HIGH BUILDINGS.

HIGH BUILDINGS.

HIGH buildings came in for a due share of attention on the part of the fire chiefs at their recent convention. Chief Swenie, of Chicago, introduced the subject. His paper took it for granted that the high building to which the fire department was called was duly supplied with pumps, standpipes, adequate elevator service, an interior court, or well, extending from the groundfloor to the roof, and a drilled corps of auxiliary firemen in charge, besides a thoroughly understood code of signals by which communication can be held between the engineer of the building and the firemen. Let it be granted that alt is thus and so: still the facts remain (1) that the extremely high building of the day has passed beyond the reach of the fire department5(2) that, even supposing the buildings to be all that Chief Swenie very properly insists they shall be, there is more than a probability that one of the links in the chain of essential requisites will be found defective—thereby rendering the others also defective in operation—perhaps, nullifying them altogether and paralysing the efforts of the fire department just at the most critical moment;and (3) that there is no such a thing as a fireproof building, and that what passes for such a structure is notunfrequently more of adeathtrap than many of those erected in the days when nothing of the sort was attempted. Chief Hale, of Kansas City, Mo., hit the right nail on the head when he indorsed the position taken by FIRE AND WATER that the solution of the difficulty as to the protection of high buildings against fire rests, not so much with fire departments, as with the underwriters, in whose power it lies not only to see that all such structures are provided with proper fire appliances, but also that such concessions in the way of reduced rates be granted to the owners of skyscrapers as shall pay for putting in tanks and motor pumps on the top floors or outside elevators for the use of the firemen. In addition, we would again insist that both underwriters and fire departments exercise a continual supervision over the fire protective apparatus and appliances stipulated tor either by law or in the insuranc policies, as well as over the elevators—outside or inside— pumps and tanks, on the strength of whose presence in the building concessions in the way of reduced rates have been granted. Only by this eternal vigilance can such equipment be kept in working order and the danger inuring to the community from the erection of these high buildings minimized.

HIGH BUILDINGS.

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HIGH BUILDINGS.

SUPERINTENDENT CONSTABLE, of the department of public works of this city, as will be seen elsewhere, has expressed himself strongly against the present style of high buildings in New York, and Mr. Dwight has followed suit, not in condemning them as structures, but as probable sources of danger in the future, when existing conditions shall have been changed and the seat of business shall have been transferred higher up town. In that case, just as fifty years ago many firetrap rookeries were fashionable dwellings or the abodes of trade and commerce, so within that time these high buildings may be abandoned of their present occupants and given over to a most undesirable set of tenants, whose annual rents will hardly be sufficient to keep them in repair or to allow of a proper (if any) elevator service, and whose many rooms will be subdivided by countless wooden partitions and filled not only with lodgers, but also with all sorts of inflammable and combustible goods, or given up to manufacturers of articles and materials, in themselves so dangerous as to expose the building to the danger of explosions and fires and the employes and other occupants to the peril of their lives through the absence of the proper means of exit. Allowing, however, for argument’s sake that the expert opinions on that score, as quoted elsewhere, are pessimistic, there remains the fact that there must take place a certain deterioration of the fabric itself, which, being unseen, cannot be guarded against; the disastrous results of which would, at all events, be evidenced when a fire broke out—the outcome being grave hurt or death itself, at least to the firemen, whose lives certainly should not be lightly esteemed or exposed to risks that are avoidable. It will be claimed, that the elevated roads show no such deterioration after the lapse of so many years, and that, therefore, the framework and columns of these high buildings will prove equally trustworthy. Mr. Dwight anticipates this objection, and points out that,

in the case of the elevated railroads, and also of bridges which have stood for years, the structure is constantly watched and constantly undergoing repairs. Tons and tons of paint have been put upon the elevated structures, and from the beginning new rivets and new pieces have been added. If one of these skeleton frames of steel or iron could be absolutely coated with a covering of paint or other material, entirely impermeable to wet or dampness, it would be possible to form some clearer judgment of the length of time which it would last. As it is, the metal framework is not only liable to deterioration from the dampness which may come from the walls, but it is liable tojinjury from all sorts of accidents which may happen —the bursting or leakage of steam or water pipes, the breakage of sewage pipes, which would be specially detrimental, and to the dampness caused by water thrown in to put out fires.

It may also be added that, supposing the building to be subjected through altered business conditions to the changes in tenancy and use to which Mr. Dwight has referred, then, owing both to the lack of properly paid supervision and to the unwillingness of the owners of the property to lay out money on buildings from which they derived so litttle profit, this process of unseen deterioration would be suffered to go on all the more rapidly because there was no one on the premises competent to detect it nor an^ desire on the part of the owners that it should be detected. The Crystal Palace at Sydenham, London, is a case in point. It is no longer the paying property it was of old; consequently, the company has to spend every year a larger sum than the receipts warrant to keep it in a safe condition. If that is so in the case of a rich corporation and of a building whose every rivet is daily exposed to public view, what would it be in that of a structure some 300 or 320 feet or more high, whose metal frame work is hidden, whose occupants are not of a class likely to be careful as to their mode of living or competent to judge of any deterioration, even if such were visible, and whose owner is either too mean or. too poor to guard against such deterioration or remedy its defects?