5 Types of Construction to Know

Types of construction cover the various methods for creating structures, buildings, and infrastructure. The International Building Code (IBC) identifies five main types of building construction, each with its unique characteristics: fire-resistive, noncombustible, ordinary, heavy timber, and wood-framed.

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Types of construction cover the various methods for creating structures, buildings, and infrastructure. The International Building Code (IBC) identifies five main types of building construction, each with its unique characteristics: fire-resistive, noncombustible, ordinary, heavy timber, and wood-framed.

From structures that withstand intense heat to those designed for heavy timber aesthetics, these classifications form the backbone of how we bring blueprints to reality during each construction project.

Five Types of Construction

The IBC lays out five key types of construction, each with its characteristics and considerations. These categories include:

Type I: Fire-Resistive Construction

Typically found in high-rise commercial construction and residential domains, Type I structures boast a robust blend of reinforced concrete and steel. These buildings are constructed with meticulous attention to detail and are the safest in a fire. Their fire-resistive ratings extend across internal partitions, roof and floor assemblies, and support walls.

These construction types are not susceptible to structural failure and have an impressive fire resistance of up to four hours. However, Type I buildings crafted from steel will likely face gradual corrosion.

Type II: Non-Combustible Construction

Often found in modern commercial structures like expansive shopping malls, Type II constructions are generally crafted from lightweight concrete, metals, and masonry, making them primarily noncombustible material but not immune to potential collapse.

Their robust construction incorporates fire suppression systems. But while they can resist fire for up to two hours, depending on the construction materials, they are generally likely to collapse, particularly due to the nature of their roofs, which cannot resist high temperatures.

Type III: Ordinary Construction

Known as brick and joist structures, Type III buildings feature a mix of construction materials. The exterior walls are typically made of a noncombustible material like reinforced concrete or masonry, while interior building elements such as frames, floors, and ceilings may include combustible materials.

This construction type is common in schools, residential areas, and small commercial spaces. The strategic combination of materials ensures these buildings can endure, standing tall even if confronted with a fire.

However, it’s essential to note that connected horizontal void spaces in many Type III buildings could aid rapid fire spread unless equipped with fire stops.

Type IV: Heavy Timber Construction

Type IV buildings are structures dominated by substantial wooden beams ― think old churches, factories, or barns with robust structural beams interconnected by metal plates and bolts.

In Type IV construction, you find heavy timber inside for interior walls and framing, while the exterior walls can be crafted from non-rated materials. The timber framings are made with thicker, stronger beams, enhancing its resistance to fire. 

If the exterior of an 8-inch timber beam chars in a fire, it will burn slowly, allowing sprinkler systems enough time to extinguish the flames and occupants extra escape time before any potential collapse.

However, metal joints may break at high temperatures, especially in industrial settings where hazards like oil, machinery, or goods can escalate the fire’s severity.

Type V: Wood-Framed Construction

Type V construction primarily features wood framing for both interior and exterior elements. This type of building is common in single-family residential homes, restaurants, and other small commercial projects.

With predominantly wooden walls, floors, and roofs, Type V construction is a budget-friendly and widespread choice. While it allows for easier construction, it comes with lower fire resistance compared to other types, stressing the need for vigilant fire safety measures such as comprehensive sprinkler systems and strategic firebreaks in these structures.

Why Construction Types Matter

Understanding the different construction types is essential for a successful building project. Think of it like the compass that guides every construction building’s success.

The IBC classifications are not mere jargon; they help define a building’s purpose, decide on square footage, and gauge height. Each classification in the construction industry also plays a vital role in the following:

  • Determining the building’s occupant load
  • Figuring out the types of materials to use in the construction
  • Fortifying against fire
  • Plotting exits
  • Determining the need for sprinklers
  • Deciding how close the building should be to other structures
  • Strategizing window placements

Being familiar with these construction types is important in making savvy decisions for upcoming projects and ensuring compliance with building and local codes.

Remember, the IBC primarily addresses the construction methods used in buildings. It’s essential not to confuse this with the diverse array of construction projects, such as:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Institutional
  • Mixed-use

Each of these construction projects has its distinctive characteristics, scope, and requirements tailored to its specific purpose and choice of building materials. Read our detailed guide to learn more about the permitting requirements for the various construction projects.

Deciding on the Ideal Construction Type for Your Building

Understanding the ins and outs of each construction type will help you make smart decisions about construction materials and their ability to withstand fires.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Buildings under Type I are made with materials designed to handle high heat. These materials are tough, offering a robust three to four hours of protection against fire.

For Type IV and Type V constructions, how well they resist fire is directly tied to the thickness of the materials. Generally, you can count on about one hour of fire resistance for every 1.5 inches of wood thickness.

Besides fire-resistance considerations, it’s important to factor in the following when determining the ideal construction type for your building:

  • Purpose: The building’s purpose guides the choice of materials and the project scope. Whether it’s residential, commercial, or educational, each purpose determines the construction methods and materials.
  • Size: Larger buildings demand sturdier construction types featuring long spans and robust roofing systems. Size also determines the sprinkler thresholds and the demands of fire protection systems.
  • Load-bearing capacity: As a building grows, its size impacts how much weight it can carry. You must select a construction type suitable for the size and load the building is designed to comfortably carry. For instance, wood may be charming but unsuitable for towering multi-level structures.
  • Cost: The project cost influences material choices, labor quality, and the overall project scope. Lower construction types generally mean a lighter financial load compared to their more elaborate counterparts.

In a nutshell, Type I construction is at the pinnacle of building stringency, using practices and materials that provide top-notch fire projection. On the flip side, Type V construction represents the least stringent category regarding fire protection standards.

Remember, no matter which construction type you choose, make sure to follow the applicable building and local codes.

Working With Building Experts to Navigate Building Codes and Regulations

As you may have figured, navigating the complexities of every building code and regulation can be confusing, especially when going on the journey without expert guidance.

Beyond choosing the construction type that best suits your project, there is no escaping the paperwork involved in obtaining necessary permits. Remember, permitting isn’t just a formality; it’s the official green light from relevant authorities, indicating that your proposed project aligns with local building standards and regulations — a crucial must-have.

This is where permitting experts like GreenLite come into the picture. At GreenLite, we specialize in making the permit acquisition process fast, predictable, and transparent. Let our expert team handle your permitting needs so you can focus on growing your business.







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