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The Study of the Construction Methods for Firefighters


The profession of the firefighter is rather difficult. It implies not only an excellent physical form of a person but also some additional profound knowledge about the building design and the methods of construction. The study of the construction methods allows the fire officers to predict the effects of the demolition and possible ways to preserve the construction in a better condition. That is why it is important to examine the major types of building design and construction methods in order to define the possible collapses that may occur. The information is quite useful and may help to improve the situation. In addition, it is also necessary to define way these failures contributed to the alteration in the construction science.

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First, it is important to classify the basic methods of construction and materials involved in it. The knowledge of the building terms guarantees a higher level of safety for the fire officers. According to Brannigan (1992), several types of building construction are differentiated according to the material. Thus, he singles out ordinary constructions, wood and steel buildings, concrete structures, and high-rise constructions.

Consequently, the study of building constructions peculiarities starts with the considering the types of materials. They identify the reliability of the structure since sometimes architects and constructors give priority to aesthetics that can cause serious problems in exploitation.

As it was mentioned above, the most frequent materials used in construction are masonry, wood, concrete, steel, and plastics. Masonry and plastics have the highest level of the fire-resistance since bricks and concrete could predominantly withstand thermal impact for a long period. However, high temperatures have the irreversible damages to the steel and aluminum building construction. Hence, steel loses its strength and form. As for aluminum, it undergoes melting even under the law temperatures. In accordance to the combustibility, wood is the least refractory material and can be fully consumed with the fire. As for the rest, masonry and steel constructions are nonflammable. In addition, almost all buildings comprise glass components such windows, doors and even walls of the building. Although glass is noncombustible, it has low fire resistance. Thus, there different types of glass that are differentiated according to different levels of fire resistance and combustibility. For instance, there exist tempered and laminated types of glass that are much stronger and more fire resistive than ordinary glass (International association of fire chiefs 2007 p. 146). Anyway, glass is rather fragile material and requires a careful consideration.

Consequently, the classification of the building constructions depends on the combustibility and on the fire resistance of the components. There are five types of the constructions that vary from the highest level of combustibility and fireproof features up to the lowest one. The first type of construction belongs to the most refractory category of building constructions. These buildings undergo the least number of hazards owing to the fact that they are destined to the great number of people. Usually, schools, hospitals, hotels, and high-scrapers are made according to this principle. Therefore, such constructions are mostly made of bricks and concrete. The first type facilities usually have steel-frame constructions covered with concrete so that it could protect the steel from high temperature influence (International association of fire chiefs 2007 p. 148). In other words, the first construction types must be erected according to the strict building norms.

The next type of the structural system consists of the nonflammable constructions whereas fireproof characteristics are not prior. Such building constructions are mostly single-story facilities and function as warehouses or small plants and factories. In the appropriate structure, steel is a prevailing material where it serves as a frame for spacey and single floor areas. Such facilities, therefore, are destined for the maintenance of high fuel loads because it could lead to the disaster.

The third type of building construction is called ordinary. Ordinary structures include the widest range of buildings. It means that can be made of either wood or brick. However, in most cases, the ordinary building walls are made of masonry that supports the roof structure and the floors (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, p. 164). The facilities of that type are less fire resistible since they predominantly consist of gypsum and plastic whereas roofs and floors are made of wool. Beginning from that kind of building construction, the firefighters face the difficulties while liquidating an electrical fire (International association of fire chiefs 2007 p.151).

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However, heavy timber constructions are more refractory since these structures are much heavier and bulky. The main peculiarities of these erections are the presence of columns, wide floors, and roofs. Such facilities may burn for long periods and, therefore the fire officers will enough time to prevent the collapse.

The last and the most frequently used type of building facility is wood-frame construction. According to the building codes, this construction is most flammable one since it the frame structure mostly includes wooden materials. Moreover, these facilities have a lot of channels and voids that serve as a perfect fire conductors (International association of fire chiefs 2007 p. 154).

Hence, there occur different types of collapse depending on the type of the building constructions and the materials used. The type of collapse mostly depends on three variables of the structural system: the walls, the framework, and the floors. Moreover, the collapse strongly depends upon the content of the building and number of people. The most collapses are connected with neglected attitude of the people to the electrical facilities. Hence, the first two types undergo electrical collapse since the facility are full of electronic equipment. Wood frame building constructions frequently undergo the damage of the floors and walls at the same time. The weak point of ordinary buildings is flooring that ignites earlier than walls (Dunn, V 1988 p. 51). High-resistive facilities’ disadvantage lies in concrete. Heated concrete ceiling can fall on the firefighters and steel frame covered by it loses its strength. That would great problem for the multi-storey high resistive buildings where the floors are made of steel sheets and concrete. The ignition may lead to the floor sag. The thick masonry wall of heavy timber construction may fall on the streets and crash the pavement. Nevertheless, this occurs only on the last stage of fire collapse and can be prevented by the fir officers (Dunn, V. 1988 p. 55).

The experience and practice showed the ignorance of the types of building constructions can turn out to be disastrous. The collapse of the World Trade Center was accompanied by the fire collapse causes by the ignition of the some chemical substances. Thus, the fire led to the collapse of the two structures. In addition, the fall of those constructions damaged the surrounding buildings within the World Trade Center area. The structures turned into a large pile of dust that spread the larger territories. The constructions belonged to the first type of the building structure. Therefore, the main reason of collapse was unstable floors. Moreover, the fact that outer walls were made of glass also deposited to the falling (Lioy Paul 2001).

There is a necessity to mention that the fire safety of the current building construction in the Far East is of special concern nowadays. The growing population of Eastern countries gave rise to the building of the high-rise building facilities. However, the modern architectural tendencies try to coincide with existed building fire codes. Taking into consideration the appearance of the new combustible materials and fire retardant systems that passed the fireproof tests, the Hong Kong modern skyscrapers are rather stable and refractory (Chow, W 2005).


Knowing the types of constructions is important for the firefighters since it influences the fire spread. The members of the fire fighting brigade is to define different types of materials involved in the construction in order to be able to predict the further behavior of the fire and take the necessary measures to improve the evacuation of the people from the dangerous areas. Competence of the fire officer is an essential condition of safety of the team members and of the building residents. In addition, a diligent fire officer should be aware of the modern tendencies in architecture in order to identify the level of collapse. Moreover fire officers should follow the appearance of new building materials and study their combustibility and fire resistance.

Reference List

Brannigan, F.(1992), Building Construction for the Fire Service. US: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

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Chow, W. (2005). Building Fire Safety in the Far East. Architectural Science Review, 48(4), 285+

Dunn, V. (1988) Collapse of Burning Buildings: a Guide to Fire ground Safety. US: PennWell Books.

International association of fire chiefs. (2007) Industrial Fire Brigade: Principles and Practice. US: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Lioy, P., Weisel, C. P., Millette, J. R., Eisenreich, S., Daniel, V., Offenberg, J., et al. (2002). Characterization of the Dust/smoke Aerosol That Settled East of the World Trade Center (WTC) in Lower Manhattan after the Collapse of the WTC 2001. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110(7), 703+

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