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Townhouse Firewall

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Was there s fire suppression system? 

What's with big CMU wall? Is that how the units are separated? 

My guess is that when the building was built, the designers and the city agreed that separation walls in the attic were unnecessary, for who-knows-what reason. Perhaps because a sprinkler system was present, or because the units were separated by masonry walls, or maybe someone just paid off the building official. 


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This might not be so unusual.  In the IBC, table 506.2 lists the allowable floor area of a building based on occupancy type and construction type.  If this building is of type III construction (exterior walls built of noncombustible materials) then even without sprinklers it could have a floor area of 16,000 square feet for any type of residential occupancy.  

So it's not so crazy to think that back in 1974 they wouldn't have required a fire wall anywhere in this building -- if it's type III.  

If the exterior wall is combustible then you're down to probably a 7,000 square feet limit, and so at least one fire wall probably would have been required depending on the sizes of the units.

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You called it a town house. What are the rules? Is it part of a condominium complex with townhouse style condos? If so, who is responsible for the attic and crawlspace areas - you or the HOA? If the HOA, they have a right to padlock it and keep you out of there. You can still request access once a year to check to ensure that any vents from your home remain properly connected to their terminals at the roof, but that's about all. If you are responsible for maintenance of any part of that, find whoever has the key and demand a copy for your own use.

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I don't know who was responsible for the attic.  My dryer stopped drying so I checked the vent.  It was packed solid with lint.  I went up in the attic to remove the vent and clear it.  That is when I noticed the lack of fire walls.  At the time I had no idea that I would want to be a HI so I didn't think about anything other than security.  I am the one who padlocked the access.  

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