REPORT ON FIREPROOF CONSTRUCTION

REPORT ON FIREPROOF CONSTRUCTION

The report of the committee on fireproof construction, with E. T. Carrigan, chairman, appointed by the National Fire Protection assocation, adverse to the attempts made by the committee to reconcile the differences between the standard advocated by the association and the building code of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, advises the holding of a conference committee, consisting of representatives from various national associations of architects, engineers, builders and fire-protection engineers, as one likely to cover the entire scope of ordinary city building ordinances. The report considers that, the “only proper basis on which to undertake so important a work.

“The rapid increase in the number of fireproof buildings during the past few years,” says the report, “makes it quite natural that the past twelve months should have witnessed an unusual number of important fires in buildings of that class; and we should like to call your attention to a few of the more important and to improvements in the art of fireproof construction, which these incidents suggest as necessary and practical. The fire of January to, 1908, in the Parker building. Fourth avenue and Nineteenth street, New York city, is, perhaps, the most conspicuous example and by far the most interesting publication on fire proof construction which has recently been brought out, and as containing many valuable recommendations. This was a typical city building, 12 stories, of somewhat more than average area, generally considered before the fire as a fairly good structure, but defective, as are many similar buildings in various cities, in that it had unprotected stair and elevatorshafts communicating with rooms on many different floors in which were stored large quantities of inflammable merchandise, had inadequate tile insulation on the metal frame, columns of cast iron instead of steel, and outside windows chiefly of unprotected ordinary glass, a combination which proved to be beyond the control of the New York fire department and resulted in a loss to the build iug of 65YJ per cent, of the sound value above foundations and nearly total loss on about $1,000,000 worth of contents. In this case, if the elevators and stairways had been prop* crlv inclosed and outside windows had been protected, it is probable that the fire would have been controled on the floor where it originated. as the firemen would have been able to concentrate their attention upon that floor and possibly to have extinguished the fire before the structure had been injured to the point of collapse. Another important fire occurred on March 10, 1908. in the 12-story fireproof building of good average brick, steel and tile construction. Nos. 32-36 West Eighteenth street, New N ork city. In this instance, the tire originated in an adjoining building of ordinary construction. It was soon beyond control in that building and at once lapped round the front wall into the windows of the several dories of the fireproof building, burning out its contents and resulting in a loss of about 6 per cent, on the structure. In all probability it standard wired-glass windows had been in stalled on the street front of this building, as on the sides overlooking the exposure, the fire would have been kept out and little damage resulted. A still more striking example of the necessity of properly safeguarding window openings on fireproof, as well as on other buildings, is afforded by the fire in the socalled Keith building, at 132-134 Michigan avenue. Chicago, on January 28, 1908. The building was of ordinary steel and tile type 7 stories high. 63×157 ft., occupied throughout’by a wholesale millinery house. In this case, the fire originated in a wall paper store facing on Wabash avenue, 40 ft. in the rear of the Keith building I he fire soon became beyond control in the wall paper store, and. fanned by a high wind, it extended entirely across this 40ft.. alley and through the ordinary unprotected windows of the Keith building, and ignited its millinery stock on the four upper floors, with the result that the contents of these floors were entirely consumed, and the building itself was damaged to the extent of 28.3 per cent, of its sound value. All of the trim and fixtures and most of the tile in the four stories, and part of the steel work in the roof was ruined and had to he replaced. Still another loss on a modern fireproof building, due to exposure against unprotected windows, occurred in Chicago on January 27, 1908, when the new Corn Exchange Bank building at LaSalle and Adams streets was damaged by the burning of an adjoining hotel The bank building was under construction and had not progressed far enough to contain any appreciable amount of combustible material in the shape of wood flooring, trim, etc., and, of course, was entirely unoccupied. The damage was confined almost wholly to the burning out of window frames on most of the floors above the third. The loss in this case was nominal, probably about 4 per cent.; but the exposure was severe enough to have resulted in a very disastrous fire, had the bank building contained any quantity of combustible contents. One more serious fire, illustrating the same feature of unprotected window openings, occurred in New York city, on June 8, 1907. In this case, fire originated on the second floor of a 10-story brick building having steel frame and brick-arched floors, and mounted from floor to floor up to the eighth by means of the outside windows, occasioning a serious contents loss on nearly all of these floors, though the building itself, being of plain and rather rugged construction, escaped with about 6 per cent, damage. Another fire of importance occurred on February 17, 1908, in the Exchange Club, 22 Batterymarch street, Boston, Mass. This is a small steel and tile building of good average construction for the class, occupied as a private dining club. The fire originated in a closet on the third floor, in the vicinity of an unprotected dumb-waiter shaft, and spread over the fourth, fifth and sixth stories, with a resultant loss of 10 per cent, of the value of the building. Practically all of this could doubtless have been prevented, had the dmnb-waiter shaft connecting the various floors been properly inclosed. That the prevention of a large part of such losses as arc above referred to is quite possible, is probably appreciated by the members of this association; and it is hoped that, if the general conference above suggested of various engineers, architects, and builders interested in the construction of fireproof buildings is finally arranged, such methods of reducing these losses may be agreed upon as will appeal to the general public and be adopted in the erection of important buildings in the future which shall be more deserving of the term ‘fireproof,’ so loosely applied at the present time. Among the features to be considered by such a conference would be, first, the regulation of height and area of buildings to dimensions such as allow control of lire in combustible contents by whatever extinguishing agencies, public or private, may be provided. Second, the safeguarding of all interior vertical openings to prevent the spread of tire from one floor to another Third, the design of really fireproof partitions, in place of the flimsy and largely combustible makeshifts so common at present Fourth, the protection of all exterior wall-openings, including front windows, against exposure fires and against the lapping of fire from story to story of the same building. Fifth, the limitation of the use of cast iron columns Sixth, satisfactory means of protecting metal work from heat by suitable material of proper thickness securely fastened in place. One of the most important defects of the present methods of insulating “teel work is the insecure manner in which the insulating material is held in position. Another common weakness in socalled fireproof buildings will probably be found very difficult to overcome—namely, the presence in and on these buildings of a very large value in destructible decoration and equipment. In the case of the Barker building, for instance (which, by the way. was not an elaborate office building, hut rather plain than otherwise), the carpenter work, hardware, painting and glazing represented 15.7 per cent, of the sound value, of which 95,2 per cent, was destroyed. The electric wiring and equipment represented 3.5 per cent, and was damaged to the extent of 47.5 per cent. Heating equipment represented 2.7 per cent, of the value and was damaged to the extent of 59.4 per cent. Marble, tiling and terrazzo represented 2.1 per cent, and was damaged to the extent of 90.1 per cent. Plastering represented 4.9 per cent, of the value and was a total loss. Plumbing was nearly 2 per cent, of the value and was damaged 83.6 per cent. The above items foot up to 30.9 per cent, of the sound value of the building and would be considerably higher in the case of a strictly office building of modern style. In the adjustment of Baltimore conflagration-losses, as reported by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, the eight most important fireproof buildings average as follows, as to percentage of value of various items and percentage of damage thereon: Foundations, per cent, of total sound value of building, 5.5, per cent, of damage to item. 2.5; steel frame, 13.19, 12.93; mason work, 31.31, 53.125; equipment, 19.27. 62.52; trim and finish, 29.99, 84.18; general expense (fees, etc.), 4.53, 61.59. Before buildings can he properly classed as fireproof, some means will have to be found for reducing the proportion of these easily destructible values. Of course, something will have been accomplished in this direction, when wall-openings shall have been properly protected to restrain internal and keep out exposure-fires, and floor-openings shall have been protected, and interior partitions built so that internal fires can he confined to the locality in which they originate, instead of being allowed to spread throughout the building. and, perhaps, it is in this latter direction that our efforts can best be expended.”

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