These unit costs are at the low end of the scale of manufactures, ranking with inexpensive foodstuffs, and are lower than those of most other familiar consumer products.
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This scale of cost is a rough index of the value or utility of the commodity to society. Food, although essential, is relatively easy to produce; aircraft, at the high end of the scale, perform a desirable function but do so with complex and expensive mechanisms that command much higher unit prices which reflect not only the materials and labour required to produce them but also substantial capital and research investments.
Buildings fall nearer to food in value; they are ubiquitous and essential, yet the services consumers expect them to provide can be supplied with relatively unsophisticated technology and inexpensive materials. Thus there has been a tendency for building construction to remain in the realm of low technology, for there has been relatively little incentive to invest in research given consumer expectations.
Modern building practices
Within this general economic context , there are a number of specific parameters that affect the cost of buildings. First are government building codes , which are enacted to protect public health and safety; these take the form of both prescriptive and performance requirements. Structural requirements include description of the loads buildings must support, beginning with the constant everyday loads of building contents imposed by gravity and extending to the less frequent but more extreme loadings of wind and earthquake forces. These are specified on a statistical basis, usually the maximum expected to occur with a year frequency.
Safety factors for materials are specified to allow for accidental overloading and lapses of quality control. Economic considerations are also reflected; for example, buildings must perform well under normal gravity loads, but no code requires a building to resist direct exposure to the wind and low-pressure effects of a tornado, for its cost would be prohibitive. Planning and zoning requirements provide for height and floor area limitations and building setbacks from lot lines to ensure adequate light and air to adjoining properties.
Zoning regulations also establish requirements for permitted building usages, parking spaces, and landscaping and even set standards for the visual appearance of buildings. Another example is requirements for building atmosphere conditions; these include minimum but not maximum temperatures and rates of air change to dilute odours and provide an adequate oxygen supply. Life-safety requirements include adequate stairways for emergency exits, emergency lighting, smoke detection and control systems, and fire-resistant building materials.
Sanitation requirements include adequate numbers of plumbing fixtures and proper pipe sizes. Electrical requirements include wire sizes, construction requirements for safety, and location of outlets.
Beyond the government standards there are market standards, which reflect user expectations for buildings. One example is elevator systems; elevators are not required by building codes, but in the United States, for example, the number of elevators in office buildings is calculated based on a maximum waiting period of 30 seconds. Cooling of building atmospheres is also not required by code but is provided in climates and building types where the marketplace has shown it to be cost-effective.
Construction Safety Standards
Building systems and components are perceived as having two dimensions of value. One is the purely functional dimension: the structure is expected to resist loads, the roof must keep out rain. The other is the aesthetic or psychic dimension: stone is perceived as more durable than wood; an elevator system with a waiting time of 30 seconds is preferable to one with a waiting time of two minutes.
For these perceived differences many users are willing to pay more.
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When symbolic buildings such as temples, cathedrals, and palaces play an important role in society, the aesthetic dimension is important in valuing buildings; for example, the Parthenon of Athens or Chartres Cathedral commanded a level of investment in their economies that might be roughly compared to the U. Apollo space program. But in most buildings the functional dimension of value is dominant. Because of its relatively low level of technology, wide geographic distribution, highly variable demand, and wide variety of building products, the building industry in industrialized countries is subdivided into many small enterprises.
This lack of centralization tends to discourage research and keeps building components sturdy and simple, following well-tried formulas.
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Within this diversity there are a number of fairly well-defined markets based on building types; these include low-rise residential buildings, low-rise commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings, high-rise buildings, and long-span buildings. A somewhat similar pattern is found in eastern Europe, although the building industry there is more centralized. There is also a much smaller low-rise residential market, with most new housing being provided in high-rise buildings.
Each of these Directives has specific requirements that deal with particular issues relating to the product or the application, but there are some common areas. The Building Regulations apply to the construction of new buildings or the major refurbishment or change of use of existing buildings.
Most of the Regulations are concerned with the design of the building, the materials that can be used, the size of the drains, the gutters, etc.
With respect to fire safety, there are also regulations that define how long an escape route can be, how big the stairway must be for a certain number of people, the provision of fire hydrants and so forth. There are also some parts that relate to fire detection. Once the building is in use, the Fire Safety Order takes over.
It is the fire risk assessment carried out under the Order that determines what fire safety and detection products are needed. The simplest way for an employer to ensure they comply with the law is to comply with a recognised standard, and in the UK BS and BS are the standards for commercial and residential properties. All of these laws are in the main complaints-driven. Generally speaking a product must be marked with the CE mark for it to be sold in Europe. The CE mark is a legal tool — a declaration made by the manufacturer that the product complies with all appropriate European Directives on the date that the product is sold.
For some products the manufacturer can self-declare that the product complies, but in the case of the CPR and EN 54 for fire detection and alarm products the product must be independently tested to the appropriate standard by a recognized test house. Fire alarm products may also have to comply with other directives, such as the LVD and EMCD, but for these directives compliance can be self-declared by the manufacturer or importer. In the case of fire detection and alarm products, the European Parliament issued a mandate, M, to the European Committee for Standardisation CEN to draft standards that could be used for the assessment of fire alarm products.
CEN gave its appropriately-experienced technical committee, TC72, the Directive to prepare the necessary standards. Work was already in hand on the EN 54 series of standards as a result of insurance considerations, and it was proposed that they should be the standards that answered the mandate M This proposal was adopted, and EN 54 has become the set of standards against which all fire detection and alarm products sold in the European Union must be tested and certified.
Each part of EN 54 deals with a specific product or system requirement and there are currently parts from 2 to Part 1 is an introductory section that describes how the other parts fit together to make a system. EN 54 specifies an extremely robust set of tests for each type of unit which may form part of a fire detection and alarm system. These tests must be undertaken in a fully-approved nominated testing house. The tests are designed to ensure that fire alarm and detection products will perform safely under all the conditions which the product can be reasonably expected to experience.
Therefore the testing phase is exhaustive and includes:. Once a product has passed all the testing required by EN 54 to be completed by an approved body, it must be certified as such. This is done by means of a Declaration of Performance, an official document in which the conformity of the product to the appropriate standards is declared and illustrated with reference to specific product characteristics. Once the appropriate Declarations of Performance have been completed, the product may be CE marked. Although construction fire safety law is a large and complex area, when it comes to your fire alarm and detection systems there are really only a couple of simple things to bear in mind to ensure the systems you use are properly tested and certified as compliant with the most recent — and most stringent — legislation and standards.
All applicable UK legislation and best practice guidelines — and indeed, common sense — suggest that your construction site and its staff must be protected by a suitable fire alarm system. EN54 is the appropriate standard to use to test fire detection and alarm system components.
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Its use is mandatory in buildings, so logically it is appropriate for temporary sites as well as permanent buildings. BS is the code of practice for fire alarm systems and is used for temporary accommodation units, therefore it is logical to use it for construction sites. Paul Henson BSc, Sales and Marketing Director, has a background in wireless technology within the construction sector.
He has been active in the design, patenting and development of a range of wireless emergency technology for the UK and European construction market. Subscribe here for FREE. Specifying a fire alarm system for a construction site. A serious outbreak of fire in a tall tower under construction in Dubai.