Philly poised to require fire-resistant coatings in new commercial buildings

(Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

(Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

Philadelphia is moving to expand tougher fire safety standards in new construction.  

A bill just approved by a Philadelphia City Council committee would require a fire-resistant coating be put on on roof trusses or other engineered construction materials in new  commercial buildings.


Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer says with the coatings the newer materials could hold together longer, possibly saving occupant or firefighter’s lives.

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“These truss construction could fail within five minutes so with the coating it gives you about an hour protection,” Sawyer said.  “Instead of the structure collapsing, we have a chance to getting in extinguishing the fire and still be in a safe area.”

The National Fire Protective Association says engineered materials burn quicker and can fail faster than traditional materials.  The group says they can fail in a few ways.  Sometimes the connection points can fail when exposed to intense heat.  Other times, the main material burns through.  Since the engineered pieces can provide the same strength as traditional framing with pieces of wood that are smaller, they can bur through more quickly than standard full-dimensional lumber.   

The coatings are already required for new residential structures, this would now expand to commercial ones. Officials say builders are not fighting the change.

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