Lightweight construction can fail rapidly when exposed to heat.

- Chief Danny Sheridan, FDNY

  - Jersey City Fire Chief Mike Terpak

“In the modern home plastics are now the norm more than the exception, a pound of synthetic materials is equal to two pounds of cellulose based materials, we now are seeing fires that have way more energy than before.”
“Larger square footage properties often at times present more of challenge simply due to their size and design. Increased ceiling heights, larger rooms and limited door closures will allow for rapid fire  growth within and throughout the structure. Add the probability of light weight construction and your concerns become compounded. ”


The evolution from legacy to modern lightweight construction has resulted in structures that exhibit significant differences in heat flux, heat transfer, temperatures, and energy release rates when fires



Construction differences such as larger volumes, open floor plans, higher-flammability contents, and engineered support systems have resulted in significantly shorter firefighting operational time for firefighting and shorter time to collapse under fire conditions.


Home contents now include increased uses of flammable synthetic materials such as plastics, foams, and textiles.


In general, modern residential structures are larger in interior volume than legacy residences.


This is certainly true of single-family residences, but can also be observed in the design of multi-family structures, such as the mixed-use pedestal-style construction that has become common.


This larger volume of air facilitates the growth and sustainment of a fire.


Open floor plan designs used in modern construction limit compartmentalization of fires, contributing to rapid smoke and fire spread, making fires more difficult to contain.


Homes now produce more energy and produce more unburned fuels, which accumulates and spreads throughout a structure, and moves with the flow path. Rapid fire spread, explosive ignition of this heated unburned fuel, or flashover can occur quickly when oxygen is introduced.

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Photography provided by:

FDNY Battalion Commander Danny Sheridan

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