I've started firefighter II classes and I seem to be doing pretty well. 

However, one concept I'm having a little trouble grasping is building construction or, more precisely, the types of building construction. (I-V) I know the names, but I have trouble looking at a building and saying "Oh that's a type ___ construction." does anyone have any tips on identifying them? Any flyers, websites, or training materials on the subject? I've read the chapter in the book several times and I just cannot seem to get the hang of it.

Any help?


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What text are you using? Is it Jones & Bartlett???

We're using the Jones & Bartlett right now. I'm currently trying to dig out my old Delmar book from FFI too. thanks for the website.

In reality, one wouldn't truly know the construction type unless they viewed the building during construction. A common construction misconception is Type III or ordinary construction. I've seen people identify any brick/masonry building as Type III, when it actuality it is Type V, wood frame, with a brick veneer.


However, identifying is not too difficult especially if knowing some generalities of each.

Type I- (Fire resistive) basically think high rise, You would tend to see these more in cities as opposed to suburbs, but can also be found in buildings like a clinic, etc.


Type II- (non-combustable) basically a steel frame without fire protective coating nor concrete covering the steel like you would likely see with Type I. For Type II, think big box store like Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot etc


Type III- (ordinary) Basically Main St USA buildings. Brick or masonry building. Another way to know if the building is Type III and not just a brick veneer.....look at the brick courses. You will see the bricks go the long way for about 5 courses, then you see a course with brick ends showing. This pattern repeats itself, whereas a brick veneer, the courses all tend to travel the same way.


Type IV- (Heavy Timber) You don't really see this anymore. This is also called mill construction so think old factories, etc. You may see this in old mills converted into residential lofts, but you really don't see new heavy timber construction. You may see buildings with large beams, but these also tend to be laminted wood, glued together, so not really the same as heavy timber because the glue can fail faster when exposed to heat.


Type V-(wood frame) Basically most residential homes.

Makes a lot of sense. this is the type of thing I was looking for. thank you.

Hi Adam~ I know it is old..but have you gone to NFA website ? they have 2 Construction Courses with pics..

Have you tried to pry information from your Local Bldg Code person ??

Good basic descriptions, but I think I can add a few helpful hints:


Type I - Heavy, reinforced masonry.  Think "Concrete and Steel".


Type II- Metal buildings.  Your typical Butler buildings or other structures with metal frames.  Many have metal siding.


Type III - Unreinforced masonry with heavy timber floors and roof supports.  These buildings include old-school, urban apartment buildings, row houses, and rows of taxpayers (business on the first floor with residential on the 2nd floor or multiple upper floors).


Type IV - Many churches are Heavy Timber - big, solid, arched roof support beams are a key element in that kind of construction.  Old agricultural co-op buildings, many older dairy barns, etc. also fit into this construction type.


Type V - this isn't just wood frame, it's LIGHTWEIGHT wood frame.  This is anything from old-school stick-build houses and garden apartments to lightweight wood trusses, to glue-lam trusses, to OSB I-beam construction. 


Christopher Naum of Buildings on Fire has called for the engineered lightweight construction methods to be put into a new category - Type VI - ENGINEERED lightweight wood construction.  I agree with Chris.

At my old department we had a presenter come in and do a building construction training for us.

He used pictures of buildings from our district and talked us through the types of construction.

You could do a similar self training. Go around your area and take pics from various sides of interesting and old buildings. Then take them to the station and ask a seasoned member of your department to walk them through with you.

You will hopefully learn a thing or two about building construction but also about the community you serve.

Good luck.

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