Heritage Protection: How Historic Buildings Are Protected

Step back in time and imagine walking through the halls of a centuries-old building, surrounded by precious artifacts, documents, and architectural features that have stood the test of time. The value of these historic landmarks is immeasurable, making it crucial to protect them from the devastating effects of fire and smoke damage.

Step back in time and imagine walking through the halls of a centuries-old building, surrounded by precious artifacts, documents, and architectural features that have stood the test of time. The value of these historic landmarks is immeasurable, making it crucial to protect them from the devastating effects of fire and smoke damage.

But it's not just the historic structures that require special attention, museums also house priceless treasures that require unique fire protection measures. Join us on a journey to discover how to develop fire protection systems that seamlessly blend into the existing architecture, safeguarding these valuable structures without sacrificing their aesthetic appeal.

Fire Protection for Landmarks

When it comes to codes and regulations, historic buildings are often grandfathered in with their old building codes. This can mean fire and smoke protection is either very outdated or not present at all. Considering the value of these buildings, it’s important to ensure they are well-protected in a way that allows emergency response teams to respond quickly and effectively to prevent as much damage as possible.

The first line of protection for historic buildings and museums is having a solid maintenance plan in place that meets the preservation goals of the building and also ensures the building is safe. According to the National Park Service, historic building maintenance plans should include instructions to address the following:

  • Overall Maintenance: Management systems, building records, inspections and evaluations

  • Building Maintenance: Entire building, roof, windows and doors

  • Materials Maintenance: Properties of materials, masonry, wood, metal and glass

  • Moisture, Insects, and Other Problems Vapor barriers, foundation plantings, termites, rot, pigeons, rot, etc.

  • Housekeeping: Interior surfaces, furnishings, collections, environmental controls and historic housekeeping guides

While the above considerations will help keep a historic building in good condition, it is also necessary to plan for the potential of fire, smoke or water damage. First, determine the building’s high-risk areas and how to secure them. Certain parts of a building may be at a greater risk of damage because of its items, the potential for combustion or other factors that need special attention. Following are some examples:

  • Exhibits that feature highly combustible materials like paper, wood or textiles

  • Labs and exhibits featuring preserved specimens housed in alcohol or other flammable liquids

  • Tightly packed rooms with displays or bookshelves

  • Rooms housing materials easily damaged by smoke, soot or water

Next, there needs to be a plan that details the actions needed to quickly and safely protect the building, its contents and any occupants inside during an emergency. This includes developing a detailed Fire Protection Plan that consists of the following:

  • The actions needed to preserve important documents, data, artifacts, exhibits, equipment, etc.

  • A plan for reducing smoke and soot contamination in each building area.

  • The steps needed to minimize damage caused by sprinklers and fire hoses.

  • An emergency safety plan that is easy for staff and visitors to understand.

Fire and Smoke Protection Options

The First National Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is a historic building that uses M400 elevator curtains to meet fire codes.

Experienced designers and architects know there are two types of fire and smoke protection: active and passive. To achieve the best overall coverage, these two systems are often combined within a building. Depending on how the buildings are classified and registered, there can be specific rules regarding the types of architectural modifications that can happen inside, so it’s important to assess the design and structure first to figure out if this is possible.

Active Fire Protection

Active fire protection systems help extinguish fires and alert occupants to exit the building. This type of system includes things like smoke detectors and sprinkler systems to help extinguish the flames.

Active systems can be tricky when it comes to historic buildings. You must consider what you are trying to protect and weigh the pros and cons of relying predominantly on sprinkler systems. Water damage in an older building can be as catastrophic as smoke and fire damage.

Passive Fire Protection

Passive smoke control systems help protect buildings using flame-retardant materials. Passive systems are popular options for historic buildings because they control the spread of smoke and fire without detracting from or damaging the architecture of the building. These can be smoke baffles, smoke curtains or fire doors.

Smoke curtains can be stationary or placed above doorways and other open areas, deploying after a fire is detected. They are made of flexible fabric and are deployed to create horizontal or vertical barriers for smoke and fire protection. They are often used in conjunction with smoke exhaust systems or as a stand-alone solution for smoke control.

Sometimes called smoke partitions, smoke curtains are perfect for areas like corridors and elevator lobbies that do not need to be fire-rated but still need smoke protection. What makes smoke curtains so ideal for historic buildings is they are not structural in nature so they can be deployed when smoke is present and hidden away when not in use. Because of this, they can be installed almost anywhere.

Smoke Curtain Installation In Historic Buildings

Smoke Guard’s products have helped bring several historic buildings and museums up to code with their innovative solutions for installing smoke curtains without disrupting the architecture or interior of the buildings. Let’s take a look at two of Smoke Guard’s historic buildings and museum projects.

The Roosevelt Hotel – New Orleans, Louisiana

The elevators at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. This historic building installed 94 M200 elevators during their renovation.

A Waldorf Astoria hotel, the historic landmark Roosevelt Hotel installed 94 M200 elevator units as part of a renovation project following Hurricane Katrina. Perfectly hidden in casings, these curtains integrated seamlessly with the hotel’s interior design and did not impede on the existing architectural elements in the elevator lobby areas.

Nebraska History Museum – Lincoln, Nebraska

Smoke curtain between two exit doors. There is a red exit sign above the door.

The Nebraska History Museum used the M1200 to protect their galleries. Known for its flexibility and wide range of uses, this curtain works well for atrium separations, openings in walls, and for specialty enclosures. This curtain is invisible until deployed, ensuring that the gallery space maintains its aesthetic appeal.

Ready to Update Your Smoke and Fire Protection?

Looking for the perfect solution to safeguard your building against fire hazards while preserving its historic beauty? Look no further than Smoke Guard, the premier supplier of smoke and fire-rated curtains in California and Nevada.

Our state-of-the-art curtains and doors provide unbeatable protection without compromising on style or functionality. Whether you're working on a landmark restoration project or in modern construction, our complete line of safety solutions can help meet your needs. Click here to explore our innovative products and discover how Smoke Guard’s products can bring safety and comfort to your next project.