Metal buildings have long been a popular choice in the eyes of insurance agencies because of their durability. Man-made steel is strong enough to withstand hurricane-force winds and even earthquakes. The combination of a metal frame and gypsum board interior panels creates the perfect recipe for a building with low-fire risk. It’s an insurance agent’s dream! The result is a building that is long-lasting and lowers your overall insurance costs over time. Here’s how fire safety works in metal buildings.
Fire Safety: Building with non-combustible steel
Prefabricated metal buildings are designed and erected using cold-formed steel, the most competitive building material for reducing structure flammability. For buildings that only require a basic overhead structure, like warehouses or manufacturing facilities, this may be enough. But as you start to build out the interior of your structure, there are further steps to take for maximum fire safety to meet code.
Customizing your assembly for fire-resistance codes
At high temperatures, metal can still be substantially damaged. Fire safety standards and codes require the building to be correctly installed with fire-resistant building materials. These requirements are set by the International Building Code (IBC), The International Code Council (ICC), and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA). Metal buildings are also designed with local fire codes in mind.
Your fire safety requirements will change based on what your building will be used for. For example, structures that require separate occupancies, like residential or hospitality buildings, need fire-resistant rated wall assemblies. Structures like assisted living facilities may also require fire-resistant floor and wall assemblies.
Protecting metal for fire-resistant building
During the initial design process for prefabricated metal buildings, a comprehensive approach should be taken towards fire safety. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) recommends a design that incorporates three essential elements of fire protection: detection, compartmentalization, and suppression. This means taking both a proactive and reactive approach to fire safety. Sprinkler systems may be required based on a floor plan and occupancy to react to a fire situation.
However, Coastal Steel Structures is initially focused on proactive fire safety, designing a prefabricated metal building to prevent fire emergencies. Historically, metal building frames have been accompanied by gypsum board enclosures to ensure fire protection. A recent study by the MBMA has uncovered new possibilities for spray-applied fire-resistive materials or intumescent coatings.
According to the study, SFRM and intumescent coatings were just as effective for fire protection in buildings that did not have gypsum board enclosures on the interior. This was especially useful in buildings that don’t require a finished interior appearance, like industrial and warehouse buildings. Spray-applied fire-resistive materials have opened the door to new possibilities for fire safety in a variety of architectural schemes. When working with our team to design your prefabricated metal building, be sure to explore your options for fire-resistant building materials and coatings to see which is right for your structure.
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