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OBJECTIVE 1. To explain the purpose, function of element of structure in building construction and factors affecting behavior of material in fire. REFERENCE 2. Manual of Firemanship Book 8 Building construction and Structural fire protection.

CONTENTS 3. The function of each of the elements of structure in the majority of buildings is to carry the loads placed upon then. These loads: a. The Dead Load. Which is the weight of all the parts of the building itself which is imposed on the elements. These are constant. b. Imposed Load. Which consists of people, furniture, machinery and materials expected to be in a building when it is occupied? These loads are variable. c. Wind Load. Which means all loads due to the effects of wind pressure or suction? 4. A factor of safety (arrived at by complex calculation) is incorporated to ensure that materials and elements of adequate strength and stability are used. a. COLUMNS Definition: A vertical load bearing member. Function : To carry part of the weight of the building where an internal wall would interfere with the use of the building. Definition: Horizontal load bearing member. Function: To support an applied load. Simple beam, continuous beam lintel, bresumer.



c. When load is applied, beam bends slightly, upper section being depressed, lower section put under tensile stress. Material: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) Timber and laminated timber. Stone. Reinforced concrete. Prestressed concrete. Cast/Open web steel. Steel/open web steel.


Sketches showing the difference between (1) a lintel and (2) a bressumer. The shading Indicates the load carried

Diagram showing the effect of deflection on a beam. The curvature show is greatly exaggerated d. WALLS (LOAD BEARING) (1) Solid Brick. Nominal size of brick 228 x 114 x 78 mm, the thickness of a brick wall being measured in multiples of a half brick (i.e. 11/mm). Thus, a brick and a half wall is 342mm thick. Brick bedded in mortar arranged so that vertical joints of one layer or course do not coincide with joints of the course below. This is known as bonding. A number of different bonds are in use. (VA English bond, course of headers alternating with course of stretchers; being the strongest bond).


Sketches showing the Solid Brick (2) Cavity Brick: External Walls. Objective to prevent rain penetrating to inside face or wall. Usual type 50mm gap. Half brick walls held together with metal ties. May have air bricks at top and bottom of outer wall, or cavity may be filled with inert material to give thermal insulation to building.

Sketches showing the Cavity Brick (3) Solid Brick Faced With Stone: (a) Cheap substitute for solid stone wall can either be load bearing or panel wall in framed building. (b) The stone being built up at the same time as the brickwork and bonded to it. (c) Some inside walls have thin slabs of stone fixed by metal clamps, or even (for internal decoration) by plaster.


Sketches showing the Solid Brick Faced with Stone (4) Solid Stone. A stone wall is normally thicker than a brick wall (rarely less than 305mm thick). Many different bodings, local tradition, size and workability of the stones. Inside, where appearance is unimportant, consists of a mixture of medium and large stones. (5) Timber Framed:

Sketches showing the Timber Frame (a) Many variations of timber framed, load bearing wall, developed through the centuries. (b) The half-timbered housed is probably the bent example. The skeleton of the building is heavy timber, the spaces between the timber being filled with brickwork. Brickwork filling is termed nagging. (c) A brick nagged partition consists of wooden vertical studs, wooden horizontal spaces known as noggin pieces, brick infilling. Normally 114mm thick or 76mm if laid on edge. (d) Early walls had a layer of reeds fixed on either side by laths to the studs. The reeds being plastered over with mud or lime plaster to give a wattle-and-daub wall. The space between the two faces was often filled with mud or rough plaster. May still be found in old buildings particularly half-timbered type. In due coarse the reeds were replaced by wood laths mailed to the studs.


(e) Fire resistance of timber-framed walls can be achieved by lining both faces with fire-resisting material (asbestos boarding for example). (6) Behavior or Load Bearing Walls in a Fire . (a) The stability of a brick or stone wall depends, amongst other thing, upon its: i. Thickness in relation to its height. ii. On proper bonding (in particular on sufficient header tying the wall together) iii. To some extent on its age. iv. On any horizontal pushing or levering effect exerted upon it. (b) Stone walls also will be affected by the proportion of small stones used and the skill with have been laid. The fewer the number of joints and the thinner they are the greater the strength of a stone wall. (c) A brick of stone wall, thought capable of supporting considerable vertical loads, can only withstand comparatively small sideways or lateral pressure. For stability, the loading of the wall must be centered within the middle third (d) In general, the collapse of walls which has occurred at fires has been due to: i. The burning away of the floors and cross walls, leaving a high wall with no side support. ii. Expansion of beams into the wall, pushing it, outwards and so throwing it out of equilibrium. iii. Disintegration of the joints. Lime and cement joints may be so weakened by fire that a jet may be sufficient to throw the wall off balance and bring it down, or to wash out mortar from joints and destroy stability. iv. The collapse of support at the base of the wall such as an arch or a heavy steel beam. Provided there is no other damage to the wall, the bricks or stones may fall in such a way as to leave a natural arch over quite a large span (say 1.5 to 2m), and thus prevent total collapse. If this remaining on each side of the gap to support the load above and resist spreading of the natural arch. v. Heating and consequent expansion of the inside face of the wall throwing the wall outwards. vi. The levering action of collapsing joints which are into the wall. e. FLOORS (1) (1) Timber Floors (In General). Factors in the performance in fire of timber floors: (a) Whether the flooring is plain-edge (butted) or tongued grooved, chipboard or plywood. (b) The thickness of the flooring. 93

(c) (d) (2)

The load-bearing capacity of the joints. The contribution made to the fire resistance by the ceiling.

Types of Timber Floor: (a) Timber Joisted Floor. Generally used for upper floors of housed of all periods. Butt -jointed or T & G (chipboard/plywood in more recent buildings) boarding between 16 32 mm thick is used. Laid on wooden joists usually not lese than 50mm thick and varying in depths from 127 to 180mm according to the distance spanned.

A typical timber-joisted floor as use in domestic house (b) The joist may be prevented from twisting by strutting (solid board or two cross herringbone struts). One the underside of the joints is the ceiling, usually of lath and plaster, or, in modern work of building board finished with a thin coat of plaster. Spaces create a hazard in fire situations. (c) Scottish Method of Securing Ceilings. Battens (Branders) secured to underside of joist, laths or plasterboard nailed to branders creating more space. Branders to some job as struts. (d) Purged Joist Type. Battens nailed half way down the joists and boarding fixed to them. Space then filled with ashes or other packing (may be flammable) finished off with a mixture of line and sand. Increases fire resistance. (4) Joists. The way in which the joists are supported on the walls is important. (a) To old work, the joists are simply built into the wall, in collapses; they would cause a levering action. (b) Another method is to fasten the ends of the joists into a wooden wall plate built into the walls this tends to weaken the wall. (c) A built-in wrought steel wall plate is sometimes encountered. Unless joist pockets are big enough the joists can cause levering when the collapse. (d) Better methods include: Wall plats secured on wrought iron brackets built into wall. (e) Corbelled brickwork forming a ledge for wooden wall plate.


Sketches showing various arrangements for supporting floor joist. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) Joist with square end in pocket; Joist carried on wooden wall plate; Joist with splayed end in pocket; Joist carried on woodwn wall plate carried on bracket; Joist carried on wooden wall plate on corbelled brickwork; Joist carried on wooden wall plate on a ledge formed by reducing the thickness of the wall.

(5) Reduction in wall thickness by 114mm at each floor and rest the wall plate on the resulting ledge. (6) Brick Arches on Cast Iron Beams. Cast iron (sometimes steel) beams carried on cast iron columns space between beams filled in with shallow brick arches. Parts near beam built of bricks on end, the centre being bricks on edge. Uneven floor filled with weak concrete into which wooden battens are laid on which the flooring is fastened (could be battens are laid on which the flooring is fastened could be stone flagged or tiles) old building pre 1890.

A brick arched floor carried on cast-iron beams and columns (7) Steel Filler Joints and Mass Concrete. Area divided by steel joists, sufficiently small gape to be spanned by the mass concrete unreinforced concrete. First type has good fire record, especially if supported on substantial brick walls. Second type has thin section of floor (76 to 101mm) danger of slabs cracking away from steel. Both types should have protection for the steel joist which sometimes is exposed to fire on underside. 95

Mass concrete and steel filler joist floor (8) Solid Reinforced Concrete. The steel rods which take the tension are situated in the lower part of the slab, protected with a thin layer of concrete rarely less than 127mm thick. Thin floor, 76 101mm, may be used for very small spaces; may have poor fire.

(9) Reinforced Concrete Rib. Series of reinforced concrete beams 450 t0 610mm apart, spaces between being spanned with reinforced concrete slabs, structurally continuous with the beams. Thinnest part may be as little as 50 76mm. Fire resistance inferior to heavier reinforced concrete floor.



Pre Stressed Concrete: (a) Pre-stressed solid concrete planks laid side by and then covered with concrete which bonds them together. In effect, a solid slab floor with reinforcement by pre-stressed concrete planking instead of wooden shuttering. (b) Pre-stressed hollow concrete planks are also used. Ranging in depth from 150 400mm, made up to 14m in length. Similar to solid type but with addition of the bars.

Solid pre-stressed plank type of concrete floor (11) Hollow Tile: (a) Two types: Hollow clay blocks set in concrete covered on top with a layer of concrete. Hollow precise concrete beams laid close together with ends resting on steel joints. Joints between beams filled with thin concrete. (b) Both type liable to lose lower face in a fire but, as bottom face is not structurally essential, the floor as a whole usually resists passage of fire. (Difficult to determine what type of floor, appears just the same as solid concrete).

Pre-stressed hollow plank type of concrete floor



ROOFS: (1) Flat Roofs. Simplest type of roof. Similar in construction to a floor; may consist of wooden joists or concrete, hollow tile or, in fact any type of floor construction. Above is fixed some kind of waterproof layer such as asphalt bitumen pregnated roofing felt, and metal sheeting.

Flats roofs (2) Pitched Roofs. Use to obtain greater spans that with simple beam. (a) roof. The simplest and most common from is called a close coupled

(b) Mansard roof (two angles of pitch), the objective being to place a room in the roof space.

Pitched Roof (3) Trussed Roofs. Spanning 10 60m between supports. (a) (b) (c) (d) Composite Truss King Post Truss Queen Post Truss Belfast Roof : Timber compression members. Wrought iron tension rode. : Wooden members. : Two vertical ties strutted apart. : Used to span large gape between Supports.

Northern Light. Various materials can be used in many different forms to provide a trussed roof, i.e.


Sketch showing how a timber truss for a Belfast roof is made up (4) Portal or Rigid Frame Roof. Continuous member conforming to vertical columns. Has the effect of extending roof load to rest of structure. Used mainly in single-story buildings.


(5) Shell Roofs. A members curved in one or more directions and covered with felt or asphalt and bitumen. Can be constructed of a number of materials, timber aluminum or sheet steel. Majority are made of reinforced concrete. (a) Roofing Materials. i. Slates, tiles and shingles: Usually hooked on to battens and remain in position by their own weight. (Batter type of work: nailed to battens). Sometimes tiles are bedded in mortar (torching). Shingles made of wood (not normally met in UK). ii. Sheeting. Corrugated iron, aluminum and asbestos cement sheet fixed to purlines. iii. Decking. Asbestos cement, timber wood wool, strawboard, aluminum and steel units. Need a waterproof layer of asphalt or roofing felt. Decking more usually applied to flat roofs. iv. Bitumens Felt. Roof surfaces of bituminous felt must be laid on boarding or flat steel sheet. This steel sheet is reinforced with ribs and is supported on purline in come way as corrugated iron.


STAIRWAYS. Four features of a well designed stairway. (1) The staircase itself be built of fire-resisting materials to prevent collapse in fire conditions. (2) It should have fire-resisting walls round it to prevent a fire breaking through onto it, or, should the fire do so by some means, to prevent the fire spreading to another floor. (3) The head of the stairs should be ventilated to prevent mushrooming. (4) All doorways leading onto the stairways should be fitted with selfclosing, fire-resisting doors to prevent fire reaching it and to reduce air currents which fan the fire.

Fireman, although not required to be involved with requirements of actual construction of stairways, will need to be cover sent with the more common terms used and with various types of stairway met. h. DOORS. Seven principle types: (1) Hinged doors : (a) Flush 100

(b) (c) (d)

Paneled Ledged Metal






Swing doors

Self-closing type of double swing door (3) Revolving doors


Cylinder doors


(5) Folding doors (Usually light construction and similar design hinged doors. (6) Cantilever doors


Roller Shutters


WINDOWS (1) Most common wave of opening: (a) Side hinging





Sliding sash, either vertically or horizontally.

(d) Top or bottom hanging. Windows generally referred to as of two types of opening casement or sash. (2) Double Glazed Windows. Extra insulation, often hermetically sealed. Can explode when involved in severe fire.

(3) Leaded Windows. Number of small panes held together with strip lead. Value lies in the glass. 104


French Windows. Not strictly windows.

j. ROOF LIGHTS. A roof light is a form of window in the plane of the roof and is fixed. An opening roof light is referred to as a skylight. Form of Roof Light: (1) Lantern Light.


Monitor Light


Dome Light


Lens Light (also found in pavements)


(5) Dead Light (glazing or translucent sheeting fixed in the slope of a roof, or lens lights in a flat or barrel roof, so that they do not open). k. CEILINGS. Two basic types: (1) floor. (2) Those which are integral with, or are secured to, the side (soft) of the

Those which are suspended from the underside of the floor.

(3) Integral ceiling sometimes have fastened to them polystyrene tiles which create a fire hazard due to the manner of flying. Suspended ceilings may be subdivided into three groups: (a) In which the ceiling is flat.

(b) In which architectural forms, plaster decorated domes, covering, etc, are framed into the ceiling. (c) In which the ceiling protects the steelwork of the floor above.



HEARTHS, FLUES AND CHIMNEYS: (1) Hearth fires caused by: (a) Cracked hearths allowing sparks and hot embers to ignites materials below or adjacent to hearth. (b) Joists not properly trimmed to a safe distance, with insufficient hearthstone separating them from the fire. (c) Timber shuttering in which the original concrete of the hearth has been poured being left in place.


VENTILATION. Natural and Mechanical: a. Natural. Wind entering from outside and air currents generated inside. Wind from windward side is drawn out by the suction on the lee war side and up chimneys even though no fire is present. b. Mechanical. The circulation of air assisted or even carried out by a system of fans and ducting. May be divided into three principal groups:


(1) Ventilation in which the vitiated air is extracted from the building by fans, fresh air finding its way out through doors and windows. (2) Ventilation in which fresh air is forced into the building by fans, vitiated air finding its way out through doors/windows. (3) Ventilation in which fans are used both to force fresh air in and to extract vitiated air. The ductings of these systems, together with ducting of other services (heating, electricity, gas etc) provide a means of smoke/heat travel. 7. COLLAPSE OF BUILDINGS. Signs: a. b. c. d. e. f. Bulging wall. Cracks in wall. Dropped arches. Displaced or bulging columns. Floors sagging. Floors pulling away from walls.


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