Posted on October 30, 2020

Precast Concrete: The Perfect Material for Fire Resistance

Art Macaw | Team Sales Engineer

In today’s paper where I live, one of the headlines was, “Blaze destroys condo project.” The story goes on to describe how fire fighters doused the wood and steel structure with water. The building was a total loss. Fortunately no lives were lost and no one was injured fighting the fire.

One of the most destructive forces in our world is fire. Fires and fighting fires destroys buildings, infrastructure, and sadly takes lives.

ArtMacaw_FireResistance-1While fire destroyed this house, you can see that the concrete brickwork is still standing

It therefore makes the most sense to construct our buildings, whether it be apartments, hotels, office buildings, aging in place structures, or schools, out of a product that simply does not burn, or even support combustion.

The perfect material for such an application is precast concrete. Depending on design, precast concrete can be made to hold its structural integrity for up to 4 hours, without additional fire protection. Time enough to evacuate the building, time enough to fight the fire.

There are other building materials: structural steel, wood, heavy duty steel stud and masonry.  All of these materials function structurally, but structural steel requires additional fire protection material. Wood and heavy duty steel stud require multiple layers of drywall. With masonry construction, it is not possible to provide the structural integrity as efficiently as precast concrete. Furthermore, some of the fire-proofing material deteriorates over time, or can be damaged, making them ineffective. Not to mention the added cost and the additional time during construction to install the fire proofing.

A well-designed total precast concrete building can withstand and contain a fire, protecting the occupants of adjacent units, and make it much safer to evacuate the building and fight the fire.

By making the choice to use precast concrete, there are many additional benefits beyond fire resistance including:

  • Compressing the construction schedule by up to 50%.
  • The high performance concrete used in precast is extremely durable, lasting much longer than other materials, reducing the cost of ownership over the life of the building.
  • When designed to do so a precast building can act as a heat sink, storing both heat in the winter and cooling in the summer, reducing the energy load of the building.
  • By using the building as a heat sink, its possible to reduce the size of the HVAC equipment, saving up-front cost.

By making the choice to use precast concrete, not only is the building a safer and more durable, but energy demand will be lower over the building’s life It is a great life safety choice and a good choice for the environment as well.

Art Macaw P. Eng.

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