If you’re in the market for a new building, it’s important for project managers and contractors alike to understand the different types of construction and the advantages of each. 

The Meaning of Building Construction Types

There are five types of building construction: fire-resistive, non-combustible, ordinary combustible, heavy timber, and wood-frame. A fire resistance building construction designation is given to a structure based on the materials used in its construction and how it burns in the event of a fire. 

Type I: Fire-Resistive

Buildings that fall into this category are designed to withstand high temperatures and are highly resistant to fire. This type of construction is most common in commercial buildings, as they often host a large number of people and need to meet strict safety regulations. 

Common Building Materials

The most common materials used in fire-resistive buildings are concrete and steel, as well as other non-combustible materials. 


The obvious advantages of a fire-resistive building are that they are highly resistant to fire and able to withstand high temperatures, making them more durable than other constructions. 


Fire-resistive buildings have many advantages, but they also have a few disadvantages. One downside is that they can be quite expensive to build, and because the roof must also be made with non-combustible materials, ventilation is not an option. 

Type II: Non-Combustive

Non-combustible buildings are designed to limit the spread of fire. They’re constructed with materials that don’t catch fire easily and won’t contribute to the growth of a fire. 

Common Building Materials

These structures often feature reinforced masonry, tilt-slab walls, metals, and lightweight concrete, though flammable materials such as rubber or foam can also be present. 


Non-combustible buildings are very resistant to fire, which makes them a safe option for commercial and industrial buildings. 


Like fire-resistive buildings, non-combustive constructions can be expensive to build. Non-combustive buildings are less resistant to fire than Type I buildings, and they are also the most likely to collapse in the event of a fire. 

Type III: Ordinary

Also called brick-and-joint structures, ordinary buildings are made with combustible materials but are designed to limit the spread of fire with walls that consist of non-combustible components. 

Common Building Materials

Wood is commonly used in the construction of ordinary buildings, namely in the roof and interior structural elements like the frame. Walls are often tilt-slab or reinforced masonry. 


An ordinary structure offers more opportunities for ventilation than Type I and Type II structures. These buildings are popular for schools and homes. 


Because ordinary buildings are made with combustible materials, they’re more likely to be damaged by fire than types I and II. These buildings may also feature horizontal void spaces or connected attics, which may allow fires to spread. 

Type IV: Heavy Timber

Also referred to as mill construction, heavy timber buildings are made with large pieces of wood that have been treated to resist fire. These buildings must also have a sprinkler system installed. 

Common Building Materials

Heavy timber buildings feature wood columns and beams that are at least 8 inches in diameter. The floors and roofs are also made with thick planks of wood. 


Due to their structural mass, heavy timber buildings can withstand fire and are unlikely to collapse. 


Because they are primarily made of wood and other combustible materials, heavy timber structures are susceptible to fire, and it requires a substantial amount of water to extinguish a building of this type when it ignites. 

Type V: Wood-Framed

Wood-framed buildings are among the most common type of construction in the United States, especially when it comes to modern homes. 

Common Building Materials

These structures are made with a wood frame and exterior walls that may be constructed with wood, masonry, or other materials. 


Wood-framed buildings are relatively inexpensive to construct, and they offer a high degree of flexibility when it comes to design. 


Wood is a combustible material, which means that wood-framed buildings are more susceptible to fire than types I-IV. They will burn quickly, and lighter constructions are prone to collapse. 

How Are Fire Resistance Ratings Defined and Assessed?

Fire resistance ratings generally assess the ability of a structure’s elements-such as walls, floors, and roofs-to withstand fire. They are measured in hours, with the ratings indicating how long the element can withstand exposure to fire before it takes significant damage or collapses. 

How to Determine Which Type of Building Construction Suits Your Project

A construction worker in a white hard hat speaks on the phone at a building construction site.

The purpose of the building is perhaps the most important factor to consider when determining which type of building construction is best for your project. If you’re looking to construct a home, for example, wood-framed buildings are a popular and affordable option. However, if you’re looking to construct a school or hospital, you’ll want to opt for a more fire-resistant building type.

You’ll need to consider your budget when determining the type of construction that’s right for your project, as well. Building types I-III are generally more expensive than types IV and V, but they offer better protection against fire. 

Ganneston Construction is Your Partner for Success With All Types of Building Construction

No matter what type of building you’re looking to construct, it’s important to work with a qualified and experienced contractor, who will help you determine the best construction type for your project and ensure that it is built to code.

Ready to start a project? Let our team help. 

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