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  1. #1
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Default Modular homes: built to burn?

    http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/news/...-built-to-burn

    A tip of the leather to Chief Gallagher and Fox 25 News (Joe Shortsleeve and WBZ TV4... this is how investigative reporting is done!)

    I sent the link to the video to all of our personnel as well as the the Building Department and Code Enforcement.

    The Building Department has sent me a listing of modular homes in the city... the void space between floors of the 2 story modulars has basically made what was "platform construction" to "horizontal balloon frame". Forewarned is forearmed!
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    MembersZone Subscriber JHR1985's Avatar
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    they are nothing more than a fancy trailer, which we all know will go up in a flash.

    However, if you put tires on the roof, it will slow the burn process and make you look so cool.


    See... his trailer is now burn-proof.

    Nice location for your home Gonzo
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    Silly goose.

    Everyone knows the tires add extra weight and reduce the likelihood of the roof blowing off in a tornado.

    These city folks. You have to tell them everything.

    Seriously though. While they do burn faster than a site built they do not burn quite as fast as an older mobile home. On the plus side, the floors are generally plywood as compared to particle board, and will remain stable for much longer. In addition, a fire in the overhead void space will remain contained to that space slightly longer than an older mobile home as well.

    Still not a good scenario but better than that 15 year old single-wide.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 03-03-2010 at 09:46 PM.

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    MembersZone Subscriber voyager9's Avatar
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    These aren't mobile homes or trailers but they're similar. They're basically prebuilt PODS racked and stacked on top of eachother. They apparently have a 20" void the width of the unit and contain flamable foam.... a recipe for disaster. There are some good pictures in the video.

    Stacked Mobile Home + Trussed Void + Flamable Foam == BAD
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    Forum Member pasobuff's Avatar
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    Interesting! We have a modular home, 1 1/2 story cape - in the next couple weeks we will be tearing up the sub-floor in the 'attic', I will take some pictures and see if it is similar......

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Y'all may want to take a look at:

    http://homebuying.about.com/cs/manuf.../a/hudcode.htm

    and:

    Regulation
    In the United States, these homes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), via the Federal National Mfd. Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974. It is this national regulation that has allowed many manufacturers to distribute nationwide, since they are immune to the jurisdiction of local building authorities. By contrast, producers of modular homes must abide by state and local building codes. There are, however, windzones adopted by HUD that home builders must follow. For example, state-wide, Florida is at least windzone 2. South Florida is windzone 3, the strongest windzone. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, new standards were adopted for home construction. The codes for building within these windzones were significantly amended, which has greatly increased their durability. During the 2004 hurricanes in Florida, these standards were put to the test, with great success. Yet, older models continue to face the exposed risk to high winds because of the attachments applied such as carports, porch and screen room additions. These areas are exposed to "wind capture" which apply extreme force to the underside of the integrated roof panel systems, ripping the fasteners through the roof pan causing a series of events which destroys the main roof system and the home.

  7. #7
    Forum Member confire's Avatar
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    Just like light weight building components in stick built building, the factory built structures are not going away any time soon. You just need to learn to adjust your thinking and deal with them appropriately.

    First, not all “factory” build homes are the same; you have Mobile homes/double wide (mobile home) and then the Modular homes. Most modular home are build by much higher standards then the mobile home.

    Where it is true that multy story modular structures do have a 12 to 20 void between floors and I agree is far from ideal. Obviously the single story does not have such a space. But how about the void created by the use of the truss when it is enclosed in the floor of ceiling? Fire can travel here unchecked as well.
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    Prefab/Modular's are by far exceeding stick builts in our area. One common theme we're seeing is the Cape style home with a "Farmers Porch" that has a vinyl ceiling basically made of the same vinyl pieces used as soffit vents. These spaces above the outside ceiling is open to he unfinished attic space contributing to rapid fire spread when the ceiling fails .02 seconds after the fire reaches the porch from either the first floor windows or an outside fire or BBQ on the porch.

    Had occasion to visit two of these int he last week. The first had a large 2-3 foot space the length of the home open to the porch. This was viewed during a residential home safety survey. The second was a smaller 1 foot space the length of the porch/house that had poorly stuffed insulation occluding most of the openings. This was discovered during the fire in the first floor bedroom. Thankfully we got on it before the front windows failed and the rooms and contents were the only losses aside from smoke/heat damage. This was greatly attributed to the 12 yr old girl who found the fire and closed the door after finding she could not put it out. This action likely saved the 11 month old modular home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by confire View Post
    But how about the void created by the use of the truss when it is enclosed in the floor of ceiling? Fire can travel here unchecked as well.
    Of course it is going to be nearly impossible to cover every void. The most we can hope for is that enclosing the truss system/walls/voids at least limits fire spread from the compartment into the void? Lightweight wood construction should require sprinklers and/or 5/8" X sheetrock.

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    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by confire View Post
    Just like light weight building components in stick built building, the factory built structures are not going away any time soon. You just need to learn to adjust your thinking and deal with them appropriately.

    First, not all “factory” build homes are the same; you have Mobile homes/double wide (mobile home) and then the Modular homes. Most modular home are build by much higher standards then the mobile home.

    Where it is true that multi story modular structures do have a 12 to 20 void between floors and I agree is far from ideal. Obviously the single story does not have such a space. But how about the void created by the use of the truss when it is enclosed in the floor of ceiling? Fire can travel here unchecked as well.
    In that pic, they are using glued trusses. The glues used in these trusses are flammable and start off gassing at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine a fire in the void space burning undetected until the ceiling or floor collapses...

    This is the reason to get out and check out the construction going on in your response districts!
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  11. #11
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    Chief Gonz we have the same stuff in an apartment complex built in my first due. The platform spans the entire floor making it easier to run electric, hvac duct-work, etc... You could have a fire in one apartment and have to chase it across the entire building with all the nice fuel hiding in the ceiling.

    If I can find some pictures I'll post them.

  12. #12
    Forum Member confire's Avatar
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    Forgetting the void issue for a minute, how likely is it that you would perform horizontal ventilation on a manufactured home?

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    Quote Originally Posted by confire View Post
    Forgetting the void issue for a minute, how likely is it that you would perform horizontal ventilation on a manufactured home?
    In the case of most of the ones we see (Cape Cod style) we;d be most likely to perform horizontal vs. vertical. It's faster and again locally, most of the upper floors are either attic trusses or unfinished. This means unless the fire is in the "A" vertical vent is not indicated as the roof hole will only lead to a solid plywood cover floor below. This isn't even considering the implications of vertically venting a lightweight wood truss, which if the fire is directly under it, indicating vertical vent, one must think twice about being on. With the Cape style most have decent windows on the upper level to facilitate adequate ventilation without cutting the roof.

  14. #14
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    I built a modular home this time last year. The pros of them is they are generally sturdier than traditional built homes (mainly because they have to be rigid enough to be transported). The downside is the void space mentioned - it was the first thing I noticed after the first story was put down and the second story was being loaded. Lightweight floor trusses completely open the entire length of the house. At that point, there was little I could about it except tell the family that if the house caught fire, not to even pretend to do anything except get their arses out as soon as possible - a fire gets in that void and the house is gone.

    It's unfortunate - a few simple 2x10s added in there as firebreaks would go a long, long way towards increasing the burntime. As it stands, a few nearby departments have SOPs that state any of the modular homes built in their district are to be left to burn - protect the nearby properties as these buildings will collapse within 10 minutes of a fire starting. Even more concerning is some of them are built with concrete in-floor heating on the first and second floors - which lead to the floors pancaking together very, very quickly after the fire gets to the lightweight trusses. Obviously exceedingly dangerous, and is changing firefighting tactics to the old surround-and-drown method as it's far too dangerous to consider interior attack on a lot of these buildings.

  15. #15
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Smile Damn..............

    Interesting to read over my first cup of Coffee...... "Manufactured" Homes delivered in Maryland must be Sprinklered. In the last Session of our Legislature, there were Bills introduced to allow local jurisdictions to "Opt-Out" of the Sprinkler Requirement. The Fire Service launched a full bore assault, and both Bills were killed in their respective Committes.......
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    Our State Chief's just hosted the Training Chief (Peter Van Dorpe)from Chicago last week for a seminar. His presentation focused on what they've gleaned from working with NIST, UL, FDNY, and numerous other FD's to study actual repeatable fires. Some real interesting points were brought up.

    The presentation starts with pointing out that lightweight construction is not about the gusset plates. The fire service went too far down that path a few years ago, meanwhile most trusses are now using fingerjoints and glue, no gusset plates.

    One of the most important parts focused on the burn time to failure of different assemblies. While lightweight fails much faster, even older dimensional construction fails within typical reflex time (time from fire identification to water on the fire). This is a testament to the significant changes in the fuel loads in buildings today. UL's website has some good training programs with video on "Legacy vs. Lightweight construction" under fire conditions. These guys do it right with repeatable test methods that can be used to truly document heat release rates, temperature, pressure, thermal stratification, etc.

    So while we should worry about modular and lightweight construction, we cannot allow ourselves to feel "safe" in older construction as fires are getting hotter faster. Some of the other items present in new construction fits into upgrades of current housing stock, such as energy efficient windows that don't fail nearly as quickly, overall tightening of homes, super insulating and additional of lightweight construction materials when renovating.

    Maryland is far ahead of most of us in realizing that the best way to protect ourselves and the public is through the code process, we cannot keep trying to adjust out tactics every time a new construction material is used, as we're always 3 steps behind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Interesting to read over my first cup of Coffee...... "Manufactured" Homes delivered in Maryland must be Sprinklered. In the last Session of our Legislature, there were Bills introduced to allow local jurisdictions to "Opt-Out" of the Sprinkler Requirement. The Fire Service launched a full bore assault, and both Bills were killed in their respective Committes.......
    In a demented twist on that, our city enacted a sprinkler ordinance but the State Manufactured Housing laws require us to allow any HUD stickered modular regardless of local ordinances! The real key is as you noted, the larger Fire Chief's group must unite and fight for this, going it alone has been a constant uphill battle.

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    Forum Member EastKyFF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wllmford7 View Post
    I and my family decide to buy manufactured or modular home. The modular homes for sale are built of sturdier material which can better insulate the home and save energy consumption.

    modular homes
    Ad reported. Back to the discussion.

    Great stuff, everybody. We have oodles of single-floor manufactured homes, but I haven't noticed many two-story. This is all worth noting. Nothing like the prospect of the entire second floor pancaking you upon arrival.
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    Forum Member pasobuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    In a demented twist on that, our city enacted a sprinkler ordinance but the State Manufactured Housing laws require us to allow any HUD stickered modular regardless of local ordinances! The real key is as you noted, the larger Fire Chief's group must unite and fight for this, going it alone has been a constant uphill battle.
    Ok - this doesn't make sense...in NY at least, localities are allowed to be mroe restrictive in their requirements - not sure how an 'exception' could legally be made without a variance granted.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by pasobuff View Post
    Ok - this doesn't make sense...in NY at least, localities are allowed to be mroe restrictive in their requirements - not sure how an 'exception' could legally be made without a variance granted.....
    It didn't make sense to us either but... It appears some time ago the manufactured housing folks (we have many companies here in state) wanted to ensure that they could sell a home as a package and not be affected by the numerous local ordinances that varied town to town to city. The law basically says that if the packaged home has a HUD sticker or a State approval sticker, they cannot be forced to change anything. Because the state adopted a lesser code than the city we're in this predicament. And of course there are other small code exceptions built in for manufactured homes such as reduced stair dimensions.

    The local code being more restrictive than state is being challenged and forced out in many states where one model building code is being adopted. This allows builders to be ensured a level playing field statewide (they lobby heavily for this) vs. having to know or research the specific laws/ordinances of the community they're working in. These states are often referred to as "Mini-Max" states, where the rules state both the minimum and the maximum required everything.

    Supposedly in our state the municipality can adopt rules under land-use regulations that supersede building code laws, such as saying any home built outside on property not covered by municipal water shall be sprinklered. Our rules have yet to be challenged, though new home starts are at an all time low anyway.

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