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5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

(OP)
Commercial building and fire codes are certainly not my forte. I have been watching this structure go up. https://www.google.com/maps/@35.9126753,-79.057106...

While the above building is only 4 stories tall, this past Friday a taller similar construction large wooden apartment building under construction caught fire and turned into what is described as the most disastrous fire in the city in the last 100 years.. 10 nearby buildings damaged, 5 severely. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlHP8pOiOtY

Local TV news... http://abc13.com/news/huge-five-alarm-fire-burns-i... photo of portion of building before fire.
News Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gxfvjUVjVI fairly good detailed questions at 4:30 minutes into video on many topics including the "stick built controversy across the country"

I guess once the building is firewalled off with sheetrock and sprinkler systems installed, it's OK. High rise concrete/steel structures have their limits, in that typically if the fire isn't brought under control within 2 hours, even structural steel starts to fail.



RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

6 storey is permitted in BC, Canada which is a seismic zone, and I believe Norway has a 14 storey building in wood construction...

Dik

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

What I see is four wood stories over a PT concrete podium slab. Here we commonly do five stories over a podium slab with one or more levels of PT underneath. Special fire codes are imposed, sprinklering included.

The wood industry is pushing the design limits higher as mentioned regarding Norway, and I have seen one or two articles on wood magazines fostering the idea too with specially engineered wood products.

Time will tell, as it has with other changes, as to whether or not the change is good.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Here is SoCal we see large, multi-story wooden buildings going-up all the time. There are several 3 and 4 story apartment buildings constructed of wood.

The reality is that wooden building, while they are not fire-proof, are considered fire-resistant to a certain extent. Before a wooden building will collapse due to fire, the fire must first burn through a certain portion of the wooden framework before the structural integrity of the building is compromised. With a fabricated steel building of the same size and volume, while it may be seen as fire-proof, it may not be considered as fire-resistant as was the wooden building, since it will collapse catastrophically once critical load-bearing members reach a temperature where they cam no longer support the load on them.

I once heard a fireman being interviewed where he stated that he would much rather be fighting a fire inside a wooden building than a fabricated steel building, since at least with the wooden building, there will be warning signs that the building is starting to collapse whereas with the steel building, one moment it will look just fine and the next it will be a pile of twisted steel.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

There is a bit of an issue with I type joist... the webs burn out and strength is quickly lost... not the same as with dimensioned lumber.

Dik

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

There's a 9 storey wood structure in Quebec, everything is CLT panels including the stair and elevator walls.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Last evening my wife and I attended a concert up in La Mirada (Judy Collins, it was great). Anyway, as we were driving up Beach Blvd I saw this building under construction which had an odd configuration. The first two floors looked like poured concrete and it was being wrapped in what I assume was going to be some sort of outer shell/facade which was being framed-in using galvanized steel studding. But what was striking, and related to this thread, was that on top of the concrete structure were at least four additional floors of wood framed construction. I can't recall seeing that combination of building materials being used in a single building, at least not so distinctly.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

In upstate NY, I watched some multi-unit condominia going up. Not far up, just three-ish floors.
What struck me as odd was the firewalls between units.
Here in SoFla, the firewalls would be made of concrete or CMU, extending a couple of feet above the roofline.
There in NY, the firewalls were of similar geometry, but frame construction, just ordinary fir lumber, sheathed with some kind of green board.
I didn't look closely enough to see if there were firebreaks of any kind within the firewalls, but they still looked like chimneys to me.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

JohnRBaker; what I see now being built around California is scads of commercial buildings with a couple of residential stories on top. Never understood the logic as I sure wouldn't want to live above a store, or bar, or photo-copy center. But anyway, perhaps you saw residential going on top of commercial in that /otherwise/ weird stack-up.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

A couple of years ago, a multi story condominium complex under construction went up in flames in Escondido Ca. The cause was a plumbers blowtorch igniting wood, right before lunch break, nobody spotted the fire until the flames were at ceiling height. At the time the framing had just been done, the plumbers and electricians were installing wire and pipes prior to the drywall being fitted. There was no fire protection in the building ( It had not been installed yet.), It took 25 minutes from the time the fire was spotted until the building was flat on the ground. The local fire crew responded and could do nothing.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Mike,

Green board... could it have been cement board, like Durock? That stuff supposedly has a 2-hour fire rating when installed in a particular fashion...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Quote (itsmoked)


...what I see now being built around California is scads of commercial buildings with a couple of residential stories on top. Never understood the logic as I sure wouldn't want to live above a store...

This used to be the norm down any Main Street in America. And it's not just California as one of my son's restaurants (not his personally just one of nearly 60 that he's responsible for in his role where he works) that we attended the grand opening for in Austin, TX, was part of a new shopping complex where this was how business and residential units were arranged. In fact, from what I've seen when encountering new commercial complexes like this it, that they often are done in a manner that tries to convey that sort of 'Main Street' feeling.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Four to five stories of wood over one or more levels of PT has been common here for 15 or 20 years. Mix of parking, commercial, and residential.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

I suppose it could have been some kind of cement board sheathing.
... but still, it seems dishonest to build something that _looks_like_ a firewall out of wood.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

The most dangerous period in a building's service life is during construction or renovation. The model building code (the IBC in this case) permits this type of construction based on the use of automatic sprinkler protection within a prescribed height and area. However, when the building is under construction, it's nothing more than a vertical lumberyard.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

On a slightly different note, here in Florida we have some very strict codes dealing with wind resistance. All residential homes are constructed with at least the first story in concrete block. However apartment buildings have all floors out of wood. I guess that developers rule the code makers.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

In December 2014, a large 7-story apartment building under construction with the top 5 floors made of wood, in downtown Los Angeles (at the intersection of the 101 and 110 freeways) went up in flames, wreaking damage well beyond its own property lines.

The LAFD spokesman said “There were no dividing firewalls between the different components of it. So we had five stories of a wood frame without any type of fire protection,”

There are many incredible pictures of the fire, easily found. Here's one:


RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

I hear you John. Thanks.

Indeed cs!

As kid I lived in LA briefly and one night, Thanksgiving I think, the three story apartment directly across the street went up. It was about 400 feet long and a 100 feet deep and the entire thing got going at one point. I believe it was a 7-alarm fire. That was one spectacular show for me, a little kid. Luckily for us across the street, (certainly not the poor occupants), it was a fully constructed place so there was never the shear mass of radiant thermal energy that an open framed under-construction place would've produced.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Having worked in an industry where fire prevention is right along side of safety,
I guess the use of "hot work permits" and independant fire watches for private construction is to expensive. so the cost of an apartment complex loss that size (and the probability of loss of lives) doesn't justify the cost of a fire prevention program (and someone to enforce it)

Not by code or law, but by pure econimics and common sense

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Common sense tends to fail when dollar signs get put beside line items. "It'll never happen to us" and then it does.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

I am surprised at the number of wood frame buildings that are constructed where plumbers use open blow torches, with no hot work permits or fire watches. A fire watch as simple as a helper with a squirt bottle, for a few bucks an hour more would prevent many multi million dollar blazes.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

There was a fire a few days ago not far from where I live, in an area where houses are being constructed a whole neighborhood at a time. The fire was at a stage where the wood frame was up, the wood sheathing was in place, but nothing that would serve as any form of fire protection was in place.

The helper with that squirt bottle, and making plumbers take out hot-work permits and the relevant precautionary measures that go along with them, would cost something. Fire? "it'll never happen here" ... Oops.

RE: 5 Alarm Fire during construction of large wood frame apartment

Having done work in sugar mills where flammability was at its highest, and paranoia was at its greatest, it would take an act of congress to even get a hot work permit, If you got one, you had to get the floor vacuum cleaned, then water soaked, then you had to have not one but two fire watchers. Contrast that with construction on a wooden building where people don't even sweep up sawdust,Plumbers do not use heat blankets ,and have no fire watchers. If you say anything they look at you like you are a small child , and say" Don't worry it will be all right.". Then they look surprised when they do have a fire.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

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