While planning for fire safety has always been an integral part of building design, smoke containment has only become an important consideration in recent decades. This is even more true for the elevator shaft.
From increasing evacuation times for building occupants to helping firefighters and first responders quickly navigate building floors, installing elevator smoke curtains with fire-rated elevator doors can greatly enhance the safety of your building during an emergency.
Let’s explore some of the most important things your clients need to know about elevator smoke containment and how you can help them understand the advantages of a properly installed smoke curtain system.
How To Talk About Elevator Smoke Containment
Here are some important things you will want to discuss with your client to make sure they understand the importance of selecting the right smoke protection for their building.
Know about code compliance. To adhere to building and fire codes, any building that is three or more stories tall and includes an elevator system must have both fire and smoke protection that work to isolate each floor. Always follow all national and local code requirements and ensure your building adheres to the International Building Code.
Understand the “stack effect.” The stack effect is the movement of large amounts of air through the elevator shaft due to a difference in air temperature between the air outside of the shaft and the air inside. The stack effect can be very detrimental in an emergency, creating a chimney effect that causes smoke to travel quickly through an elevator shaft up to multiple floors.
Realize smoke is just as dangerous as fire. Smoke is a great threat to the lives of building occupants and can also cause irreparable damage to a structure. A good smoke protection system will protect egress routes so occupants can safely exit the building.
Not all smoke protection is created equally. One of the newer, more effective methods of smoke protection is adding smoke curtains. Smoke curtains are a high-quality smoke control system option that will work for elevators and other parts of a building. We will go more in-depth on this topic below.
Examples of Elevator Smoke Management Systems
Some of the more traditional elevator smoke protection methods include building enclosed elevator lobbies, pressurized elevator shafts or the addition of swinging doors at the elevator opening.
These traditional systems are often the reason why you will see enclosed elevator lobbies in buildings. However, elevator smoke curtains can provide an increase of protection without the extra use of space. Make sure your clients know how smoke curtains work so they see why they are a more reliable, cost-effective choice for their building.
How Do Elevator Smoke Curtains Work?
Elevator smoke curtains are considered a passive smoke management system, meaning they will deploy on loss of power to ensure protection. Additionally, smoke curtains work with fire curtains to redirect smoke using partitions and barriers.
Smoke containment systems deploy when smoke is actively detected in the lobby area. When deployed, they roll down and magnetically adhere to the ferrous elevator door frame to create the required tight-fitting smoke gasket required by building code..
It’s important to remember if smoke is able to travel upward through an elevator shaft, it can do so quickly and spread throughout each floor to create an even greater safety risk.
Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center is a great example of a hospital that used the deployable elevator smoke curtain to add an extra level of protection for their facility. By adding smoke curtains at every elevator on every floor, they'll prevent smoke migration throughout the building and allow their vulnerable population to defend in place.
Benefits of Elevator Smoke Containment
Here are some of the most popular benefits your clients will experience when they install elevator smoke curtains in their buildings. These are very tangible benefits they will see and experience once they have made the decision to use smoke curtains:
Virtually Invisible: Smoke curtains don’t impact aesthetics, don’t require the use of extra space and don’t interfere with security or HVAC systems. These curtains remain retracted in a hidden housing until they are activated by local smoke detection.
Design Flexibility: Smoke curtains are a much more flexible choice for designers and architects. They provide great protection without needing load-bearing walls, pillars or other structural items.
Customizable: If a building has unique features or non-standard measurements, there are smoke curtains available that are fully customizable.
Cost Effective: Smoke curtains can be more cost-effective than other types of more traditional smoke control systems. They don’t require the same level of engineering work or the addition of more space in a building that can increase costs, and they don’t require as much labor to install, which we will explore more below.
The Ocean Towers renovation project is an example of how using elevator smoke curtains helped bring the building up to code, preserved much-needed space inside the building and minimized construction and labor costs.
Explaining Smoke Curtain Installation & Maintenance
Overall, elevator smoke curtain installation is a quick process that begins once the elevator installation team has installed the elevator cars and hoistway shaft. Once this process is complete, the smoke curtain housing and auxiliary rails (if required) can be installed.
Depending on the progress of the electrical work, the actual smoke screens will be installed next. If the electrical components are not complete, the team will wait and return to install the screen.
Make sure your clients know the importance of regularly servicing and maintaining smoke curtains. They should be inspected every six months and tested with the fire alarm system annually. Talk with them about the different service and maintenance packages that are available for their products.
Providing Elevator Smoke Containment and Smoke Management Solutions
As the leading provider of smoke- and fire-rated curtains and other architectural products in the California and Nevada area, SG Specialties elevator smoke curtain systems deliver the flexible, foolproof, code-compliant smoke and draft opening protection your clients need.
Our smoke curtain systems can be easily integrated into existing buildings or built into new construction. Each unit is listed by the California State Fire Marshal and will integrate seamlessly with existing fire protection systems to quickly bring a structure up to code.
Click here to learn more about our complete line of elevator smoke curtains and see how we can help you find the right solutions for safety and comfort in your building.