Bare Bones Buildings

by William Baker, (M.ASCE), Partner and Director of Structural Engineering; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago, IL,
Hal Iyengar, (F.ASCE), Senior Consultant; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago, IL,
Robert Sinn, (M.ASCE), Associate Partner; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago, IL,
Ronald Johnson, (M.ASCE), Associate Partner; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago, IL,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1996, Vol. 66, Issue 11, Pg. 42-45

Document Type: Feature article


A new approach to fire engineering opens possibilities of designing buildings in which the structural skeleton is part of the architectural statement. Fire and corrosion requirements used to make it difficult to use exposed steel in buildings. Various methods over the years have been used, such as flame shielding and intumescent coatings, but these methods also obscure the steel. Since the work about 15 years ago by Margaret Law in the 1980's, and full-scale testing in the U.S. and the U.K., more analytical methods have developed. The current state-of-the-art procedure has four steps. Designers determine the fire load based on the combustible material present or on a code-prescribed magnitude. Then they characterize the fire and flame profile, and the duration of the fire. They consider the compartment and window openings and ventilation. They use empirical fire engineering equations to do this. The process is described in detail. The authors give three examples of buildings for which the architectural design was greatly enhanced through the use of exposed steel and where this fire engineering method was used to ensure its safe use.

Subject Headings: Fires | Building design | Steel | Architecture | Architectural engineering | Windows | Ventilation

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