Precast concrete provides noncombustible construction that can help contain a fire within minimal boundaries. As a separation wall, precast concrete helps to prevent a fire from spreading throughout a building or jumping between structures. During wildfires, precast concrete walls help provide protection to human life and the occupant’s possessions. As an exterior wall, concrete that endures a fire can often be reused when the building is retrofitted.
A key goal for the design team and the client is to protect the building from the multiple risks and losses caused by fire. A common misconception is that fire destroys by flames that can basically be suppressed by sprinklers. In practice, this oversimplification can leave both property and human life vulnerable during a fire.
Below are some goals that must be achieved when designing for fire safety:
Contain high heat, which can melt or ignite materials or kill in one breath.
Contain smoke that can blind, choke, and ruin building components and contents. Unfortunately, because the sprinkler suppression process often generates it, smoke is unavoidable.
Contain toxic gas, which is given off when plastics, synthetics, and chemicals burn. They can be deadly at any temperature.
Confine the fire event to its place of origin and prevent it from spreading. Reduce the fuel content of the building by using non-combustible building materials whenever possible.
Avoid the potential for structural collapse during the fire by protecting all structural framing elements that support the building.
Create a passive fire-protection strategy for the building that will enable it to survive should arson, low water pressure, or a delayed fire-department response occur.
Recognize that building codes provide the minimum protection allowable and may not be enough to achieve the fire protection the building and its occupants will need. Each risk exposure requires a defense.
Divide the building into several noncombustible compartments that will help achieve solutions for all the aforementioned hazards. This is the most important aspect of all.
Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. Report on Fire Tests Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. (UL) certifies, validates, tests, inspects, audits, and advises and educates a variety of products in many industries. PCI sponsored a series of fire tests conducted at the UL. The reports from these tests are below.
Concrete and Masonry Industry Firesafety Committee Position Statements The National Codes and Standards Council of the Concrete and Masonry Industries as well as the Concrete and Masonry Industry Fire Safety Committee produced the following publications. PCI was a member organization of these groups.