Washington, D.C. — The construction phase of any building represents a relatively short period of time in the lifespan of a structure and a unique set of risk scenarios are present. Completed and occupied buildings are much less vulnerable to fire than those still in the construction phase.
A fire broke out in an under-construction building in Maryland earlier this week; fortunately, there were no serious injuries, although two firefighters did suffer minor injuries according to Fire Chief Benjamin M. Barksdale.
Construction of buildings this size has repeatedly been approved by the very building officials that must enforce our nation’s building codes. These construction experts recognize that construction fires represent just a tiny fraction of structure fires in this country, less than 1 percent. And, the most frequent cause of these fires is cooking equipment brought onto the job site or improper construction hot work, both causes that can be easily remediated through better job site education, training and oversight. Understandably, fires in buildings under construction have drawn a lot of media attention lately, but the remedy is improved construction site practices, not additional legislation that bypasses the expertise of building officials.
“Our national building codes, including those used in Maryland, are the culmination of extensive work and research done by building and fire code officials, architects, and engineers establishing precise requirements for safe construction. To legislate counter to these construction experts simply does not make sense,” said American Wood Council (AWC) President and CEO Robert Glowinski. “As those experts all know, there are many materials used in building construction that are vulnerable to fire until required passive and active fire safety measures are in place and operational. Even noncombustible structures constructed from steel and concrete are affected by fire and can fail, as we’ve seen in several examples nationwide over the last month.”
“This is a national challenge and we are working with the International Code Council (ICC) and other national experts to find solutions. To assist in improved construction safety practices at jobsites, AWC provides information, manuals, and videos to help prevent construction fires, which can be found at www.ConstructionFire.com.”