Building Construction

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In building construction and in fire prevention there are organizations that have created a useful system on how to determine what type of building falls under which category. The ICC (International Code Council) and the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) create these building codes for the safety of firefighters. The two most commonly known standards for building classifications are the NFPA 5000 and also the International Building Code (IBC). The two are very similar, however, they different on sub-categorizing. The International Building Code uses Roman numerals behind the type of construction. In addition to subcategories with letters for each five classes and the amount of fire resistance provided for each building. NFPA uses Roman numerals behind the type of construction. Unlike the IBC, NFPA uses a 3-digit number system behind that to sub categorize the fire hourly rating for the load-bearing walls, for the beams and columns, and for the floor construction. The IBC and NFPA breaks down construction in to five classes, Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, and Type V. Type V buildings are known as wood frame construction. To break Type V constructions to the basics, they are constructed of lightweight materials to save the contractor money. This type of construction is the most dangerous to firefighter due to the lightweight, cost effective materials used. Some of the wood frame buildings are Log cabins, Post and frame, Balloon Frame, platform frame, plank and beam, and truss frame. Log cabins are structures that are built out of tree logs. The ends are notched in order for the logs to be stacked on top of each other. Just like the popular toy, Lincoln Logs, these buildings are built the same way. The interior walls are usually wooden boards with a lacquer finish or a gypsum board finish. Due the types of interior finishing, it can help a going or started fire indoors spread within seconds. The lacquer finishing proposes an extreme fire hazard for both firefighters and the occupants. Post and Frame construction types of structures came to America from Europe. This type of construction was fitted together using a wooden frame and timber. They connected at joints called mortise and tenon. To ensure that load transfer was properly distributed they used wooden pins to hold the connected piece together called trunnels. Like log cabins, the interior wall finishing’s we often made of wood. This poses a danger to firefighters as well because it just adds more fuel to a structure fire.

Balloon Frame construction derived from Post and Frame types of construction. The two types of construction are very similar in many ways. The differences between the two are that Balloon Frames didn’t require a skilled laborer to cut the notches in the timber and studs. Instead, by using nails it would hold the frame together. The studs would be nailed on to horizontal board called a ribbon. This type of construction introduced a hazard to firefighters due to the void space in the walls. Unlike modern day construction, these construction types didn’t have horizontal piece in between studs called fire stops. So if a fire was to start from a basement of a Balloon Frame structure, the fire itself would travel along the void spaces in the walls and into the attic area of the home.

Platform Frame construction was an improved version of Balloon Framing. Platform Framing was constructed one floor at a time, which allowed confining a fire in between walls from level to level. How this work was basically they would build the first floor with the second story joist attached. When those walls are erected then the second story sub floor is built. Platform Framing and Balloon Framing shared similar characteristics such as open stairwells and soffits. Soffits are void spaces above built in cabinets usually in kitchens. These two types of construction methods also shared similar characteristics on using either plywood or OSB board (oriented...
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