THE QUESTION OF STEEL BUILDINGS.
‘American Contractor” Chicago in an artkle on titled the “Destruction of Steel Buildings by Fire” indorses the views of FIRE AND WATER on the subject and adds that they point out that the whole intention and design of the modern steel buildings is ‘to avoid the possibility of small fires from within resulting in serious damage, and that apartments with arches, floors, and partitions of a fireproof material are a long step towards the accomplishment of this desideratum. The way in w~i1ch a sled structure succumbs to flu action f flanics from liii’ 0Ut81(IC has bcuii repeatedly shown. The intense heat, penetrating the thin veneering of brick, or stone, or terra cotta, immediately attacks the steel uprights which form a part of the structural frame. Where these uprights arc of steel the mischief is often more quickly done than where the structural frame is of iron. The uprights are thin and generally liberally perforated with rivet holes, which tend greatly to weaken them under the influence of great heat. They warp and twist until the entire side of the building is thrown out of plumb. The brick or terra cotta veneering, held in place by its own weight and a little mortar, soon falls from its place and the ruin goes rapidly on.”
Cast iron columns too have lately come in for some severe condemnation as a part of the structural work of buildings. Sucb columns are not to be depended upon for structural work, since at any moment they arc apt to
crack and come down with a run.
As to the question of solving the problem of erecting an absolutely fireproof structure our contemporary seems to think the solution easy enough,
“if the architect be given ad libitum privileges in respect to sacrificing space and light. Hut ( foot walls and port-hole openings will never again !>e tolerated. The very first essential which every owner requires of the architect is a structure whoso walls occupy a minimum of space ami the windows of which shall lie large and numerous—in fine a structure which will net bln: a fair dividend on his Investment.
Mr, Edward Atkinson, president of the Boston Manufacturer’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company, who has re contly been in Chicago Investigating the recent fires, with a view of gathering information on the subject of the Influence of fire on structural steel, although the buildings were not of the modern fireproof vailety, has reported on the subject. He says that during the period of the very low price for steel or iron beams many plans which were submitted to himself and experts Indicated a tendency on the part of architects to substitute Iron or steel for heavy timber In some parts of the frame. In one or two Instances steel beams had been adopted in mill construction, which leads Mr. Atkinson to repeat Ids caution as to the danger of unprotected iron or steel, lie cites instances where steel beams have been doubled and twisted out of shape by fire. In one instance iron posts of the “1” form, on each side of which two-inch planks had been bolted for their protection, were twisted Into a worthless condition by the heat of the fire. Fourteen-inch square wooden posts, exposed to the same fire, were burned a little less than two Inches deep, the ten inches remaining still sustaining the load which rested upon them.
As the true method of protecting iron and steel from the destructive effect of heat, either within the building, or striking upon the building from without,is yet but partially solved, Mr. Atkinson prefers the mill construction, and is conducting experiments with the view to securing the best means of protection to wooden surfaces, especially at the inception of a fire, thus preventing the flames getting under much headway before the fire department arrives. The first rule laid down for avoiding the rapid spread of fire on wooden surfaces is to forbid absolutely the smearing over of these surfaces with any of the ordinary types of combustible varnish. Another, Mr. Atkinson might have added, would have been subjecting them to one or more coatings of some non-inflammable composition, such, for instance, as Secretary Herbert has adopted, for the purpose of protecting the internal woodwork in warships from their existing extreme liability to being set on fire from any cause in time of peace or war.
Thibodaux, La., having a new water works system, will need no fire engines. It will therefore reorganize its fire department.