#4 – Fire Sprinklers: Offsetting the dangers of lightweight construction

Offsetting fire risk with fire sprinklers in the modern home. 


The phrase “house of cards” has for several decades now become a frightening and startling reality for home owners and the firefighters dispatched to a structural fire. Even before a firefighter takes one step inside a residential home, he has been trained to evaluate and observe what type of construction has been used.
Lightweight construction (LWC) involves either wood frame or steel building materials where the roof and/or floor supporting systems are constructed of lightweight prefabricated materials. Wooden I-beams are used extensively in today’s wood-frame construction. These typically consist of particle board and dimension lumber less than 2×4 inches to form the I-beam shape, and are often finger jointed and glued together to create longer length beams. The startling truth is lightweight construction has been the leading cause of death for homeowners and firefighters since the 1960’s.
Residential fires spread not due to faulty construction or contractor negligence. Fire spread occurs due to a fire’s specific taste and appetite for certain materials it can digest the quickest in the shortest amount of time; lightweight construction material is by far the material of choice. By not having a proactive fire protection system and protective barricades in place to preserve the structure of the home, fires will build their strength and increase their ferocity until there is nothing left standing in their wake.
An example is truss system failures. Testimonials of firefighters from the field highlight their fear of structural truss failure occurring as they’re taking their first steps into a residential home or commercial building. A well-known example of the devastating outcome of truss system failure occurred on July 1, 1988, at a Ford dealership in Hackensack, NJ. After the failure of a bowstring truss roof, six firefighters were trapped and five were killed.
“It is critically important to understand that building structures will fail more quickly when constructed of lightweight materials. Time is a major factor that is working against firefighters, and a delayed response will have a direct adverse impact on the outcome of the call,” warns John F. Lightbody, Chairman of the Master Plan Committee, New Jersey Fire Safety Commission.
Incorporating fire sprinkler systems can offset the dangers presented by lightweight construction material. These proven systems can alleviate the burden on residents who can potentially lose their lives and possessions, but also minimize the burden on fire servicemen and servicewomen in a modern fire environment.
There are certainly advantages to using cost effective building materials and saving time during job site installation. Here at QRFS, we completely understand this type of initial foresight and incentive. However, homeowners should always be left with the option of taking any cost savings from building materials and incorporate them into a value-adding fire sprinkler system. Having an option of outfitting the home with a fire sprinkler system is a great incentive for future construction business in the surrounding community and has countless safety benefits.
For more information on lightweight construction material, please see:
If you’d like a free consultation on equipping your home with life-saving fire sprinklers, contact us here. We will discuss the costs and benefits and if you decide to proceed we will connect you with a qualified – and trusted – local contractor to proceed with estimating and installation.

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