Five Things You Should Know About Elevator Smoke Protection

When planning elevator smoke protection for your building, determining the right ways to protect the structure and its occupants should always be among your most important considerations.

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Over the years, there have been many advancements in smoke and fire protection. Today, elevator smoke curtains are well-known as a seamless solution to a part of building design that used to present more difficulties and challenges when it came to space, safety, and security.

Having a deeper understanding of the options available for preventing smoke migration through elevator shafts will ensure you are choosing the right type of protection for your building.

Let’s review some important facts about elevator smoke protection and learn more about the elevator smoke curtain requirements that should be included in your building’s design.

1. Understanding the Stack Effect

When designing a building that has multiple floors (especially high rise buildings), it’s important to understand and prepare for the stack effect. In this instance, 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 to multiple floors. This is one of the main reasons that separate elevator lobbies were originally built but today, the use of smoke curtains can provide the same level of protection from the stack effect without the extra use of space.

2. Smoke Curtains Eliminate the Need for Older, More Costly Smoke Control Methods

In recent years there have been many new methods of smoke and fire protection added to building codes and requirements, making some older smoke control systems unnecessary. Following are some methods of smoke containment that can be eliminated by using elevator smoke curtains:

Enclosed Elevator Lobbies

Before the development of elevator smoke curtains, it wasn’t uncommon to build elevators separately from the building as a way to reduce the traveling of fire and smoke throughout floors.

Once one of the most popular methods of elevator smoke and fire protection, enclosed elevator lobbies helped limit smoke migration and also served as a staging area for the fire department and other emergency personnel. But this was often costly to design and difficult to plan around when it came to traffic flow and space requirements.

Today, installing smoke and fire curtains at the elevator jamb can protect the elevator shaft without the need of an enclosed lobby, saving important design space. Curtains like Smoke Guard’s elevator smoke containment systems can easily create the code equivalent of an enclosed elevator lobby.

Click here to read about the use of Smoke Guard curtains in Ocean Towers, a luxury residential high-rise in Santa Monica, California and learn how architects were able to meet building codes without sacrificing much-needed space.

Elevator Pressurization

Sometimes used as an alternative to having an enclosed elevator lobby, elevator pressurization uses a fan system to fill the elevator shaft with air and create a difference in air pressure that will help prevent smoke from flowing through elevator doors and into the shaft. However, this method can be overly complex and expensive to design and maintain.

3. Elevator Smoke Curtains Come in Custom Sizes

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You don’t always have to sacrifice design for safety. It is possible to stay code-compliant without having to change a building’s aesthetics. Curtains like Smoke Guard’s M600 are fully customizable, making them a great option for modern buildings.

The most important thing to remember is to select the correct width and height for your openings. To function properly, elevator curtains must cover the entire door and frame.

4. Elevator Smoke Curtains Can Be Completely Hidden

A deployable smoke curtain system can be designed so it is virtually invisible. This type of elevator smoke curtain remains retracted in a hidden housing until it is activated by an alarm, a detector signal, or a manual switch. Once triggered, the curtains will deploy into their operational position.

These smoke curtains offer greater flexibility for designers and architects since they can be used to protect certain areas without the need for load-bearing walls, pillars, or other structural items. Plus, they are easily hidden in the ceilings, so they won’t ruin a building’s design.

Click here to learn how Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center used the M400 deployable elevator smoke curtain to add an extra level of protection for their staff and patients.

5. Know About Code Compliance

Code-compliant elevator systems with fire-rated elevator doors greatly speed up evacuation times and will help emergency response teams quickly navigate throughout the building with greater ease. It is important to be familiar with all national and local code requirements. Always ensure your designs adhere to the International Building Code and the National Fire Protection Association’s elevator code.

Get the Right Elevator Smoke Protection for Your Building

Elevator smoke curtains are the ideal way to prevent smoke from entering elevator shafts and to reduce the potential of smoke traveling to other floors. Typically, elevator smoke curtains will be activated by the closest smoke detector and when deployed, they roll down over the front of the elevator doors, framing them using a magnetic system to ensure a proper seal.

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.

Do You Need Elevator Smoke Protection?

SG Specialties is the leading provider of smoke- and fire-rated curtains and other life safety products in the California and Nevada area. Contact us 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.