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440

BUILDING

SOCIETIES

Building' Societies. — United Kingdom (for in case of an interior fire the damage may be confined to the description, see Ency. Brit. iv. 513). By an Act passed place in which it originates, and that the efficiency of the weight-carrying supports shall not be destroyed. in 1894 all the Benefit Building Societies established under Fireproof Experience has proved that unprotected steel the Act of 1836 after the year 1856 were required to become incorporated under the Act of 1874. There are, theretfoo *raC" and iron are not fireProof—wlien heated to a fore, three categories of building societies :—1. Those dull red heat they lose their efficiency—but that it is difficult, if not impossible, to heat metal, which established before 1856, which have not been incorporated is embedded in masonry or protected by a substantial and under the Act of 1874 and remain under the Act of 1836. proper fireproof covering, to the point at which its strength 2. Those established before 1874 under the Act of 1836, is seriously impaired. Unless the building is surrounded which have been incorporated under the Act of 1874. 3. by fireproof structures, the danger from exterior conflagra- Those which have been established since the Act of 1874 tion is infinitely greater than from interior fires, and is was passed. The first class still act by means of trustees. usually greater on the rear and sides than on the public Of these societies about 70 are still in existence, the streets. When there is a possibility that a mass of flame principal one being the Birkbeck. As most of them are from the conflagration of adjacent property may be driven of fifty years’ standing or more, they are well established, by wind against the exterior walls, the windows should be and are still increasing their business. The second and protected by fireproof shutters (wood covered by metal has third classes exceed 2000 in number, and have passed proved the most efficient), or the sash should be covered through some vicissitudes since the article in the ninth with metal and glazed with wire-glass, or with very small edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica was written. For panes of thick plate-gass in metal sash. In warehouses several years their progress was steady, but there were not and shops and structures erected to contain large quantities wanting signs that their prosperity was unsubstantial. A of inflammable material, there should be used the least practice of receiving deposits repayable at call had sprung possible amount of material which is at all affected by fire, up, which must lead to embarrassment where the funds and every precaution should be observed to isolate the are invested in loans repayable during a long term of years. different floors and sections in case of conflagration. The It was surmised, if not actually known, that many societies lifts should be enclosed in masonry shafts, and should have had large amounts of property on their hands, which had self-closing fireproof doors, and the staircases should be been reduced into possession in consequence of the default built in masonry enclosures shut off from the lifts by of borrowers in paying their instalments. A practice had similar doors. In hotels, apartments, and office buildings also grown up of establishing mushroom societies, which the mass of inflammable material which they contain is so did little more than pay fees to the promoters. The small that unless there has been careless or improper con- vicious system of trafficking in advances that had been struction a fire is readily confined to the place in which it awarded by ballot, near akin to gambling, prevailed in originates until it can be extinguished; but the staircases many societies. These signs of weakness had been obshould be built as far as possible from the lifts, and if served by the well-informed, and the disastrous failure of a they are constructed with stone treads laid on metal large society incorporated under the Act of 1874, er strings, the treads and platforms should be supported the Liberator, which had in fact long ceased gt*r „ throughout their entire surface by metal, that they may to do any genuine building society business, afford safe footing for the tenants and for firemen in case hastened the crisis. This society had drawn funds to the they are shattered by the action of heat, water, or falling amount of more than a million sterling from provident people in all classes of the population and all parts of the material. Very tall buildings should be supplied with special country by specious representations, and had applied those arrangements to facilitate the extinction of fire, since the funds not to the legitimate purpose of a building society, longitudinal strength of a fire hose is not great but to the support of other undertakings in which the same Fire persons were concerned who were the active managers of enough to permit it to to support its own weight ext act on. jf hoisted a sufficient height to the society. The consequence was that the whole group of reach the upper storeys, and passing the hose in and out concerns became insolvent, and the Liberator depositors of windows or up staircases to give it the necessary and shareholders were defrauded of every penny of their support is both difficult and untrustworthy. It has investments. Many of them suffered great distress from become the practice to erect at convenient points within the loss of their savings, and some were absolutely ruined. the building steel stand-pipes, generally 6 inches in The result was to weaken confidence in building societies diameter, extending from the pavement to the roof, pro- generally, though this was not quite logical, inasmuch as vided at each storey with double branches and plugs of the the Liberator Society had long ceased to do any legitimate dimension and pitch of screw to receive the regulation building society business ", but it was very marked in the fire-hose connexion. Sufficient lengths of hose are con- rapid decline of the amount of the capital of the incorporated stantly connected to these stand-pipes to reach all parts of building societies. From its highest point (nearly 54 the building. At the bottom is a check-valve. A branch millions) reached in 1887, it fell to below 43 millions in is connected with the house tank so that the stand-pipes 1895. On some societies, which had adopted the deposit are constantly kept full of water, and as far as the supply system, a run was made, and several were unable to stand of the tank is concerned are immediately efficient in case it. The Birkbeck Society was for two days besieged by an of fire. At the pavement proper screw plugs are provided anxious crowd of depositors clamouring to withdraw, their to make connexions with the town steam fire-engines, money 5 but luckily for that society, and for the building and at the tank a check-valve is provided to act against societies generally, a very large portion of its funds was the fire-engine pressure. The whole system is tested to a invested in easily convertible securities, and it was enabled pressure of 300 lb to the inch. With careful construction, by that means to get sufficient assistance from the Bank the best materials, and good workmanship throughout, of England to pay every depositor who asked for his money there is no reason why a very tall building which depends without a moment’s hesitation. Its credit was so firmly upon a steel cage for its stability should not be as sub- established by this means that many persons sought to stantial, durable, and fireproof as a structure of ordinary pay money in. Had this very large society succumbed height, with interior columns and girders of iron, and the the results would have been disastrous to the whole bod) of building societies. As the case stood, the energetic ordinary fireproof floor construction. (g. b. p.)