5 Fire Safety Principles Every Architect in Texas Should Use

Going beyond basic fire safe­ty com­pli­ance isn’t always a top pri­or­i­ty in build­ing design, but it should be.

Accord­ing to the Nation­al Fire Pro­tec­tion Asso­ci­a­tion (NFPA), there were over 1.3 mil­lion fires report­ed in the Unit­ed States in 2016. Of those fires, 475,000 were struc­ture fires, caus­ing 2,950 deaths, 1,075 injuries and $933 mil­lion in prop­er­ty dam­age.

Con­struc­tion in Texas is esti­mat­ed to grow by 10 per­cent in 2018. That is the high­est pro­ject­ed increase in the Unit­ed States. Fol­low­ing the lat­est trends in fire safe­ty prac­tices will ensure you include the right solu­tions in all your build­ing designs.

Sev­er­al impor­tant fire safe­ty codes and stan­dards exist that will help you cre­ate safer struc­tures, and help your project avoid becom­ing a sta­tis­tic. Let’s look at some of the most recent trends in fire safe­ty, and how to apply them to your project plan­ning.

1. Focus on Fire-Resistant Construction Design

Fire-resis­tant con­struc­tion is one of the largest grow­ing con­struc­tion trends in Texas. It’s impor­tant to care­ful­ly choose a con­struc­tion design that’s proven to help in fire pre­ven­tion. As fire safe­ty becomes a top pri­or­i­ty, make sure your designs meet or exceed the NFPA codes and stan­dards. This is espe­cial­ly true giv­en the amounts of insu­la­tion that the new build­ing and ener­gy codes now require, which can increase fire risk for mod­ern build­ing projects.

Using a com­plete wall solu­tion like the Bau­tex Wall Sys­tem is one way to increase fire resis­tance in your build­ing. Test­ed by ICC accred­it­ed third-par­ty lab­o­ra­to­ries, this wall sys­tem has a 4‑hour load-bear­ing fire-resis­tance rat­ing for added safe­ty on all projects. This lev­el of safe­ty is achieved by com­bin­ing cement and foam insu­la­tion into a light­weight, durable, insu­lat­ing and fire-resis­tant mate­r­i­al that will not ignite when exposed to heat or direct flame.

Spec­i­fy­ing an inte­grat­ed wall sys­tem that pro­vides struc­ture, enve­lope, insu­la­tion and fire pro­tec­tion in one solu­tion sim­pli­fies the design process and reduces the cost and time of con­struc­tion con­sid­er­ably.

2. Ensure Building Materials Pass Key Fire Safety Tests

Using build­ing mate­ri­als that have under­gone exten­sive test­ing will also ensure you adhere to all fire safe­ty codes with your con­struc­tion. When select­ing mate­ri­als, check to see if they com­ply with the fol­low­ing impor­tant codes and stan­dards:

NFPA 286 Stan­dard Meth­ods of Fire Tests for Eval­u­at­ing Con­tri­bu­tion of Wall and Ceil­ing Inte­ri­or Fin­ish to Room Fire Growth: This test mea­sures how quick­ly flames spread across build­ing mate­r­i­al and the amount of smoke that is pro­duced when the prod­uct ignites.

ASTM E84 Stan­dard Test Method for Sur­face Burn­ing Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Build­ing Mate­ri­als: This test mea­sures sur­face burn­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of build­ing mate­ri­als.

ASTM E119 Stan­dard Test Meth­ods for Fire Tests of Build­ing Con­struc­tion and Mate­ri­als: This test eval­u­ates the dura­tion of fire expo­sure that a build­ing ele­ment can sus­tain while main­tain­ing struc­tur­al integri­ty.

An exam­ple of a mate­r­i­al that earned high marks in these fire tests is the Bau­tex Block. Its com­pos­ite cement-EPS for­mu­la­tion was high­ly effec­tive in resist­ing the spread of flames and smoke in a sim­u­lat­ed struc­ture fire. The Bau­tex Block also earned the high­est NFPA Class A and IBC Class A clas­si­fi­ca­tions.

3. Follow Strategies Outlined in the NFPA 101® Life Safety Code®

Know­ing and under­stand­ing the NFPA 101® Life Safe­ty Code® is anoth­er way to ensure you are meet­ing fire safe­ty codes. This col­lec­tion of stan­dards is known as the most pop­u­lar source for fire pro­tec­tion strate­gies.

The Life Safe­ty Code® details mate­ri­als test­ing and con­struc­tion design, and it also focus­es on addi­tion­al top­ics. It address­es fire safe­ty stan­dards relat­ed to evac­u­a­tion plans, sprin­klers, alarms, emer­gency light­ing, smoke bar­ri­ers, spe­cial haz­ard pro­tec­tion and much more.

Know­ing your build­ing con­struc­tion com­plies with these impor­tant codes is a good first step in enhanc­ing fire safe­ty. Anoth­er good start to ensur­ing com­pli­ance is using mate­r­i­al that exhibits low heat release and tem­per­a­ture rise, and no flame spread. These char­ac­ter­is­tics meet the NFPA 101 Life Safe­ty Code for both fin­ished and unfin­ished walls.

4. Adhere to Energy Conservation Codes Without Increasing Fire Risk

The2015 IECC Ener­gy Con­ser­va­tion Code has impor­tant impacts on the design and con­struc­tion of build­ings in Texas. Meet­ing the require­ments of this code will great­ly improve ener­gy effi­cien­cy and per­for­mance, but there are some asso­ci­at­ed fire haz­ard risks.

If you’re using cav­i­ty con­struc­tion, the required lay­ers of con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion can pose an increased risk of fire safe­ty issues. One way to avoid these fire safe­ty issues is using insu­lat­ed con­crete block.

The Bau­tex Wall Sys­tem is an exam­ple of a sin­gle inte­grat­ed wall sys­tem. This sys­tem exceeds per­for­mance require­ments using only one addi­tion­al lay­er of insu­la­tion (in most cli­mates).

5. Understand General Fire Safety Awareness in Buildings

Always con­sid­er the fire-relat­ed haz­ards peo­ple may encounter inside build­ings. Hav­ing basic knowl­edge of com­mon fire risks will help you design with pre­ven­tion in mind.

Refer to this list of gen­er­al fire safe­ty rules to under­stand fire safe­ty from the per­spec­tive of a build­ing own­er or occu­pant. Know­ing the poten­tial risks that can occur dai­ly will help you plan more proac­tive­ly.

As the amount of con­struc­tion increas­es in Texas, so does the risk of fire haz­ards. Show­ing a high­er lev­el of safe­ty knowl­edge in each step of the design process will help ensure your designs have con­sid­ered all fire risks and are com­pli­ant with the right fire safe­ty codes and stan­dards.