Thesis: Building Construction Fire Service

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Building Construction-Fire Service

Building Design and Construction in Emergency Situations

Smart construction can mean life or death in a disaster situation. Buildings today face a multitude of dangers which can cause fire and structural damage as well as collapse. There a wide variety of standard design practices out there which can affect the building during an emergency event, such as a fire. These designs are based typically on the actual function of the building itself. Learning from previous cases of disaster situations can help improve construction and design.

Community Services structures have their own unique designs which can present their own benefits and problem areas. Unfortunately, Community Services buildings are not so standard in comparison to Healthcare and Educational buildings, which prove to have much more regulations during the construction process; "While all Community Services facilities share a common purpose in the service of public needs, each facility is very specialized and the functional requirements are extremely varied," (National Institute of Building Sciences "Community Services" 2009:1). This great variety itself presents much different challenges in attempting to predict general building performance during the event of a disaster. Some Community Service buildings will incorporate an open design, to fit the needs of the public who will be coming in and out. Museums, visitor centers, and youth centers will typically have an open floor plan. This open style design will typically make it easy to implement public safety needs, such as fire escapes and large open windows. However, not all Community buildings will be based on such an openly public-friendly design. For instance police stations are much more enclosed, with a ton of unique challenges to be met in order to serve its function as well provide proper safety for its occupants. Police stations tend to have much more segmented parts which can be isolated from one another, a large contrast to other types of community buildings.

The construction of Educational facilities also presents their own challenges and advantages. In schools, it is imperative to follow strict fire guidelines in order to provide safety for the children within the building itself. Modern school designers have been moving towards designing smaller schools in order to facilitate a more acceptable teacher to student ratios. Yet smaller schools tend to get crowded fast, and so designers are faced with keeping the building safe through fluctuating student body numbers. The challenge of providing a fire safe area, designers and project managers have to accommodate new ways to deal with smaller schools, as well as keep up traditional standards seen in larger school building which caters to a much higher student body. One major element of modern school building is the attempt to try and keep the environment as clean and sustainable as possible; "From an environmental perspective, concerns for the health and well-being -- particularly young students -- are increasing interest in the improved performance and fabric of school structures," (WBDG Subcommittee 2009). This means using sustainable material and non-toxic materials along with natural features like incorporating sunlight into the design. This helps in the event of a fire or other type of disaster for it reduces the risk of unhealthy chemicals and materials to be exposed to heat and fire. Yet, some environmentally healthy materials can in themselves be a bit of a fire hazard themselves. Yet recent schools have been incorporating strictly regulated and sustainable elements to many schools across the country.

Another major type of structure potentially very vulnerable to fire hazards is Healthcare facilities. Hospitals and other Healthcare facilities try to project a certain message in their design; "Ideally that message is one that conveys welcoming, caring, comfort, and compassion, commitment to patient well-being and safety, where stress is relieved, refuge is provided, respect is reciprocated, competence is symbolized, way-finding is facilitated, and families are accommodated," (Carr 2009). The design of healthcare facilities also share fragmented social space, and can tend to house tons of delicate equipment, not to mention patients and staff. Construction design must be prepared to accommodate lots of people, many of whom may be incapacitated and therefore extremely limited in how to plan fire escape routes. The construction itself must also be able to provide as little fire fuel as possible in order to slow the process of a fire if one was to happen.

Office buildings also present the danger of housing many occupants, and therefore must be designed to prepare for various safety hazards. The office buildings must incorporate a variety of different elements in order to function as a facilitator, work, and meeting place. Therefore, "An office building must have flexible and technologically-advanced working environments that are safe, healthy, comfortable, durable, aesthetically-pleasing, and accessible," (Conway 2009). As part of the aesthetic design of the building itself, there tend to be tons of interior finishes and other artistic elements of the design. These may present various dangers within the event of a disaster and must be carefully planned for prevention, "Special attention should be made to the selection of interior finishes and art installations, particularly in entry spaces, conference rooms and other areas with public access," (Conway 2009). Office spaces are one of the most common buildings in larger cities, and so present various challenges in terms of keeping up safety standards.

There are so many potential disaster situations that go far beyond a simple house fire. For instance, earthquakes present particular challenges to maintaining a good design and can have potentially disastrous effects on the building itself. In part of this destruction, there are great fire hazards cause by gas leaks and other damaged elements of standard design. In an earthquake situation, where the structure may be compromised, there are particular building techniques that have been developed to limit damage and collapse in the event of an earthquake. Earthquakes have tremendous force and "During an earthquake, the ground movement induces lateral, or horizontal, and vertical loads on a building," (INEE 2009:71). This force can jeopardize the sold materials within building construction in a variety of ways. Because of the nature of the movement itself, some building designs are impractical in an earthquake zone. Asymmetrical shapes tend to be more damaged than more streamlined buildings, "The asymmetry of structural elements can result in damaging 'twisting' forces and their inside corners are particularly vulnerable to damager," (72). Therefore, symmetrical design and construction tend to fare better in earthquake conditions and have the potential to save the building from potential collapse or fire hazard. Also, buildings in earthquake zones must be constructed with increased stiffness, for if "stiffness is insufficient relative to the load, the building will sustain damage and possible collapse," (74). Adding shear walls to create a stiffer structure can help avoid the bending seen in longer walls. This can help keep the structure strong even in the event of a fire after and earthquake. Such stiffness can be the difference between the loss of lives and living far into another day. Previous earthquake related disasters have taught designers and builders to consider the composition of the school itself. One example is the distance that is asked in modern school design between individual school buildings, "If future development of site is predicted, space should be allocated on the school site so as to ensure sufficient separation between school buildings," (79). This way in the event of an earthquake caused fire, the collapse of one building will not cause damage or hinder access to other buildings.

Another major element of preparing for a structure holding in a fire situation is how the structure itself deals with gravity. Most buildings deal with a constant pressure coming from gravity; "Buildings may appear to be just quietly sitting on their foundations, but, in fact, they are under great stresses," (Brannigan: 12). Building collapse due to gravity taking over in a fire situation is one of the most common dangers to fire fighters today. Therefore, the structures themselves must be weary of the materials used and how they old out to the pressure of gravity over an extended period of time. Another major cause of building collapse in a fire situation is ill maintenance causing a weakening of the structure itself. According to research, "When buildings that have been designed to meet hazard resistant standards fail, the most common cause of the failure is a poor quality of implementation or deterioration due to inadequate maintenance," (INEE:63). Certain elements of building construction can be maintained through an implementation of proper monitoring system that documents repairs and areas of potential concern. This can drastically prepare staff and firefighters to deal with a potential disaster and avoid particular areas in the planning of fire escape routes, "A well designed monitoring and evaluation system can greatly assist project managers to quickly identify unexpected obstacles or conflicts that will require a change in the project terms or references," (63). In terms of fire damage prevention in construction, the various elements of the building interior need to be determined. For instance, what in the building will be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Building Construction Fire Service.  (2009, August 24).  Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/building-construction-fire-service/1228208

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"Building Construction Fire Service."  Essaytown.com.  August 24, 2009.  Accessed April 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/building-construction-fire-service/1228208.