FCIA Promotes ‘Triad’ Solution

Chicago is the birthplace of the high-rise building and has been a world leader in building safety after the great Chicago fire in 1871. We applaud Mayor Daley, the City Council and the High Rise Building Safety Committee chaired by Alderman Bernard Stone for facilitating public discussion about fire and life safety in Chicago's buildings.

During recent testimony at the City Council, we were saddened to hear from senior citizens as well as building owners and managers that might have to move elsewhere or shutter buildings due to the expense of the high-rise building sprinkler mandate.

We, like this committee, believe Chicagoans should be protected from fire and smoke in buildings. However, we need to keep the economics of living and employing in Chicago affordable. We offer another solution. The National Association of State Fire Marshals president, Jim Burns, stated to FCIA Tuesday, February 24, 2004, "The balanced approach to fire safety through the 'Triad' of Fire Protection" is the best strategy for fire and life safety. We, too, believe implementation of the "Triad" is the solution for Chicago.

The Triad consists of effective compartmentation with firestopping; detection such as alarms; and suppression such as sprinkler systems. Compartmentation consists of fire resistance-rated (one, two or three hours) floor and wall assemblies, with smoke treatments that contain the smoke and fire to the room of origin. Firestopping seals the many holes made by wiring and other elements against fire and smoke spread, both horizontally and vertically.

FCIA has offered the Committee and City Council an alternative strategy to continue Chicago's leadership position in building safety. Effective compartmentation should be the first phase in the high-rise safety retrofit process. Fireproof compartments already exist because Chicago's older buildings were designed using brick, concrete and fire-resistant plaster and gypsum as a result of the Chicago Fire of 1871. Sealing the holes with firestopping, fire dampers and fire doors for much less than the cost of other alternatives should be the first step towards completion of the Triad.

Chicago can lead the rest of the country by protecting buildings with the least expensive option in the fire protection Triad, first by using compartmentation costing about $0.50 to $3.50 per sq. ft. The city could extended the time mandated to implement the Triad systems as can be afforded, economically and practically, allowing business and residents the ability to absorb costs associated with sprinkler systems. BOMA Chicago cites sprinkler costs at around $10 to $18 per sq. ft., not including asbestos removal at approximately $18 to $25 per sq. ft.

The benefits of compartmentation are clear: Limit fire and smoke spread to the room of origin, contain the fire and save lives economically. Since compartmentation is in Chicago's older buildings already, why not take advantage of it by firestopping and sealing the holes first?

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