A year after a fire that killed a New York police captain, his wife, and two teenaged daughters, code and fire safety officials continue to weigh in on the safety of sustainable building materials that impacted the spread of the blaze.
Investigators determined that the fire at the Carmel, New York, home, which was built with a sustainable type of wood panel, was initiated by the police captain's son, who discarded a cigarette in a mulch bed near the home. A member of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team told NFPA Journal last year that "the home's [lightweight] construction definitely aided the spread of the fire."
Since the fire, there hasn't been much headway in updating or altering the city's building codes, states a recent article in The Journal News. Experts say that lightweight construction, when combined with other measures, is safe. However, research reports, including one released last year by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, note that fire can compromise this material. "With fires, these types of products are more likely to cause structural failures than traditional lumber," Robert Solomon, NFPA's division manager of Building Fire Protection, tells The Journal News. "It's a concern for homeowners and firefighters."
Solomon said that home fire sprinklers are another safeguard against rapid fire spread in homes built with sustainable materials, but he also notes that "the building lobby has been effective in not making sprinklers mandatory." What has occured in the New York town where the fire occurred is outreach efforts by firefighters to instruct the public on fire prevention and home escape planning.
Read more about the concerns of green building design in NFPA Journal.