Fire safety is crucial in building structures, and it is vital to understand the effect of fire on different materials. The impact of fire depends on various factors like chemical composition, temperature, and environment. Do you know the impact of fire on concrete structures? In this article, we will discuss how fire-safe concrete is, what makes it fire-safe, and the risks of using concrete, among other things.
Concrete and fire
Concrete is one of the most widely used materials for any civil engineering construction. Right from buildings to bridges, all make use of concrete. The key benefits of using concrete are its cost-effectiveness, speed of construction, availability, and ease of construction. But one of the often ignored benefits of using concrete is the protection it offers from fire. Concrete by itself is non-combustible, which means it cannot catch fire on its own, nor does it spread the fire. This makes concrete a fire-safe material for building structures.
Does fire weaken concrete?
As pointed out earlier, concrete is fire-resistant, so heat damage to concrete is negligible. It requires no other form of a protective layer to safeguard itself, and its properties remain the same over a period of time. Environmental factors do not affect it, unlike metal, which gets damaged over time due to corrosion in humidity and air.
Another benefit of the non-combustible nature of concrete is that it does not emit any harmful gases or fumes in case of a fire. It ensures the residents are safe from any toxic fumes that could prove to be fatal or life-threatening.
Lastly, concrete does not react with water. It does not melt or disintegrate when it comes in contact with water. As water is one of the primary fire extinguishing agents, concrete's non-reactive nature proves beneficial.
Overall, concrete is a very safe material to use in structures, as it is cost-effective against fire. Naturally, this is why concrete is used so widely in different building structures.
Risks and effect on a concrete slab after fire
While concrete offers a wide range of protection against fire, it is essential to consider the risks and effects of a fire situation with concrete structures.
Exposed combustible ingredients: Structures like buildings, bridges, roads, etc., are not solely made of concrete. They have an inner base consisting of other items used in it as well. For example, iron roads are used to build the framework of a bridge. Similarly, in households, wood and iron may be used along with concrete. In this situation, it is essential to ensure materials vulnerable to fire are not exposed. If these components are exposed, there is a risk of spreading the fire despite the use of concrete. For example, if a portion of an iron rod is exposed on the bridge, the same may catch fire and melt. It would also further weaken the inner structure by radiating the heat internally, thereby risking the complete breakdown of the structure. Thus, one must keep such exposed areas in check.
Quality of concrete: There are various kinds of concrete available such as normal, pre-cast, lightweight, etc. Each performs distinctly in different situations. Choosing the appropriate type of concrete is vital, depending upon the purpose and risk of fire. Another aspect of quality is concrete adulteration. Sometimes, lower-quality concrete may have filler materials like sand, gravel, silicon, etc., which may not provide the same degree of safety as pure concrete. Thus, one must ensure that concrete does not have any such impurity in it.
While concrete is safe in itself, other small issues can still cause damage to structures due to the fire.
Precautions to be taken after a fire on a concrete structure
Here are certain points that need to be taken care of after a fire:
Inspection: The first step after a fire is to inspect all areas thoroughly. This will help in understanding the extent of the damage.
Deeper assessment: The assessment will conclude testing through various scientific methods, such as inspection by drilling, ultrasonic devices, etc. It helps in understanding any internal damage that may not be visible to the naked eye.
Lab testing: Lab testing concrete after a fire allows us to understand the extent of the damage. It is crucial to avoid future damages. It will also expose any quality issues in the concrete.
Repair: Lastly, one must immediately undertake repairs to offset the damage caused by the fire.
Whether you are a homeowner, warehouse owner, or factory owner, if you need any form of assistance in building or designing, Design Everest can help you maximize safety and enhance your living experience. Design Everest is an architecture and engineering firm with a team of expert architects, engineers, and designers. Hire Design Everest to build any concrete structure and make it fire safe. Contact us for more details.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.