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Texas bans fire codes in 70% of its counties

Texas bans fire codes in 70% of its counties - Dallas News, Sports, Weather and Traffic from The Dallas Morning News

Despite fears that a fire code would force businesses to spend big sums on compliance, many problems can be fixed for little or no money, with the inspector serving as an adviser, Bliss said. Codes tend to teach more than punish.

“The application of a fire code is 95 percent educational,” Bliss said.

Bruce Johnson, director of fire-service activities for the International Code Council, said codes have been proved to save lives and property for a fraction of the cost of disasters.

In addition to those killed or hurt, the West blast may have caused $100 million in damage. The investigation cost $1 million more.

Experts have estimated that $40,000 worth of sprinklers might have prevented it.

via Texas bans fire codes in 70% of its counties – Dallas News, Sports, Weather and Traffic from The Dallas Morning News.

Photo of building destroyed by West, Texas explosion – by State Farm

Smoke-Protected Assembly Seating

From the 2006 International Fire Code, “Smoke-protected Assembly Seating” is defined as: Seating served by means of egress that is not subject to smoke accumulation within or under a structure.

Well, apparently there is more to this definition than what the code defines, as local authority having jurisdictions may have a worksheet designers need to complete to prove it. And there’s more (and other codes that should be referenced)…

From Egress Design Solutions: A Guide to Evacuation and Crowd Management Planning:

ImageSo if the designer can show that an assembly area has smoke-protected assembly seating, then there are less stringent egress requirements.

Birmingham Airport Sign Collapse

Click through for this long-form article about the events leading up to the installation of an airport video display that collapsed and killed a 10 year old boy. For those of us in the design/engineering profession, it is always important to thoroughly check and comment on shop drawings that come through.

airport-sign-collapse-evolution-of-a-tragedyjpg-bcb480f9fd6a0b02

Fish used the architect’s design drawings to create the shop drawings. Shop drawings obtained through the records request show that they were completed Aug. 15, 2012. An employee of Brasfield & Gorrie approved the drawings on Aug. 17, 2012, and an architect with KPS approved them on Aug. 19, 2012.

In a change from earlier designs, the Fish shop drawings called for MDF to be used for the front of the display. Instead of a three-quarter-inch sheet of MDF as the core of the display panel’s front, the new design used three layers which together were 1.75 inches thick.

The change as drawn added more weight to the front. Some of the heaviest materials in the display were now to hang over open space.

via Birmingham airport sign collapse: The making of a tragedy | al.com.

Outlets in Fire-Rated Walls

One thing for electrical and RCDD designers to look out for are outlets located in fire-rated walls. Generally, you find fire-rated walls around stairwells, elevators and elevator equipment rooms, and they also separate sections of a building that are different occupancy ratings. To know for sure, one should reference the Life Safety Plans usually issued by the architect.

For electrical and low-voltage outlets located in fire-rated walls, some sort of fire-rating material needs to be added to the back of the box to maintain the integrity of the wall. Fortunately, Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certifies products for what it calls “membrane penetrations” of fire-resistance rated wall assemblies. There are three types of material technologies: putty pads, insert pads, and gaskets.  From a UL publication on the subject:

Putty pads are putty like products installed on the outer surfaces of an electrical box prior to installation in the gypsum board membrane on the wall. Insert pads are for installation on the inside back surface of the box. Finally, gaskets are for installation under the cover plate of the box. These later two products may be installed after the gypsum membrane is in place. Each of these products are Classified for use in specific types of fire resistive designs when installed in accordance with the details provided in each Classification.

To find available manufacturers and products, you can search the UL database.
http://database.ul.com/cgi-bin/XYV/template/LISEXT/1FRAME/index.html
Search for QCSN under UL Category Code.

More from the UL publication:

The information in each Classification includes 

1. the model numbers covered,
2. the type and size of electrical box covered,
3. a description of the fire-resistance rated wall assemblies covered,
4. the specific method for the installation of the product,
5. the type of cover plate covered, and
6. the required spacing between boxes on opposite sides of the wall.

As practical and informed designers, we can make sure we specify these products in the appropriate section, require these outlet locations be shown and identified on the shop drawings, and make site observations during construction to double-check their installation.

SpecSeal Putty Pads from Specified Technologies Inc.

Aeronautical Software Completes A 130-Year-Old Architectural Puzzle

Aeronautical Software Completes A 130-Year-Old Architectural Puzzle | Co.Design: business + innovation + design

Rising 566 feet into the air, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família is the tallest church on Earth. To walk through its cathedral is to walk through a forest sculpted in stone. Thin pillars reach into the heavens, supporting the sky with delicate branches. It’s considered more of a sculpture of scripture than a traditional building.

The church, which broke ground in 1886, is the vision of architect Antoni Gaudí. Understanding his was the only genius that could craft it, yet knowing it couldn’t possibly be completed before his death, Gaudí created elaborate plaster models detailing the work. But following his death in the 1930s, war demolished his 3-D blueprints to bits. By the 1970s, progress on the cathedral had come to a stopping point because, nearly 100 years later, no one knew how to finish it.

via Aeronautical Software Completes A 130-Year-Old Architectural Puzzle | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.