Engineered Structural Assemblies & Systems (ESS)

· THE Predominate Fire Service Challenge....The NEW Lexicon to add to your operational safety vocabulary and incident action plans...

· Do you know what they represent and how these components, assemblies and systems may affect or influence incident operations?

· Do some research and check these terms out for starters. We’ll talk more about these components and assemblies in the near future. So get busy on your down time today...

It's a Lot More than just talking about "Light Weight" Construction....
From Plywood-CDX….to…
Particle Board- PB
Orient Strand Board-OSB
Structural Composite Lumber- SCL
Laminate Strand Lumber- LSL
Laminate Veneer Lumber-LVL
Structural Insulated Panels-SIP
Parallel Strand Lumber-PSL
Machine Stress Rated Lumber- MSR
Medium Density Fiberboard-MDF and MDL (Lumber)
Finger Jointed Lumber-FJL

Take a look at an informative posting over at the Firegeezer, HERE. He has some great contributed information and manufacturer “insights” on the subject engineered wood I-joists and beams and firefighter safety. There are some interesting statistical extrapolations, correlations and conveniences’ that attempt to make the case. But then again, You be the judge. Take at look at the presentation developed by the American Forest and Paper Association, HERE and HERE. This material has been out for a while and is now, just getting more exposure and distribution. Take the time to review the NIOSH reports for mission critical lessons-learned and risk reduction strategies and insights. Think about what your tactical needs are and how they align with the risk of the structure and occupancy.

We’ll have some more detailed follow-up on engineered systems information here at FFN. (also at Command Safety)

Remember, Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety (Bk-F2S)

Don't forget to check out the free online training program on Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions at the UL University HERE

Other Important Reference links:

NIOSH Publication No. 2009-114: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters Working Above Fire-Damaged Floors HERE
NIOSH Publication No. 2005-132: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Fire Fighters Due to Truss System Failures HERE
Volunteer Deputy Fire Chief Dies after Falling Through Floor Hole in Residential Structure during Fire Attack—Indiana, HERE
First-floor collapse during residential basement fire claims the life of two fire fighters (career and volunteer) and injures a career fire fighter captain - New York, Report HERE
Career Fire Fighter Dies After Falling Through the Floor Fighting a Structure Fire at a Local Residence - Ohio, HERE
Colerain Township, Ohio Double LODD Preliminary Report, HERE
NFPA Report on Light Weight Construction, HERE

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There are so any local, state and national building codes that the only way to get mandatory fireproofing in basements is to make it Federal law... of course, there will be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth how this would take away the authority of the local and state building code authorities.

The only thing we can do as firefighters is to take Chris Naum's advice, study up on these materials and for career jakes , get off the recliners in the day room and get out and learn what is going on in your response district and any other area that has the potential of being your second or third due.

For the call and volunteer jakes, take Naum's advice and study these materials and utilize your drill nights and weekends to do you own form of district familiarization.
The issues affecting the NEED in providing a fire rated membrane system for exposed engineered structural systems is only now being recognized. The recent UL Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions test that were conducted clearly shows the merits and need for rated membrane protection. We are a long ways out on making headway on this...but just wait, its going to start heating up, just wait and see. I''' post more after I return from IAFC FRI in Dallas, I'll give you some insights as to were we not only need to go, but what the pulse of these issues thus far is telling're comments are right on the mark....
Very complex puzzle. Theses components are excellent choices when used in the right way. The spin selling on these materials is easy; green, stronger, lighter, safer to install, easier to run mechanicals. For anyone not in sales, spin selling is touting the virtues of a product w/o fair representation of the vices. It is the American consumer that wants to have the brightest, the lightest, greatest everything going for themselves, but at the cheapest price. Folks "You get what you pay for...period"

We all to often seem to be a reactive society; hate to say it but it will most likely be the case here as well. How can the building industry be encouraged to embrace a new thought like making stronger, safer and more fire resistant structures? As the civilian & professional lives lost increase, the insurance companies will react for financial reasons and the professional groups on both the building side and fire service side will steadily increase pressure on the building codes. Hopefully that will result in some advances in the fire resistance of new construction, which still leaves a significant amount of houses that are a high concern to be near anytime fire is present. As the consumer collects more things in their homes made of plastic, glue based fixtures and tightens them up to point where no exchange occurs unless it is engineered, the problem grows way beyond what floor system they used.

Maybe a nationally recognized system that will identify structures that are smartly built above and beyond minimum standards; then real discounts from insurance and municipal taxes for being smart. Too many folks seem to want to label all the houses that are built in questionable design, how many friends you think we might win that way??. Let’s not be seen as the bad guy here for pushing for the right cause. People are proud, builders work for people....
State Farm has put together a great website that has a ton of new building construction information. There is also a link on their page to a Underwriters Laboratories Training Outline on the Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions. The UL shows how the lightweight building construction reacts during a fire. They burn a floor system and a roof system.

State Farm Fire Training
Underwriters Laboratories
That's the right kind of thinking. Fire loads from contents have increased dramatically (I wish I could remember where I've seen the numbers) over the last 40 -50 years while at the same time the construction techniques have tended toward much larger, more open structures with minimum design to meet capacities. Engineered components have become an important part of the total design. I'll stand corrected, but I don't believe any of the national residential codes have been changed to reflect these changes of lifestyle. Older style builders over build designs because their reputation counts on it, and yes these guys are still out there, I meet them all the time in my job, but they are usually building a small quantity of very custom homes, not the large developments we've seen explode in the last 25-30 years. These homes are designed with price as a limiting factor. I understand the reasoning, I am in sales, however there is no good reason why fire safety should be ignored in the floor design process though. Here is where we can begin to make a difference.

DT you got it exactly right, we need to work with these folks and identify the safety shortcomings in building design, for the fire service this includes time to collapse particularly for the floor systems and the noxious smoke produced so quickly. The costs to do it right shouldn't be burdensome to any new home. The first floor system with a fire rating of 1 hr and fire-blocking would be a huge gain(even over conventional 2x design) with a low net cost and could even prove more cost effective than residential sprinklers. Fine Homebuilding did a online article about the new residential fire sprinkler code changes and the comments are worth a look. A few good responses (it's on their website), but not one of the dissenter's responses I've seen yet have addressed engineered floor systems and the danger of collapse in a short time during fire conditions.

Builders want to build what their customers want for price and features, making fire safety a important feature of this process should be our goal. Forcing sprinklers into residential building is not going to solve the problem, too many states have already opted out of the 2009 IRC requirement to make it totally effective. A more accepted alternative may be fire rating the assembly.

On the original topic, understanding these components is important. Thanks for bringing it up Chris. I hope everyone will take some time and try to understand these components a little better. Great products and they shouldn't be feared. Labeling homes built with these components won't solve anything. If you deal with builders help them understand the concerns we have and discus how we can work with the builders to overcome these dangers.

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