Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MA Fire Chief Blames Everything on Modular Construction

Kevin Gallagher, the small town fire chief that blames modular construction for all the world's problems, is at it again. Only this time he is more subtle than ever. He writes a column for FireEngineering and guess how he begins EVERY headline: Modular Concerns:


I just finished reading and rereading his latest column about the fire dangers of solar glazed reflective windows and even though the headline contained the words Modular Concerns, I only found a vague reference to modular and that was the erroneous statements he made about modular construction causing a house to burn rather than the home owner actually setting his own house on fire.

Here is his article:

MODULAR CONCERNS: THE DANGERS OF SUNLIGHT REFLECTED OFF ENERGY-EFFICIENT WINDOWS

By Kevin A. Gallagher, 09/19/2014, FireEngineering

Back in October 2013, I wrote an article for this column on the very real phenomenon of sunlight reflecting off energy efficient windows and causing damage to vinyl siding. As that article noted, the nationwide push for greater energy efficiency has resulted in the adoption of stricter energy codes. Reducing our carbon footprint is the goal, but sometimes this can result in unexpected consequences.

The October 2013 article discussed several examples of vinyl siding becoming distorted in some cases and melted in others. The amount of heat reflected off these windows is—in some cases—great enough to cause damage from considerable distance.

Fortunately, this is not one of those pesky issues from which the various industries are running away. The National Association of Home Builders recognizes the problem, and the Vinyl Siding Institute has issued an advisory on solar reflection and heat distortion. The problem, it appears, is getting to a solution.

There does not appear to be a real concern about this concentrated heat energy at these levels igniting vinyl siding. The authors of the University of California report state, “The auto-ignition temperature of vinyl siding varies with the specific vinyl compound formulation and test conditions, but it is typically reported around 730 degrees F.

For comparison, the auto-ignition temperature of wood, another common siding material, is typically reported in the temperature range of 400 to 500 degrees F.” Well, this seems like good news. 


However, the authors of the report strike this concern, stating, “Vinyl siding will shrink, char, and expose its backing material well before it reaches its auto-ignition temperature. Therefore, if any fire hazards from highly concentrated radiation need to be considered, the focus should be on materials surrounding and backing the vinyl siding, not the siding itself.”


The concerns, however, are other materials igniting because of reflected heat from vinyl windows. I mentioned the old cigarette in a dried-out flower box origin and cause with which we are all familiar. The damage from that scenario can be excessive.

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