One minute and thirty seconds is all it takes for a modern room to become completely engulfed in flames and smoke. Less time than you thought, right? With everything we know about fire safety, why are buildings burning faster and hotter than older construction materials?
Today’s buildings are built with engineered beams and wood, which are simply small pieces of wood compressed together with glue. These materials are lighter and cheaper, which can be good, especially for building quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, in a fire these materials are much more hazardous because these construction pieces are lightweight and use laminated beams and trusses, which will burn all the way through and collapse almost instantaneously in a fire. Not to mention, modern furniture and coverings which are made out of synthetic materials don't help either. Carpet, curtains, chair seats, and many other modern synthetic products contain hydrocarbons which is a solid form of gasoline. This causes them to ignite quicker and burn hotter and faster than natural materials, in addition they let off deadly gasses like carbon monoxide and cyanide when they burn.
This is why a building’s fire protection system is important to the building’s overall integrity and the safety of those occupying it during an emergency. One area that is important in the prevention of fire and smoke is firestopping. The International Building Code (IBC) and The International Fire Code (IFC), as well as other regional building codes, require new construction to have been properly firestopped before the building is even allowed to open to the public. If the final inspection reveals that firestopping is not properly installed, the opening of the building will be delayed, leading to costly issues and negative public relations.
Fire and smoke can spread quickly in the event of a fire by slipping through gaps and holes around penetrations in the walls or ceilings of a building. Firestopping, which is essentially the maintenance of a facility's fire barriers by plugging those holes in the firewalls. A properly firestopped barrier will help contain fire and smoke to one location by filling the spaces around penetrating items, such as plastic pipes or wires that would melt or change shape during a fire. Some firestop products will swell up or expand in the presence of heat.
Other Building Codes That Require Firestopping in New Construction:
– Uniform Building Code (ICBO)
– Standard Building Code (SBCCI)
– National Building Code (BOCA)
– Life Safety Code (NFPA 101)
– National Electrical Code (NFPA 70)
– NFPA 5000 (NFPA Building Code)