readily loses its required rigidity and consequent utility; at a degree of heat met with in more ordinary fires, it is susceptible to a molecular movement at once fatal to its own vitality by the application of this low degree of heat, and it need be applied but of short duration.

For external superstructure, stone is impressive and susceptible of producing sensations of stability, strength and grandeur, but as a fireproof material it^is as barren of virtue as a door knob is of being the casket of a chick.