Masonry Cost Study Results in a Win for Balanced Design

The Northwest Concrete Masonry Association has set an important example by using data from the Fire Safe Construction Advisory Council’s cost study research initiative to successfully prevent revisions to the Washington State building code that would have favored sprinkler trade-off rather than balanced design.

Balanced design is a three-part approach: detection, suppression, and containment. Detection is handled by smoke detectors/alarms, suppression comes in the form of sprinklers, and containment is addressed by building with non-combustible materials like masonry and concrete.

Under the present Washington State code, wood-frame buildings are limited to three stories, plus one more story if sprinklers are used. Those seeking a change in the code wanted to allow wood-frame construction to be built to a height of five stories, arguing that was the way to provide affordable housing. The Northwest Concrete Masonry Association, however, trumped their argument using the cost comparison study, which demonstrates that concrete masonry buildings are comparable in cost to wood-frame buildings but offer built-in fire resistance.

The data provided was applicable to Spokane, Washington, and was obtained using a tool developed by the Fire Safe Construction Advisory Council. The National Concrete Masonry Association has supported this effort by assisting with the final publication of the cost study results.

More than 30 cities around the United States took part in the cost study research to demonstrate that costs for “all masonry” construction are on par with wood frame.