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Concrete structures more prone to collapse in fires


Sir, I read with great interest your article about the Windsor Building fire in Madrid, Spain (Materials, March 31).

I have been hearing similar misinformation about the fire-resistance here in the United States, albeit to a lesser extent.

I am appalled at what seem like intentional attempts by some representatives of the concrete industry to distract attention from and disguise the fire-induced collapse of a reinforced concrete building.

I hope your paper will see fit to expose this shameful and reprehensible behaviour.

The building in question was entirely a reinforced concrete structure with a central reinforced concrete core and a surrounding system of interior reinforced concrete columns supporting waffle slab floors.The floor slab was cantilevered at the perimeter of the building, where it picked up the metal curtain wall system.

In the investigation of the World Trade Center disaster, it was reported to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology that very few buildings around the world of any type of construction - steel, concrete, masonry or wood - have ever suffered collapse from fire.Yet it was also reported that more reinforced concrete buildings have collapsed in fires worldwide than those of any other type of construction.

Certainly, the public interest would be better served if the representatives of the concrete industry took more interest in addressing the fire safety issues their construction material faces.

Charles J Carter Chief structural engineer American Institute of Steel Construction Chicago USA