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  1. #1
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    Default Styrofoam subfloors

    We had a high-rise response yesterday in a warehouse that is being converted to lofts. Not much fire, just construction debris. The flooring in the bldg. consists of wood planks with 24 inch thick styrofoam on top and 4 inches of concrete on top of the foam. Has anyone ever seen this, or more importantly, had a fire with this type of flooring? It was sure new to us! Any help?


  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    Was this a cold storage warehouse or a meat processing facility?

    This arrangement sounds unusually dangerous. Most (if not all) codes prohibit wood supporting concrete. I'd call your code officials and ask some questions.
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    Default Stryofoam Flooring

    Sorry, I should have said that the structure is a former 8-story warehouse that is being converted into loft-style condominiums. It was not set up as a cold storage facility. The foam is all new. Also, in talking to some of our memebers, they saw where an ember had melted/burned this supposedly "fire-resistant" material. The structure is sprinklered below the ceilings and has at least one standpipe. I have sent a note detailing the scenario to our fire marshal.
    11Truckie
    Last edited by 11truckie; 08-26-2007 at 09:58 AM.

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    We have the same type of construction going into some of the old tobacco warehouses and processing plants in town. We were told by the contractor that the foam was for both insulation and sound dampening. The new construction also has to meet NFPA 13 for sprinklers and standpipes. I cannot see, if properly sprinklered that the foam would be an issue. First the fire would have to be hot enough to overcome the sprinklers (which would more than likely mean the building is going to be a total loss anyway) and then burn through the wood planks. Burning from the other side would require transferring enough heat through four inches of concrete to the foam's ignition temperature (once again the building would be a total loss.)

    Remember that old construction did not use computer modeling to design the building to meet certain criteria using the least amount of materials. They had to over build to meet the demands for which the building was going to be used. The new lofts in my first due were built in a former tobacco processing plant, one where the second floor had to support heavy machinery and tons of tobacco. A few inches of concrete was not going to add much compared to what they removed.

    Hope that helped a bit.

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lexfd5 View Post
    The new construction also has to meet NFPA 13 for sprinklers and standpipes. I cannot see, if properly sprinklered that the foam would be an issue. First the fire would have to be hot enough to overcome the sprinklers (which would more than likely mean the building is going to be a total loss anyway)
    That's all well and good so long as you're not in the building when it becomes a total loss. You assume that there's not going to be any wiring (now or in the future) above the sprinkler piping to get the foam/wood smoldering. You assume that the sprinkler will be maintained. My internal preplanning alarm is sounding a warning and this building's not even in my district!

    Any word back from the code people 11truckie? My curiosity is piqued.

    Could you post a pic?
    ullrichk
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    To keep their COO they'll need to keep it maintained. We also do annual company surveys (for first due companies to become and keep familiar with the building) and code enforcement does annual inspections of multi-family occupancies. So the sprinkler system is not going to be an issue.

    The sprinkler system is also overkill for the fire load that it now covers. It was originally designed to cover a heavy fire load of machinery and bulk tobacco with a high dust hazard. Now the same system (our code enforcement would not let them scale back the system, you can improve a system, but you cannot cut back a system in our AHJ) is covering typical room and contents of a SFD. Here is the link for the lofts so you can take a look: http://www.coolspaces.com/lorillard/features.html

    Any wiring above the sprinkler heads is in conduit (all painted black so it matches the ceiling, at $130,000 for 1,000 sq ft it has to look good.) And yes we have already pre-planned the building. I am more concerned with the three story hotel they are throwing up made of stick construction than the reconditioned heavy timber and masonry building.

    Look at the growing use of Concrete Insulating Forms in residential houses. http://www.cement.org/homes/ch_bs_icf.asp We are beginning to have this type of construction pop up in my first due. Here the entire home is surrounded by foam, inside and out. And in between is the concrete. They cut paths in the foam to run the wiring. Just some more food for thought.
    Last edited by lexfd5; 08-27-2007 at 11:13 PM.

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    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    lexfd5, you really need to read Brannigan's Building Construction for the Fire Service. If you have, you need to read it again.

    You are putting too much faith in systems that get compromised during and after construction. I've done enough residential and commercial construction to know what I'm talking about.

    Concrete supported by wood cannot be a good thing. If your preplan says exterior ops only, then you've made the right call.
    ullrichk
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    I think my faith in the building is because I saw it before it was transformed into the lofts. The second floor, which is supported by wood, had all the heavy tobacco strippers and shredders, fork trucks (not lifts, but the heavier trucks) and tons of tobacco stored on the second floor. The weight the floor now carries, even with 4 inches of light weight concrete, is far below the old load it carried. That is from our government, third party and the construction company engineers.

    We were also able to watch the transformation take place and see what was done to the interior. The group that worked on this project worked with our department to make the building as safe as they could. I guess it comes down to who is doing the work and what their priorities are. I still have more faith in this building than the light-weight construction of office buildings, apartments and hotels in our first due.

  9. #9
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    Lightbulb Hmmmmm..............

    Quote Originally Posted by ullrichk View Post
    lexfd5, you really need to read Brannigan's Building Construction for the Fire Service. If you have, you need to read it again.

    You are putting too much faith in systems that get compromised during and after construction. I've done enough residential and commercial construction to know what I'm talking about.

    Concrete supported by wood cannot be a good thing. If your preplan says exterior ops only, then you've made the right call.

    You and I usually agree, but I can't help thinking that Concrete over Wood can work IF: 1. The wood construction is of the "Mill" type, Heavy Timbers and Planking that was built to hold very heavy loads, both live and dead, And: 2. The Concrete is a lightweight Perlite mix. And 3. Most Importantly, the Structure and ALL of it's compartments are Sprinklered.
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  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    I'll be damned if the NFPA building code doesn't specifically allow concrete to be supported by wood now!

    45.6.10 Wood Supporting Masonry or Concrete. Wood members shall not be used to permanently support the dead load of any masonry or concrete, unless otherwise permitted by the following:

    (1) Masonry or concrete nonstructural floor or roof surfacing not more than 4 in. (100 mm) thick shall be permitted to be supported by wood members.
    (We happen to use a different code, but I found this online.)

    I still don't think this is a good idea, and it may come back to haunt the fire service yet.

    I stand by my conviction that sprinklers and standpipes and other built-in features are not 100% reliable. We may do company inspections once a year or more and the code people may do the same, but the other 363 days a year are a crap shoot.

    We must assume that design and maintenance flaws exist in every structure.
    ullrichk
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