Alternatives to Enclosed Elevator Lobbies

In multi-story buildings, elevator shafts can act like chimneys as they enable large amounts of air to move from floor to floor. Just as they enable the movement of air, elevator shafts can also transport smoke throughout a building in the case of a fire.

As smoke rises upwards, it easily seeps through elevator doors and onto other floors. Because of the vertical nature of an elevator shaft, a fire can easily affect each floor and therefore needs to be specifically addressed to properly manage and compartmentalize fire and smoke.

When a building contains 3 or more stories connected by an elevator shaft, the International Building Code (IBC) requires architects to isolate each floor from the elevator shaft. In order to provide both smoke and fire protection, design teams must incorporate a fire-rated, enclosed elevator lobby onto each floor. The most typical application is a self-contained fire-rated box that surrounds the elevator. While this may be the most common solution, it is far from ideal.

Enclosed elevator lobbies can be highly intrusive to the design process as they take up quite a bit of space. Over the years, new systems and techniques have been developed to achieve similar, if not better, results without sacrificing aesthetics. Furthermore, the IBC has adjusted to allow for a few exceptions.

A rolling magnetic gasketing system works to create a smoke barrier at the elevator shaft opening. The system deploys a reinforced, transparent, polymide film when smoke is detected in the area. The edges of the film have flexible magnetic strips that attach to metal rails on either side of the elevator doorway and thus creates an almost airtight seal. Combined with fire-rated elevator doors, the magnetic gasketing system provides the smoke protection necessary to comply with fire safety codes.

This system eliminates the need to incorporate an enclosed elevator lobby within the design of the building and therefore returns an incredible amount of space to the floor plan. Rather than containing the smoke within a couple hundred square feet, the rolling magnetic gasketing system contains the smoke right in front of the elevator door opening that is a mere 3 inches deep.

A rolling magnetic gasketing systems can be maintained by facility managers or maintenance staff. They should be deployed every 6 months to ensure functionality in the event of an emergency. Regular testing does not require the oversight of an engineer or licensed 3rd party.

If you are looking for an alternative to an enclosed elevator lobby, Smoke Guard California has a variety of options to ensure fire and smoke safety without compromising design. Contact us today for more information and specifications.