Build Better for Fire Safety

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  • March 19, 2020

A raging fire, reportedly with 100 ft. high flames, engulfed the Avalon River Mews luxury condominium complex in Edgewater, NJ in the year 2000.  The complex, which was nearing completion of construction at the time, was destroyed.  Residents from eight nearby homes had to be evacuated as the intense fire continued to spread. Some residents scrambled to get family members, pets, belongings and cherished memories out of their homes, while some were so stunned they didn’t know what to do.  Miraculously, there was no loss of life.

More destruction previously occurred in 2015 when another massive inferno spread through apartments at the same site destroying more than half of the 408 units. Miraculously, there was no loss of life at that time either.

Since the 2015 fire in Edgewater, several pieces of legislation have been introduced in New Jersey to strengthen its fire safety codes.  The Bills have made some progress but nothing has yet been adopted.  NJ A250 and NJ S1448, “Establishes fire safety standards and protocols for certain light-frame residential construction; requires placards identifying primary structural systems of buildings”, were introduced January 14, 2020 and February 13, 2020 respectively.

NJ A250 and NJ S1448 include the appropriate requirements to safeguard workers, the general public and first responders.  Some of which are:

  • noncombustible materials for fire partitions and horizontal separations
  • fire watch warden 24 hours a day during construction
  • automatic sprinkler system
  • fire-resistance rating of at least 2 hours
  • placards identifying the primary structural system

Masonry materials are cost competitive choice building materials to build better for fire safety.  They are noncombustible, sustainable and functional building materials that:

  • increase thermal mass
  • add insulation and lowers utility bills
  • lowers insurance rates
  • withstands fire and water used to extinguish fires

Fires continue to blaze in light-frame multi housing structures throughout the state of New Jersey and across the country, warranting the need to build with stronger codes and protocols. Using a higher standard of guidelines will put safer construction methods into practicewhich will help to prevent fires and the devastation they cause during construction and throughout occupancy.

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We are also following other Bills recently introduced pertaining to fire safety:

  • S2051 – “Establishes fire safety standards and protocols for certain light frame residential construction; requires project labor agreements for this construction; requires placards identifying primary structural systems of buildings.”
  • S1455 – “Requires certain residential buildings to have fire barriers in common attic areas.”
  • S1342 – “Prohibits certain light frame residential construction in densely populated census tracts; establishes construction requirements for certain light frame residential construction in other census tracts.”
  • S1328 – “Requires health care facilities be built according to Type I or Type II construction standards.”
  • S1406 – “Requires bidders on public works construction projects to submit information on fire safety features.”
  • A2889 – “Requires evaluation of appropriateness of light frame construction for multiple dwellings and imposes moratorium on light frame construction until determination and recommendations are adopted.”