Understanding Construction “Types”

Building Construction: Part 1

The late Frank Brannigan, author of the renowned text Building Construction for the Fire Service, is often quoted for his famous saying,

“The building is your enemy… know your enemy.”

To help you know the “enemy,”  in this section we will explain how our modern building codes classify “types of construction,” how to identify them, and what many building code requirements might mean to fire suppression forces.

The major model building codes describe construction and establish occupancy life safety, fire protection and fire resistance requirements based on five “types of construction.” The codes use Roman numerals I through V to classify buildings. In general, buildings that have a lower Roman numeral (I and II) are allowed to be larger and taller than those with a higher number (III-IV-V). Once you learn this building code shorthand, you will better understand how the construction codes work.

The following table summarizes just one element of the different construction types. The materials that make up the components of the structural frame, bearing walls or floors or ceilings generally must be noncombustible or may be combustible depending upon the construction type.

Types of Construction

Types of Construction

For additional information, refer to International Building Code®, Chapter 6, NFPA 5000TM, Building Construction and Safety CodeTM, Chapter 7, or NFPATM 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction.

Knowledge Check: Can you identify where combustible and noncombustible descriptions are used in the model building codes “types of construction” categories?