Adding Smoke Protection to Fire-Rated Elevator Doors

In the event of a fire, fire-rated elevator doors can help in an evacuation, leading to saved lives. However, they can also cause increased smoke distribution if not properly protected.

For several decades, the use of elevators as a means of egress during fires was not recommended. However, in recent years, there has been a major shift of opinion concerning the role elevators can play in emergency situations.

Today, a code-compliant elevator system with fire-rated elevator doors can greatly speed up evacuation times and help firefighters navigate through multiple floors with more ease. When elevator doors are also configured for smoke protection, an extra layer of safety is added that greatly benefits emergency response teams and the building’s occupants.

Let’s take a look at how you can add smoke protection to fire-rated elevator doors, improve their functionality during emergencies, and adhere to the International Building Code (IBC) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) elevator code.

Traditional Elevator Fire Protection Methods

Buildings with multiple floors often pose a challenge when it comes to designing the elevator system. This is especially true with high rise buildings. Elevator shafts can act as chimneys during a fire, giving smoke and flames a fast way to travel from floor-to-floor. This potential danger makes elevator smoke protection one of the most important considerations for architects and engineers.

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According to the IBC, buildings that have three or more stories connected by an elevator shaft must be designed in a way that isolates each floor from the elevator shaft. The traditional solution to meet this code has been to design a fire-rated enclosed elevator lobby that separates the elevator shaft from the rest of the building. In addition, incorporating a self-contained fire-rated box surrounding the elevator also helps prevent the spread of smoke and fire.

While these additions meet fire code requirements, they often take up a lot of extra space from a design standpoint and add significant building costs to the project. However, in recent years more advancements have been made to meet or exceed the level of fire and smoke protection of traditional methods without the use of extra building space and added costs.

Fire-Rated Elevator Doors Using Fire and Smoke Curtains

Smoke-rated curtains help keep smoke from traveling through the elevator shaft and onto multiple floors. When smoke is detected, a reinforced, transparent, polyimide film is deployed. The film’s edges have flexible magnetic strips that attach to metal rails on either side of the elevator doorway, creating a seal that is virtually airtight.

When this type of curtain is combined with fire-rated elevator doors, it provides the smoke protection necessary to comply with building codes. They can be installed into the elevator door frame and cannot be seen unless they are deployed. These curtains can also connect to a building’s overall fire and smoke control system or remain separate.

SG Architectural Specialties provides a smoke- and draft-control assembly that is mounted above the elevator door frame and deploys on the face of the elevator door frame, allowing the elevator to work without interference from the smoke curtain.

Smoke Guard’s M200 and M400 smoke curtains provide comprehensive and code-compliant smoke and draft opening protection. These units are easy to install in elevator openings and integrate seamlessly with existing fire protection systems to quickly bring a structure up to code.

Rather than using a contained elevator lobby to control the smoke within a couple hundred square feet, these curtains contain the smoke right in front of the elevator door, creating a more controlled and concise containment method. Following are some of the main reasons why these curtains are an ideal option for fire-rated elevator doors.

1. No Interference With Elevator Functionality

A rolling, magnetic, gasketing system creates a smoke barrier at the elevator shaft opening. This system allows for maximum protection and flexibility. Smoke curtains, like the ones developed by Smoke Guard, come without side guides, which means they are virtually undetectable when not deployed and, therefore, can be integrated into almost any building’s design.

2. Benefits for Both Fire Fighters and Building Occupants

Smoke Guard’s fire and smoke curtains are available in an orange transparent material which provides a line of sight for firefighters and anyone who may be in the elevator at the time of an emergency.

The transparency enables firefighters and occupants to not have to blindly enter a floor. Because of the magnetic, gasketing system, these curtains are easy to push aside to pass through and then will snap back into place, allowing people on and off the elevators quickly and safely.

3. Ideal for High-Security Buildings

These fire- and smoke-rated curtains are also an ideal choice for financial institutions and other buildings that may require an extra level of security. These curtains provide smoke control without compromising additional security measures that are required for things like safes or keycard entry doors.

Do You Need Code Compliant Elevator Doors?

SG Specialties is the leading provider of smoke- and fire-rated curtains other life safety products in the California and Nevada area. Contact us to learn more about our complete line of smoke and fire-rated curtains and doors and see how we can help you find the right solutions for safety and comfort in your building.