Cracking the Fire Code

by Robert W. Fitzgerald, Prof.; Center for Fire Safety Studies, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA,
Jonathan R. Barnett, Prof.; Worcester Polytechnic Institute,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1989, Vol. 59, Issue 5, Pg. 60-62

Document Type: Feature article


Local building codes specify fire resistance for members in buildings and other structures, and structural engineers select materials and assemblies that have passed a standard fire resistance test. There is a more rational way to approach design. Engineers should not assume that structural fire requirements have the same rigor as codes for steel, concrete, and timber. Fire risk is indeterminate because the requirements are prescriptive. We can provide standards by calculation rather than by test, and an even better approach is to provide a rational method for designing structures to resist the applied gravity loads encountered in a fire. We need to define the fire environment, the heat transfer from the fire to the structural members and the response of the structural load-bearing member to high temperatures. There are still gaps in the knowledge about this approach, but research has been published in Europe and is underway here.

Subject Headings: Fire resistance | Cracking | Fires | Standards and codes | Building codes | Load and resistance factor design | Load tests | Gravity loads | Europe

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