Why Our Facades Are Contributing to Noteworthy Fires

Jeffrey Harper
Vice President
Jensen Hughes, Chicago

Several recent noteworthy fires in high-rise buildings have drawn international media attention and highlighted a perceived weakness in tall building design. These fires appear to have involved building façades as the principal combustible material contributing to the observed rapid fire growth and development. Because of the orientation and arrangements of building façades, once started, fires involving these assemblies can grow at a significant rate. The typical fire suppression systems in such structures are not designed to mitigate these types of fires. Building designers need to understand the importance of façade material selections and how those selections may contribute to higher risks of fires. This presentation provided information on recent building fires involving the exterior façades, the history of passive requirements outlined in the major building codes that address façade materials, the often confusing world of fire tests, and more.

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