The fire-resistant qualities of concrete masonry units (block) are a significant factor for its use in buildings such as schools, retail establishments and commercial buildings.
Block structures are inherently more fire-resistant than other building materials and experience minimal water damage in the event of a fire. In most cases, block construction will keep damage outside of the fire compartment to a minimum. This characteristic results in reduced cleanup costs and quicker reoccupation of the structure.
The Southeast Concrete Masonry Association conducted a cost study for structures built with block, wood and light steel framing. The concrete masonry unit cost was situated in the middle of the three, costing just a few dollars more per square foot than wood, which can suffer much more significant damage in the case of fire.
The cost-effectiveness of block is further bolstered by the fact that many insurance providers will offer discounts on buildings made with concrete masonry units due to their non-combustible nature.
Concrete masonry units offer buildings a level of fire compartmentalization – effective containment of the blaze. Structures built with block can help minimize fire damage by containing the flames to certain areas of the building, while also withstanding extreme heat and water pressure from fire hoses more effectively than other fire-resistant materials.
The material’s ability to serve as a barrier in preventing the passage of flames and hot gases to other compartments puts it head and shoulders above other materials. Concrete masonry walls can offer a fire rating of up to four hours, depending on the wall’s thickness, unit density and the amount of grout used. This rating buys time for fire personnel to save both property and human life.