A fire is a devastating event for any building, whether it’s a commercial building or a residential building. You probably already know that entire communities can be destroyed in areas where wildfire is a threat, but even densely populated areas can be a huge fire hazard. Look no further than the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 where over 17,000 buildings were destroyed and 300 lives were lost.
A seemingly simple solution would be to think about building materials that don’t burn, and then use those materials to construct buildings in areas where the threat of fire looms large. Can concrete buildings burn down? How about brick, stone, and metal?
These types of materials technically don’t burn, but if that’s the case, why aren’t more buildings constructed out of things like brick and concrete?
There’s More to Consider Than the Building Itself
One of the first things to consider is the fact that there’s a lot more to the building than the building itself. It’s those things that can bring a building to the ground.
For example, if firewood is piled next to the building or if brush is allowed to grow around the foundation, it will feed the flames, giving them time to catch. Of course, a house is full of items that can catch fire and ultimately burn the house down, like pillows, blankets, and clothing. Even something as simple as leaving the garage door open can cause a building to burn down. Garages are often full of flammable items, not to mention, the open door can fan flames that are trying to take hold inside the structure.
So, can concrete buildings burn down? It turns out that even concrete can be susceptible to fire.
Additional Dangers Besides Burning
Let’s say a contractor is in the midst of building a concrete structure. There is no room on the construction site for brush to grow around the foundation, and the structure is completely empty. It turns out that it’s still susceptible to fire.
If you’re asking, “Can concrete buildings burn down?”, you are asking the wrong question.
Just because the structure doesn’t burn down doesn’t mean it’s structurally sound. Extreme heat, even in the absence of flames, can make concrete brittle and it can warp metal. The building will have to be rebuilt anyway, even though it technically didn’t burn and fall to the ground.
That’s not all! It doesn’t matter if you’re building with some nonflammable materials, there are other materials you’re using that are flammable. This is especially important to consider if you’re constructing a building, because there will be lengths of time that those materials are exposed.
Some plumbing materials can melt when exposed to fire, even if they don’t burn. The plastic can melt in high temperatures too, even if it isn’t directly exposed to fire. The days the crew is installing insulation can be especially dangerous. Even if you’re using insulation that doesn’t burn, materials like fiberglass can still melt, causing plenty of damage.
Smoke is a real issue too. Although it can’t compromise the structural integrity of a building, it can still make a huge mess and cause health problems. It can also be extremely expensive to clean properly, not to mention, all that cleaning is time consuming.
Can concrete buildings burn down? Yes, they can, and because the answer is yes, you shouldn’t skimp on insurance. That means making sure fire protection is included on your personal homeowner’s insurance policy, but it also means builders would do well to include it in their builder’s risk insurance policy.
Have more questions about fire protection and what it entails? Contact DJM Insurance and we would be happy to talk to you about our builder’s risk policies.