The process of building construction is rather elaborate. The builders need to ensure that the building is habitable and will pose no threats to the occupants. In addition, they also need to ensure that the building is properly insulated from fires. There is need for the constructors to install fire-fighting equipment and implement other measures that allow firefighters to respond to emergencies effectively (Jain, 2007). The construction of buildings with consideration for fire protection is the subject of this paper. Among other things, the paper discusses building construction and how building and fire codes are applied in building construction.
Overview of building construction
As it has already been mentioned, the construction of buildings involves an elaborate process. There are various phases and issues that must be considered when erecting structures. In the discussion that follows, some specific elements of building construction are explored in detail.
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The building profession has made great strides as evidenced by the development of different methods of building. Fire-resistive non-combustible is one of the types of building construction (Frossetto, 2012). As the name suggests, buildings of this type are designed to withstand fire. They are built using materials that do not burn. High-rise buildings are among those that belong to this type (“Construction Type”, n.d). In the event of a fire, the damage and devastation that would result in a high-rise building would be catastrophic. It is for this reason that the materials used for the construction of such building are deliberately fire-resistive. Protected non-combustible is the other type of building (“Construction Type”, n.d). School buildings are among the structures that belong to this type. These buildings are constructed using materials that are non-combustible but do not possess any fire-resisting features.
Apart from the types discussed above, unprotected combustible and heavy timber are the other building types. The unprotected combustible type includes buildings which have brick walls and wooden roofs. These materials do not offer any fire protection. Protected wood frame and unprotected wood frame are other building construction types (Frossetto, 2012). In the protected wood frame type, the wood that is used is covered and this type is used for constructing modern apartments. The unprotected wood frame type is perhaps the most unsecure and susceptible to fire damage. The buildings of this type do not enjoy any fire protection (“Construction Type”, n.d).
Designs of structures
One of the processes that precede the actual construction of buildings is design. It is important to have a model layout of the building that one wishes to construct. During the design process, there is need for those responsible to ensure safety (“Safe Design of Structures”, 2012). There are safety protocols that should be followed to ensure that the buildings are safe for occupation. Health is another issue that must be considered during the design phase. The designers must ensure that the health of the occupants is not threatened (“Safe Design of Structures”, 2012). It is also advised that the designers should adopt a risk management approach. As regards fire protection, it is important for the designers to ensure that the risk of fire is minimized and if possible, eliminated. This can be done by including fire protection measures in the design of the building. Other considerations that should be made during the design include safe maintenance, modification and demolition (“Safe Design of Structures”, 2012). The design of any building should allow for safe occupancy and for modifications to be made. The design should also facilitate safe dismantling of a building.
Application of building and fire codes
As is clear from the discussion this far, it is important to ensure that buildings are safe. Codes and standards have been developed to facilitate the implementation of safety measures. All parties involved in the construction process are required to adhere to these codes. Fire safety is one of the issues that these codes and standards provide guidelines on. They require constructors to ensure that buildings are designed and fitted with facilities that minimize the risk of fire and facilitate firefighting efforts (Jain, 2007). For instance, there are codes that demand that firefighting equipment should be installed and assembly points to be clearly marked. These provisions are intended to minimize the risk and the damage that results from fires. In addition to fires, there are codes that offer guidelines on earthquake damage minimization. When they strike, earthquakes can cause devastation. While it is impossible to avert earthquakes, it is possible to ensure that the occupants of buildings are insulated. It is for this reason that earthquake safety codes have been developed (Jeon et al., 2015). There are provisions that stipulate the maximum height of a building in an earthquake zone. There are also provisions that demand that facilities that shield buildings from earthquake damage should be installed.
The enforcement of the codes and standards discussed above can be difficult. It is for this reason that binding laws and enforcement agencies have been established. For instance, in the United States there are various legal provisions that spell out that buildings must incorporate safety measures. The Public Buildings Act (1959) is one of the laws that demand that buildings should comply with construction codes (“1.3 Codes and Standards”, n.d). State and local governments have also developed their own codes that are intended to guarantee the safety of buildings. There are also international codes that have been adopted and are applied in the United States. The I-codes are among these. The I-codes are a set of regulations and guidelines that shed light on a wide range of issues that include fire safety and energy conservation (“International Code Adoptions”, n.d).
Effect of building construction on firefighting operations
How a building is constructed shapes the efforts of firefighters to a significant extent. The construction can either hinder or facilitate firefighting operations. One of the ways that construction defines these operations concerns access (Coffey, 2011). A building should be constructed in such a manner that it is accessible to firefighters. To make this point clearer, the case of a slum can be considered. In the event of a fire, it can be expected that tremendous damage will occur. This is because it is difficult for firefighters to access buildings in a slum. The material used to construct a building is the other issue that affects firefighting operations (Coffey, 2011). In an earlier discussion, the different construction types were discussed. As is clear from the discussion, there are some types that make use of fire resistive materials which shield buildings from damage. Such materials facilitate firefighting operations since they limit the spread of fire and minimize the damage that a building sustains. Evacuations are also shaped by building construction. As already mentioned, there are codes that require that buildings should contain fire assembly points. These points facilitate rescue operations and ensure that all occupants of a building are accounted for. When a building has such a point, it is easier for firefighters to direct occupants towards safe zones. In addition to assembly points, buildings should also have fire exits. These exits should be strategically located to ensure that evacuations are carried out without a hitch. There are some measures that are being implemented in modern construction that could entirely eliminate the need for traditional firefighting. For instance, fire alarms and firefighting equipment are common features in modern homes. While these measures would be ineffective in tackling large fires, they play a significant role in allowing the common public to combat small fires in their homes.
Hazards associated with building types and effects of fire
The different building types discussed earlier pose some hazards to the health of occupants. The main hazard present in buildings of the fire resistive type is that the steel structures that are used in construction can elongate after exposure to heat. They could then collapse. The other hazard in this building type regards access (Coffey, 2011). The buildings are usually constructed in a manner that makes access to the source of the fire difficult. This poses a challenge to firefighters who need to develop new ways of accessing the source of the fire. The impact of fire on the fire-resistive type of buildings is rather minimal. This is because the buildings are constructed with materials that can withstand fire. However, it must be noted that the buildings are able to withstand fire for a short length of time.
The noncombustible structures are the other type of construction. The steel components that form part of these buildings do not have any insulation that would protect them from fire. The main effect that fire has on the buildings of this type is that it burns the steel components, causing elongation and eventual collapse. One of the hazards that this building type is that its contents pose a problem (Coffey, 2011). The flat-pitched roofs and the metal decking that are found in buildings of this type could also pose a fire hazard. Ordinary and heavy timber are the other building types. The key hazard in the buildings of the ordinary type is that they lack any form of insulation and are therefore prone to fires. The fact that they lack insulation also makes it easy for fire to consume them (Coffey, 2011). Total consumption is the primary effect of fire on these buildings. The heavy timber type of building are susceptible to damage owing to the fact that timber is the main material used. One of the hazards is that it is easy for fires to spread (Coffey, 2011).
Building collapse and firefighter awareness
The construction industry strives to ensure that buildings stay erect for years. Despite this, building collapses are reported regularly. When a building collapses, death and loss are usually suffered. It is important to examine the causes of building collapse. Shoddy construction is among these causes (Omran, Bamidele & Baharuddin, 2016). When the constructors fail to ensure that the construction process meets all the standards and codes, a building collapse is likely to occur. Improper use of a building is another factor that could cause a building to collapse. For instance, a building that was designed to serve as residential space but is instead turned into a manufacturing plant could collapse. In the same way that it is vital to consider the causes of building collapse, it is also important to examine the measures that can be instituted to avert collapse. Professionalism is one of these measures (Omran, Bamidele & Baharuddin, 2016). There is need for members of the construction profession to adhere to the codes and standards that govern their operations. For instance, they could ensure that the proper amount of material is used in construction. This will go a long way in protecting occupants.
Collapse is not the only hazard that the occupants of a building face. Fires are another hazard. It is important for firefighters to gain awareness about a range of issues concerning fires. The numerous hazards and threats that are encountered on the fireground are among the issues that firefighters should be aware of. While fighting fires, firefighters encounter such hazards as falling debris. They must remain vigilant to ensure that they do not suffer harm. The structural condition of a building is another matter that they must be aware of. If they find that a building could collapse, it is advised that they should not go in. Overall, firefighters need to remain aware about safety when tackling fires.
In conclusion, fires remain one of the greatest hazards that the occupants of buildings face. This is why it is important for all those involved in the construction process to understand the need for safety. The construction method and the materials used should enhance the safety of the occupants. Firefighters also need to gain awareness regarding various issues such as the structural condition of a building. As they do this, they will become better equipped and prepared to respond to fire emergencies.
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