Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shopping Plaza Fire shows why need to take a look at Sprinkler and Building Codes

 Well once again building construction techniques have out grown building codes. There was a fire this past week at Natrona Heights  Shopping center along Freeport Road  old Pa. 28 

While this shopping center was old I do believe it was sprinklered but that did  little good  when a fire possibly started by an electrical malfunction broke out in the facade overhanging the shopping center.Where there are no sprinkler heads.
Over the years facades keep getting bigger and more ornate as they dress and jazz up old shopping plazas.
But as you can see by the article there are many draw back's when they catch fire because they often do not put in any kind of firewalls or breaks the fire just takes off and once it hits the combustible roofing material there's no stopping it.
With newer construction you could easily add a couple of Nitrogen filled  dry sprinkler heads in the facade but codes do not even require that ,and to retrofit and do it the costs would be enormous.
So we have all this infrastructure hanging up there waiting for a fire to happen and as you can see major devastation some estimates are over $10 Million Dollars .

All it took was either a light fixture underneath lighting the walkway  to malfunction and catch fire or it was not properly wired and grounded in the first place and this contributed to it. More than likely it was caused by a poorly wired sign  how many times have I seen Neon or Fluorescent Signs wired improperly and not grounded.  A good case for Arc Fault Breakers to be mandated. But you will never see it  because the trip too easily and even if you change the code contractors are still going to cut corners every way they can when an inspector is not looking and in many cases these facades are never inspected properly .
Metal facades in particular need to be grounded to the  electrical service ground  to prevent these kinds of fires . Myself and others have been calling for this to be put in the code but no one listens  as usual I had a case many years ago at the Old Laseks Lounge in Oakland where an improperly  wired sign with ballast  almost caught a roof on fire because it was not grounded but had the metal facade the sign was attached to  been grounded to the electrical service  properly even thou the signs wire  was not properly grounded the breaker still would have tripped.  just a simple piece of no#6 copper wire between the facade and the electrical service. We bond pools and all metal around them for a reason to prevent shock and fire we should be doing the same to metal facades as well.

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