Building construction has a major impact on how firefighters battle building fires. Buildings feature different types of external and internal construction, and it is often the internal structure of a building that most determines how a conflagration should be contained.
In determining the best approach for extinguishing a fire, firefighters refer to five types of building construction that define building construction for the fire service: Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV and Type V. Each of these construction types is discussed in detail below.
Type I Construction
Type I Buildings (a.k.a. fire resistive buildings) contain a limited amount of combustibles. These materials typically consist of small elements such as wood trim and furniture. Because the buildings are largely fire resistant, firefighters can move through them with the assurance that fires will not develop in ceilings and walls, and compromise the overall strength of the structure.
Type II Construction
Type II buildings (a.k.a. non-combustible buildings) contain combustible wood trim and furnishings. They may also contain other combustible elements, such as non-load-bearing partition walls and wood blocking that supports cabinetry, railings, and other internal construction elements. In these buildings, firefighters must consider that a fire may occur inside the walls.
Type III Construction
Type III buildings (a.k.a. ordinary buildings) have exterior walls of masonry and contain combustible partition walls and load-bearing walls. The floor, roof, trim, and furnishings in these buildings can also catch fire. In these types of structures, firefighters must aggressively extinguish roof fires to prevent roofs from collapsing and potentially causing multiple fatalities.
Type IV Construction
Type IV buildings (a.k.a. heavy timber buildings) have load-bearing walls and exterior walls of masonry, and contain columns, beams, roofs, floors, trim and furnishings that are combustible, but not easy to ignite. In these types of buildings, firefighters must anticipate how much time they have to complete the firefighting mission based on the combustion rate of the materials inside.
Type V Construction
Type V buildings (a.k.a. wood frame buildings) can have combustible materials anywhere in the structure. Load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls may be combustible, as well as roofs, floors, trim, and furnishings. Due to their largely combustible construction, these buildings typically have a faster burn rate than the ones listed above, and often require the most aggressive firefighting measures.
Need to Learn About Building Construction?
If you’re looking to learn more about building construction, Brannigan's Building Construction for the Fire Service, 5th Edition, is a good place to start. In print for over 40 years, the classic text contains 14 chapters that address firefighting in terms of building construction.
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