If I had a dollar for every time I had been asked “Why fireproof?—steel doesn’t burn”, I would spend my winters on a tropical island. I’m writing this here in Connecticut, and it’s snowing, so it is a fair assumption that I did not get my dollar.
It is true that you may need 3 to 4 thousand degrees to “melt” steel, but it is also true that at a relatively low temperature (1100°F+) steel will lose nearly 50% of its design strength. (FYI- A normal fire may be in the 1800°F to 2000°F range.)
Fireproofing protects that steel structure for a given period of time-or rating. More accurately, fireproofing protects the steel from high heat (presumably from a fire) thus preserving the strength of the structural member and consequentially, the stability of the structure.
Stability of the structure is extremely critical as you, the occupant, need time to get out and the 1st responders need time to go in.
- Time for occupants to get out.
- Time for the firemen to go in.
- A means to maintain structural stability.
Unfortunately and for a lot of reasons, fireproofing is a very science based application. Thickness, coverage, adhesion, cohesion, internal molecular bonding, environmental concerns, substrates, paints, primers – all impact the application and all are technical in nature. To understand the impact of these technicalities requires knowledge for the preparation of project documents – thru the application process – and eventually thru the verification procedures.
Our mission is to provide that knowledge free from the bias and persuasion of a commercial agenda.
While the code of Hammurabi may seem a bit extreme by today’s standards it does illustrate the point that building codes, structural collapse, and concern for fires go back a long way. In fact, there is reference to Augustus Caesar’s concern with building collapse such that laws were passed limiting building heights to 70 feet. We also know that Nero, Emperor of Rome, had code troubles with his counsel and may have burned down Rome to prove his point that fire codes are needed.
Today, we have the advantage of history. We’re familiar with the loss of life and property that have occurred over centuries due to catastrophic fires around our great country and the world.
These catastrophes have however laid the groundwork for today’s study of fire prevention and safety. Fire safety has developed as a science, particularly over the last few decades. Fire protection is not a task to be done only because code requires it, but must be applied for the protection of property and the value of human life itself.
Passive fire protection is a critical element of any structures’ design that needs to be embraced by architects, designers and everyone associated with quality building construction.
Obviously, what’s at stake here are people’s lives. So, as a professional, the fact that you are reading this material indicates you have an interest in your ongoing career education. We feel we can help with that…through our books, building blocks and other material you’ll find on this website.
If you’d like to learn more about Fireproofing rules, regulations, and “how-to’s”, take a closer look at any of our Educational Materials.