This is a terrible, terrible loss.Â I never saw the building in person, but we studied it in school and even from photos you can see an elegant, original work of enormous presence and competence.Â It was probably well documented, as it’s a major monument of modern architecture, so it can be restored.Â All the student work and library, not so much…
What I don’t understand is how this happened.Â Buildings with sprinklers don’t burn this way, even if (as is likely) they’re full of dangerous stuff like paint and solvents, and paper.Â Heads need to roll; did some nitwit nix sprinkler installation because the pipes would be ugly?
UPDATE 25/V: a “fire suppression system” but not sprinklers “due to the risk of water damage” was due to be installed in three weeks.Â “In buildings completely protected by fire sprinkler systems, over 99% of fires were controlled by fire sprinklers alone”, says this interesting entry, along withÂ “In Scotland, all new schools are sprinklered.” Canny Scots, indeed, to know the value of the lives of their children so precisely: right in between the cost of new-construction and retrofit sprinklers! If a few students and profs had been incinerated in the art school, I wonder if its flack would have been as insouciant as this: “Early speculation about a water sprinkler system either not working or yet to be installed was brushed away by a spokesman for the school, who said: ‘There has never been a sprinkler system here because of the risk of water damage to fragile artefacts if it were activated in error.'”
In any case, they now have (personal safety aside) the worst possible outcome. In 2004, retrofit sprinkler costs were about $3/ft.2 at the high end, and dry-pipe systems for locations where water damage is a concern are well-developed. If this building had been sprinklered, it would have had a small fire in the basement, promptly extinguished by sprinklers, and one room full of wet stuff. Instead the fire propagated up to the roof while the fire department was en route, the latter pumped a Niagara of water throughout the building, and taxpayers will pay tens of millions for restoration.
Fires happen. Sprinklers are ugly (though they can be hidden at a price); secondary means of egress are expensive, fire doors are a nuisance.Â Right; now lets hear it for those commie oppressive job-killing thug regulators, writing and enforcing codes, that have saved us so much blood and treasure (and the firefighters who go into harm’s way when things go bad, even when the bean-counters and building owners have set them up).
By the way, do you have a nice red 5ABC extinguisher in your kitchen in plain view, near the way out? Is it in date and fully charged? Does everyone in the house know how to use it (aim at the base of the flames!)?