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Looking_back_600x400It was billed as the largest, safest, most modern hotel west of New York City. But it wasn't.

Built in 1909, Chicago’s 22-story LaSalle Hotel had a walnut-paneled lobby with marble floors, several dining rooms, and a roof garden. A central elevator shaft provided access to 1,000 guest rooms.It also had combustible acoustic ceiling tiles, hollow pockets in the walls and ceilings, combustible rugs and furnishings, and an open light well that ran from the lobby to the roof. It had no sprinklers, fire alarm system, or firestops in the ventilation shafts.

The fire that put the lie to the hotel's claim of perfect fire safety started on June 6, 1946, and killed 61 people. Another 200 were injured. To read more about the deadliest hotel fire in Chicago's history, read "Chicago's LaSalle Hotel Fire" in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.


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Dr. Lou Gritzo of FM Global, Amanda Kimball of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, Brian Meacham of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Daniel O'Connor with AON Fire Protection and Tracy Vecchiarelli with NFPA made up today's panel to discuss fire safety and sustainable building design. 

This subject was the topic of a recent Fire Protection Research Foundation symposium that brough together fire protection and architect communities to discuss thoughts and ideas on sustainability. The proceedings from this symposium are available online

Today's panelists summarized some of the issues and ideas brought up there. Green building has become a global focus, however fire safety considerations and potential fire hazards have not been systematically studied. A recent Research Foundation and WPI study looked at fire incidents in order to identify and develop a set of green elements that increased fire risk nd decreased safety, including new facade materials, new insulation and roofing materials, photovoltaic panels and more. 

Good fire protection is integral to sustainability, all panelists reinforced. A fire in a green building may increase emissions and the negative impact by a factor of 3. For this reason, current green certifications and codes/standards should begin to include fire safety considerations for green buildings and elements. Please download the presentation for more details, [The Intersection of Fire Safety and Sustainable Building Design |] (free, requires sign-in). 


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