June 14, 2017

CITIES WERE A MISTAKE:

THE ENDURING PROBLEM OF FIGHTING HIGH-RISE FIRES (ADAM ROGERS, 06.14.17, Wired)

However the fire spread, it wasn't supposed to. High-rise buildings are built to keep any fires that start in the unit where they begin--with fire-resistant materials from steel and concrete to resistant coatings and insulation. Everything else, the stuff people fill their units with, is a lot more flammable. That's the building's "fuel load;" it's what catches fire. The trick is to keep that fire from spreading. "Then we'll layer in systems," says Robert Solomon, a fire protection engineer with the National Fire Protection Association. "Automated sprinklers, a robust fire alarm system that includes emergency voice evacuation system. You'll get some verbal instructions, and then once the fire department arrives they can use that system to provide real-time information."

In a residential building with all those defenses in place, some fire engineers think defend-in-place is the best strategy. "You should be able to, in many cases, stay in the unit if it's not the one affected by the fire," says Carl Baldassarra, head of the fire protection practice at the engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. "If you have a building that wasn't built to allow that kind of strategy, then you need to look at other means, like a good egress system."
In other words: evacuate. But exactly the best way to do that in a residential high-rise fire isn't as well-understood as compartmentation and suppression. And as more and more places around the world solve their housing crunches by building up, that's going to become a serious problem.

Don't build up.

Posted by at June 14, 2017 10:32 PM

  

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