Designing entryways and doorways in a building isn’t always the most exciting part, but when taking safety into consideration, few factors are more important than the doors. There is a wide variety of door designs to work with, but not all of them offer the fire protection necessary for commercial buildings.
There are a few factors that dictate how long a door should last in a fire. Depending on code regulations and your building aesthetics, experienced architects know to choose wisely.
Solid vs Fire-Rated Doors
In commercial buildings, a successful door design should offer both stylish and safe solutions for entry and exit. But with so many door designs to choose from and budgets to consider, selecting a long-term solution is a challenge. Many buildings require fire-rated doors throughout, but what’s the difference between a solid and a fire-rated door?
“Solid core doors are often used in commercial applications, particularly in high-rise office building corridors,” writes Thomas Norman for Science Direct. “These are mostly applied to tenant suite doors rather than on the main fire corridor, where hollow metal doors are more common due to their lower cost and often higher fire rating.”
Solid doors can offer some protection to the design, and depending on the materials used in the core, come with a better fire rating than standard honeycomb core doors. Most solid doors come with fire ratings up to 20 minutes.
Fire-rated doors are designed with non-combustible materials, have higher fire ratings and are often required by building code for commercial buildings. These doors help keep building occupants safe by offering protected evacuation routes.
“Fire-rated doors are required for key areas in schools, hotels, and most other public spaces. They can be specified for 20, 45, or 90 minutes,” according to Masonite Architectural.
When Are Fire-Rated Doors Required?
The building design often dictates whether or not fire-rated doors are required. For instance, hospitals and hotels often have special requirements for doors because of how occupants use the building.
In hospital hallways, designers need to ensure there are secure access points and sealed-off areas. Architects often employ fire-rated swing doors in these areas.
Elevators with fire-rated doors are recommended to help speed up evacuation times in high-traffic buildings and help firefighters navigate through building floors.
Building code requires fire protection in lobbies, and fire-rated doors are used to separate the lobby from the rest of the building, which can prevent the spread of fire to and from the space.
The types of doors you use for fire protection can also add style to your design. Fire-rated doors don’t have to look boring and can include appealing designs if you need to add visual impact to the building.
Doors might be designed with glass panels for a more versatile look, which can open up a space visually, allowing more light into the room. Fire-rated glass is specially designed to provide protection from fire and in some cases, the panels act as thermal insulators.
However, there are some other alternatives to fire-rated doors if designers need different options.
Design Solutions for Fire Safety
Building regulations can be strict and confusing, and fire doors can be challenging to incorporate in your design. While fire doors offer protection in emergencies, they are not fail-proof.
“Although a fire-rated door is designed to prevent a fire from passing from room to room, let’s be honest. Even with the right door, a severe fire can melt steel,” says Abe Kozlik of the International Fireproof Door Company.
There are product alternatives that offer fire and smoke protection without impacting your building’s design. Many architects have incorporated fire-rated curtains to meet code requirements for fire and smoke protection. The curtains offer several benefits to designers who want to maintain the integrity of their design:
The curtains are discreet and almost unnoticeable when they are not being deployed.
They work in open spaces and areas where there are no walls, perfect for open and communal spaces.
Fire and smoke curtains add protection to elevators and open stairwells, and other vulnerable areas of a building.
When used alongside other fire-rated assemblies in your design, fire curtains give architects and designers the perfect, design-friendly solution to fire and smoke protection. Check out a few of our favorite projects that use fire curtains to enhance and protect building designs.
Need help designing your space for better fire protection? Check out SG Architectural Specialties' menu of products or reach out to us to talk about your project specifics. We’d love to make your design a success!