When speaking of non-combustible construction, I am referring to the definition given in the building code. The code allows for combustible materials, but such materials must comply with flame spread and smoke development standards. A typical, non-compliant sofa can burst into flames and reach temperatures close to 1,900 degrees F in under 30 seconds, according to tests performed by the insurance underwriters industry.
The comment about boiling water in a plastic bottle is irrelevant for a couple of reasons. Plastic does not need to melt in order to fail. It, like steel, merely needs to deform. Also, the free-swinging bottle was not constrained in any way. Pipes passing through joists and studs must have somewhere to expand. Expanding into a nail or screw will definitely cause failure.
My argument is still the same: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Eliminate the combustion supporting materials in a home, or cover it with fireproofing, then no need for sprinklers.
Using plastic to carry fire water is the most absurd thing I can think of for a fire protection system.
Since all the quotes I have seen for sprinkler installations come from staunch proponents of sprinklers, such one-sided information is suspect, at best.
Water supply is a definite issue, in spite of anecdotes to the contrary. I recently worked on renovation of some living centers inhabited by people of varying degrees of mental disabilities. These residences are controlled by the state, and, as such required sprinklers. We attempted to pursuade the state officials that the water supply did not comply with any of the NFPA sprinkler regulations, but we were forced to install sprinklers onto a water system that could not support them.
The cheap spinklers that proponents use in their rediculously low estimates are not only unsightly, but they are fully exposed in the room. Apparently, the proponents do not have children and know nothing about them. Even with the strictest of warnings, children will throw things in the house, things which could cause a head to fail and issue forth water, if enough is available. How much of the house would be damaged before the water to the entire house would be shut off. Then, since such incidences only happen after all the businesses are closed, how long will it be before the house is fully "protected" again? My hunch is that the pipe will be plugged and the head will never be replaced.
To make matters even worse, the lowest cost systems use the fewest heads. As such, the heads will likely be unbalanced in a space. Unless one is prepared to shell out the extra bucks for recessed heads, these are quite ugly, and tend to make a house appear as a cheap hotel.
Have you seen the red signs beside all sprinklers in a hotel, warning guests that sprinklers are not coat hangers? If people use sprinkler heads for coat hangers in a hotel, doesn't it follow that they will do the same at home?
One must face the fact that sprinklers have nothing to do with fire prevention. Sprinklers, if working properly, will not discharge until a fire has already started, and then only after a certain temperature is reached at the location of the sprinkler. A fire could smolder for hours in a house before reaching critical temperature, and all inside would expire from smoke inhalation.
Rather than react to a fire, my preferred position is to reduce the liklihood of a fire igniting, and once ignited, that it has little chance of lasting or spreading. The building codes call this Type II construction, or non-combustible. In such structures all the structural components are non-combustible. Concealed spaces are fire-blocked. Furnishes and finishes must have a flame spread rating of less than 25 and smoke development of less than 450. I consider wood-framed buildings to be constructed of kindling, and filled with loosely packed newspaper, a fire waiting for a spark. I belive that any structure erected in compliance with IBC Type IIB construction will go much farther toward fire prevention than any 50 cent sprinkler.
I am pleased to see that no one, at least so far, has proposed a "light" building code. The ICC codes are already minimums by which to build, so making anything "lighter" is actually sub-code.
Also, sophisticated design, such as seismic resistant structures, generally require professionals. However, it should be easy to arrive at a manual of "parts", that, when assembled in any approved manner, will be code compliant.
Additionally, seismic design is no longer based on zones, as done back in the day. Instead, soil reports are required. Soil conditions can vary widely in a distance as short as 20 feet, so I could imagine the island perforated with boring holes from one end to the other. Such investigation also does not come cheaply, and requires time.
It would seem easy to just say to design to the worst condition for the whole island, but that may be extreme overkill and overly costly. It would likely pay to perform due dilligence.
Given the limited materials in Haiti and the extreme slowness of masonry construction, I am inclined to go with the shipping containers. All modifications can be made stateside, as is currently done for mission projects for other nations. The shipping containers are strong and can be stacked several high. Dwell magazine shows the use of a combination of containers and stick building to arrive at a spacious and pleasant home. Our troops in Afghanistan are living in "short" containers, two per container.
Ventilation is not an issue, as the units can be modified to include additional doors and windows. The "short" units are only 16 feet long, and the Japanese style cooling system could be used in them. Also in the Japanese style, the doors at either end of the container could be opened during a hurricane to allow the winds to move through the house, rather than moving the house. These containers are designed for exposure to all weather condition on the high seas, and are connected only at the four corners, so they should be able to withstand a hurricane and at least some magnitude of a seismic event.
Containers shipped to Haiti, and assembled with cranes and laborers seem to be the quickest and most secure method of getting people off the streets and out of cardboard boxes.
While the container modification is taking place stateside, local infrastructure could be mobilized, so that once the containers arrive, they are literally plugged in and ready to go.
The issue I have with sprinklers is that the horse is already out of the barn before anything is done. To me, it makes more sense to reduce the flammability of home construction and items within the home, much as is done for commercial buildings.
Several fire programs have shown the mock-up of a living room built according to residential codes and finished and furnished with readily available and legal products. A fire started in a trash can by a lit cigarette developed to consume the entire room in less than 30 seconds.
If homes were constructed of non-combustible materials and finished and furnished with materials having a flame spread rating of no more than 50 and smoke development of less than 450, sprinklers would be moot.
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