Buildings are generally categorized into five groups depending on the construction materials used. Some other factors such as stairwells and sprinkler systems feature in local codes but in our case, we are dealing with the components of the building so as to categorize it (Purkiss 24). The components to be considered include the following; the beams which hold weight in their longitudinal dimension. An example of a beam is a floor joist made of wood. Columns refer to the members that axially carry the load.
They also support the beam so that they can transfer the load to the ground. Arches are curved beams that support bridges and roofs. The interior space of a building is given protection by the roof. Floors will transfer the load to beams and refer to the space of the building that is put into use. The function of the load-bearing walls is the same as that of the columns. They are categorized into exterior and interior. Internal load-bearing walls are located inside the building while the external ones transfer the load of the building to the ground.
Fire-related disasters in the built environment
Advisory groups have given an urgent caution to the government concerning the awareness of fire safety in buildings framed with timber (Abrahams& Stollard 43). Community and business forums have urged the community and the local government to review the regulation of the building as well as the guidance so as to reduce the incidences of the spread of fire in timber frame buildings. A study indicates that they have been cases of serious fires and evidence shows that the amount of timber in a construction attributes to the fire hazards as well as increasing risks to the firefighters and workers.
Timber buildings are easily consumed by fire and structural collapse and the heat spreads fire to the buildings in the neighborhood. Such incidences have been experienced in Edinburgh and London. Although buildings under construction have experienced severe fires, buildings can pose elevated fire hazards after completion (Allen 15). Completed timber buildings are susceptible to impoverished workmanship in the quality of finishes cavity barriers as well as tear and wear.
Some work has been performed in association with the United Kingdom timber frame Association which deals with construction site guidelines although there were concerns that it was not publicized well or the integration with other guidance and regulation. They urge that the issue be illustrated in building guidance and regulation. The report needs further research to ensure automatic detection along with warning systems appear as part of the standards on timber-framed building sites.
In addition, there is a need for consideration of guidance including a means of escape from a burning building. It also focuses on the potential hazards associated with the occupation of a site under construction. The underlying concerns are that considerable large-scale timber frame developments are used for social housing; thus such buildings which are also susceptible to the massive spreading of fires are usually occupied by susceptible members of the society.
Below is a case study where “safir” computer system is used to predict fire resistance in a unique fire column (Fitch 30). Engineering analyses towards the building structures is an aspect of fire protection that has advanced over the last decade. Upon the innovation of faster computing power, it has become applicable to perform complex analyses concerning how building elements such as girders, beams, and columns can respond to fierce fire explosions.
A distinctive design that consists of steel casing reinforced with concrete was used to support the roof and the glass curtain wall (McAniff 22). The code of building in California necessitates occupants within the applicable construction to provide at least three hours towards the fire safety training. As a result of the presence of the exterior steel, it was not possible to evaluate the extent of fire resistance that could be offered by the columns.
The common method used to assess fire is by carrying out the full-scale test since, there is a minute number of column furnaces in the world, and it is difficult to perform a full-scale test from a logistical standpoint, furnace testing involves huge cost, time and is also complex to undertake. In the case of a study involving a column over 70 feet, it was ascertained that it will be unfeasible to carry out a fire resistance test. The fire resistance of an element can also be determined by approved calculation methods which are clearly allowed by most legal standards such as the Uniform Building code. Certain computer models like Safir are powerful tools used to conduct such calculations.
Fire resistance refers to the ability of a given structure to oppose the collapse spread of fire during exposure to fire a certain severity. On the other hand, fire severity is the measure of dilapidating effects of fire or the forces of temperature that can cause destruction as a result of fire (Moore 49). Fire severity utilized for design reasons usually will depend on the design philosophy and on the regulatory environment. Design fire severity of a performance-based code environment is a complete burnout fire. In a few cases, the design fire may take a shorter time and this can give occupants a chance to escape or can allow firefighting operations.
Smoke regulation in domestic, industrial and domestic buildings
Fires are rampant in many buildings. Smoke movement within a building acts as the major weapon for the spread of fire in a building hence it should be contained as much as possible. This is because when smoke moves within the building, available inflammable materials or building materials usually catch fire instantly since the smoke has fire particles. The principle that applies in the spread of fire in such a case is the Brownian motion (Purkiss 40). By all means, therefore, the movement of smoke must be controlled so that if there is a fire within the building, it can be easily managed without the risk of smoke spreading it quickly.
Smoke movement is based on two factors- the floor of the building and the temperature within the surroundings. The spread of fire is fastest during hot seasons and where the floor of the building is made of wooden materials. The speed at which the fire spreads is also a key factor in the spread of that fire depending on the two factors highlighted above. A dump environment will discourage the faster spread of fire but a warm environment will encourage it.
Building ventilation is an essential issue in the spread of fire. A well-ventilated environment ensures that the smoke easily escapes from the building hence it acts as a safety measure. Since smoke accumulation in the building causes suffocation of the people entangled in that building smoke mustn’t accumulate in the room to an extent of increasing the intensity of fire explosions (Abrahams& Stollard 60). Smoke contains carbon monoxide which when inhaled combines with hemoglobin in blood to form a toxic chemical intermediate that prevents oxygen uptake. Hemoglobin is the blood carrier for oxygen which then enables the translocation of oxygen from the lungs to tissues for respiration.
In the absence of this crucial molecule, occupants trapped in a burning building risk suffocating from the intense smoke gases since physiological processes that rely on oxygen are stopped(Allen 33). There is also limited breathing. As a result, exhalation of carbon dioxide as a byproduct of respiration is restricted leading to life-threatening complications. It is therefore important that occupants are informed about escape routes that could secure them from both fires and the choking smoke.
Smoke ventilation in buildings is equally necessary for rescuing human beings in danger of suffocation from smoke. The kitchen, for instance, requires to be well ventilated since it is one area in which fire could break out resulting in massive damage. Kitchen ventilation for that case entails capturing as well as removing any airborne contaminants that could develop in the course of cooking in the kitchen. Liquid droplets as well as gases, grease, and other forms of vapor cause the environment to be easily inflammable hence it builds up a dangerous environment within the kitchen.
There are also some forms of odor that make the environment to be at risk in case there is a fire outbreak since such odors attract fire. While designing a house for commercial, industrial or residential purposes, hoods must be included in the design of the house so that they can receive the fumes emanating from sources of fire, and then direct the fumes outwards. Airflow rates are another issue that matters in the design of the hoods (Fitch 55).
In the design of a new building, there is a need to regulate interior humidity. Excess interior humidity eases the spread of fire. Ceiling plenums must be introduced with care into the building with the knowledge that in case of a fire outbreak, there has to be an easy escape for people in the building (McAniff 41). It should be easy to rescue materials and equipment within the building within the shortest time possible. It is also important to consider the nature of people living in different buildings when addressing the need to evacuate them during a fire incident.
Case studies related to fire safety in buildings
Generally, the wakefulness of occupants in a building is an important parameter in deciding a rescue operation in any building. This is because it determines how alert the individuals to their whereabouts and imminent fire dangers are. The degree to which persons in any building could be disabled is equally relevant in determining appropriate responses to a fire hazard. Occupants with body impairment such as the visually challenged, crippled, deaf, or mentally handicapped are more likely than normal persons to succumb to the dangers of a fire. This is based on the understanding that such individuals are limited by their impairment to rescue themselves from a burning building.
In the case of a residential premise, family members frightened for their lives could congest themselves at the entrance pushing disabled persons away. It may equally be difficult to access rescue routes for the impaired occupants of a busy building due to the resultant congestion, anxiety, and confusion characterized by a fire incident (Moore 71). There is a need for the construction of safe havens for such disadvantaged individuals in order to protect them within a building before rescuers come to their aid. There should also be more ventilation in congested premises such as entertainment areas as well as increased rescue routes partitions. This shall enable more people to escape to their safety during a fire outbreak. Storied buildings should equally be designed with compartments for securing disabled occupants before rescue personnel evacuates them to safety. As such, the number of people in any building, their degree of impairment, and wakefulness are critical in evaluating outcomes of fire safety interventions.
It is equally relevant to assess the extent to which occupants are informed about escape partitions within buildings (Purkiss 68). When new occupants are arrested by a fire in a building they are not familiar with, chances are that they might suffer from the effects of the inferno more than native occupants. They may equally respond inappropriately to a fire alarm or any other communication signal related to fire incidences. It is possible that non-native occupants could find themselves caught in a fire. A proper understanding of the fuels present in a building is critical in understanding the potency of fires. Fuels and other combustible materials should be kept away from places inhabited by occupants.
For instance, factories are busy places with workmanship entirely engaged in their tasks. It is therefore necessary that communication signals incorporating fire alarm systems should be intensified in order to alert them appropriately. Their concentration on duties should properly guide the management to get their attention to a fire incident. The factory environment should equally be spacious enough to allow for large escape routes and ceilings high enough to accommodate smoke for a longer time in order to rescue vulnerable employees (Abrahams& Stollard 82). These employees are obviously awake and alert to any danger but how fires suddenly erupt especially from the combustion fuels poses serious dangers to staff.
Solvents and other flammable materials within the factory are extremely explosive materials that could consume everything including factory employees for a short duration of time (Allen 50). It is therefore important that fire extinguishers are strategically positioned for firefighting. Water sprinklers are useful but additional foam and carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are more applicable for large-scale and medium fires. This type of delicate environment to fire safety demands that factory management periodically equips its staff on firefighting skills as well as upgrades its machinery with automatic fire safety software installed by competent fire engineers.
Automatic fire suppression machines could equally be installed and verified by fire risk engineers in order to restrain slow fires from spreading fast. This is an economical venture that reduces fire risks to a manageable level as well as secures their property apart from preserving precious life. Above all, the manufacturing and factory environment should be provided with more escape routes which should also be simplified in order to guarantee the safety of its workers mainly occupied in their demanding jobs. Alternatively, safe havens could be designed with enough insulation against fires in order to secure workers before rescuers and firefighters arrive at the fire incident scene (Fitch 78).
Hospitals present another delicate environment that requires an elaborate fire safety system incorporating firefighting extinguishers, large exit partitions and secured compartments. The mechanism towards fire safety in hospitals adopts horizontal evacuation mechanisms which ensure that patients are rescued in phases from fire refuge zones as firefighting progresses. The fire zones provide refuge to the patients who are vulnerable as a result of their health condition and can therefore not escape from fires with the urgency required. Rescue partitions should also be provided for the escape of hospital staff (McAniff 65).
Assembly halls are busy buildings with large occupant profiles. These include restaurants and social halls where people are gathered for meetings and leisure purposes. As such, fire safety protocols should be designed factoring in the complexity of the crowds in place. The large occupant ratios present enormous challenges to firefighters and rescuers since the exit routes could be remarkably limited for the escape of many people. The dynamic nature of the occupant’s behavior is also a major cause of confusion and uncertainty during fires. Consequently, more rescue partitions have to be created within such buildings with appropriate communication facilities in place. There is a need for the installation of fire alarm systems that are equally coordinated to a verbal amplification system to alert everyone about the dangers of fire.
Residential buildings and hotel facilities for accommodation require an effective alert system in case of a fire outbreak especially at night when occupants are asleep. People living in such places are properly aware of their environment but the sudden outbreak of fires could result in fatalities on the occasion occupants are asleep (Moore 90). It is also important that the household is informed properly about ways of fighting fires and safekeeping of flammable materials from the reach of children and rooms where people sleep.
Shops and business premises are busy buildings especially during festive seasons when customers have to make substantial purchases. It is therefore important that people within business premises are provided with spacious rescue routes in strategic places where entrances are located (Purkiss 101). Large buildings with storied partitions could be affected by a fire incident in some sections which are then targeted by firefighters and rescuers. Other occupants in different sections or stories may not need to be evacuated to safety but could just be required to be alert and observant of the whole situation. In the occasion that occupants are below a burning compartment, fire safety interventions should be designed to shield the source of fire and spread of smoke to other regions. Technology is quite important in signaling the dangers posed by fires within such buildings in order to protect occupants who are normally in large proportions.
A coordinated fire safety regime should therefore incorporate smoke and fire detectors, alarm systems, and rescue routes that are equally positioned with a reach of occupants of any building. It is apparent that fire engineering interventions require dynamic approaches with the concerted efforts of virtually all the stakeholders included. The management of any building is particularly responsible for mainstreaming safety mechanisms with relevant financial support (Abrahams& Stollard 106).
Designing and installation of communication systems require technical input and financial contribution in order to ensure desirable results in fire safety. Different buildings are constructed with different materials that vary in terms of fire susceptibility. Fire safety interventions may include these construction materials and fittings apart from furniture and clothing. Fires in buildings are therefore an important aspect as far as preservation of life and property.
Abrahams, John and Stollard, Paul. Fire from first principles: a design guide to building fire safety. London: Taylor & Francis, 1999.
Allen, Edward. How buildings work: the natural order of architecture Oxford University Press US, 2005.
Fitch, Marston J. American building: the forces that shape it. Michigan: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.
McAniff, Edward. Strategic Concepts in Fire Fighting. New York: McAniff Associates, 2009.
Moore, Cruger F. Fires: their causes, prevention and extinction: combining also a guide to agents respecting insurance against loss by fire. And containing information as to the construction of buildings. New York: The Continental Insurance Co. of New York.
Purkiss, John A. Fire safety engineering: design of structures. Oxford: Butterworth- Heinemann, 2007.