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Opinions on Insulated concerete formed buildings?

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  • Opinions on Insulated concerete formed buildings?

    Insulated Concrete Forms

    These are being pushed locally as a fire resistant form of building, resulting in closer setbacks and smaller lot sizes. How would this construction affect our initial tactics? Interior flooring is still wood, with a basement beneath, roof will be trussed.

  • #2
    ICF buildings are not really fire resistant, especially if they use conventional floor/roof framing. Or if they have any contents! Maybe wall collapse won't be as big a concern, but the floors and roof aren't going to be any better.

    I think the real rub is that since just about any exterior finish can be used, combustible finishes (e.g. wood, but especially vinyl) will give the same exposure problems we've always had - except now we're willing to put them closer together because "concrete won't burn."

    From a construction standpoint I have to say I like ICF buildings, and would definitely consider it if I were building a house for myself, but as a firefighter I'm not going to treat it any differently with respect to collapse hazard. (Meaning I'm going to be expecting it to go quickly.)
    ullrichk
    a.k.a.
    perfesser

    a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for

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    • #3
      How well do ICF walls hold up in a fire?
      Experience shows that concrete structures are more likely to remain standing through fire than are structures of other materials. Unlike wood, concrete does not burn. Unlike steel, it does not soften and bend. Concrete does not break down until it is exposed to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit—far more than is present in the typical house fire.
      That answer seems to be a throwback to the 19th and early 20th century. Commercial and manufacturing buildings were built of masonary with wood floors. Joists were sometimes "fire cut" or set in pockets in the wall in such a way that he floor could collapse without pulling the walls down. It was easier, cheaper and faster to rebuild if you could use the same walls.

      I agree with uillrichk. I wold not treat these any differently than a stick built in regards to collapse. The joists are probably lightweight trusses and attached to the walls with lightweight metal hangars.

      There are many different types of concrete today. Perhaps someone with experience in concrete could comment on the fire resistance of the blend used in this type construction.

      Stay Safe
      IACOJ

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      • #4
        Our FD had a fire in one of these houses while it was under construction this summer. It was nearly complete. The fire started in the garage that was not drywalled. From that experience, I would have to agree with the other two posts- it burns just the same. The floor still got soft, the trusses still burned out, and the smoke was still thick- in fact maybe even thicker and it was a strange red color. It looked like someone had picked up a huge hand full of rust dust and blew it all around the house. Edit: The styrofoam was the primary source of fuel since the garage was not filled yet. It provided sufficient fuel that the first engine pulled a 2 1/2" to knockdown the fire. If this were burning out a vented window on a house with vinyl siding, it would provide the same exposure challenges as any other house.
        Last edited by Standpipe; 09-13-2006, 03:40 PM.

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