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This paper is concerned with the general features and the structural performance of the so-called fireproof building, used in Britain from the end of the 18th century after disastrous fires in very large timber-floored factories. Fireproof construction relied on the use of incombustible materials; brick arch or ‘filler joist’ slab floors are supported on iron beams and columns, between exterior load-bearing masonry walls. The strength of fireproof floors can not generally be proven by calculations alone as it depends on uncertain composite action, which may be verified by load testing or enhanced, for example, by the provision of a new structural topping. The safety record of fireproof buildings over more than two centuries has been very good, but there have been a few failures, some of them catastrophic. Details are given of a number of collapses, including several that have occurred recently. A simple classification of the causes of failure is presented and attention is drawn to guidance for ensuring the future safety of these historic buildings. Thomas Swailes, BSc (Hons), CEng, MIStructE, MICE Lecturer in Structural Engineering, Manchester Centre for Civil & Construction Engineering, UMIST
I am proud to be a structural engineer. I am extremely proud to have been elected President of the Institution of Structural Engineers for 2003-2004, recognising that it is an honour, a challenge and a responsibility. Recognising also that as but one in a long line of presidents my role is to maintain the good stewardship shown by my predecessors – especially those of the past few years – and to ensure the handover of a sound, confident, relevant, valued and welcoming Institution to my successor. In seeking to do this I shall, of course, aim to exert whatever influence the position commands for our collective good, recognise and take advantage of opportunities that arise, recall the eternal truths and values of our Institution and try not to let personal preferences intrude too much on my actions. I say ‘too much’ because every president is an individual, cast in the role, and we each have our own experience, abilities and ways of doing things. Hopefully, we also all have ideas, energy, firmness and tenacity to be placed at the service of the Institution. Whilst it is right that we each bring a degree of fresh thinking and new enthusiasms, I believe that we also recognise the need to avoid palace revolutions, mood swings and random activity as surrogates for progress, improvement and the pursuit of success. So what does it mean to be a structural engineer in 2003 and what should be the role of the professional institution that seeks to advance, control, safeguard and represent its collective interests? What is a structural engineer? What are they for? What do they do? Are they necessary, valued, understood, and appropriate to the imperatives of the modern world? More fundamentally, by what mechanisms might we unearth answers to these and related questions on the role of structural engineers – now and in the future? Professor David Nethercot, FREng, BSc (Eng), PhD, DSc, FIStructE, CEng, FICE, FCGI Dept Civil & Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London