Smoke Control in High-Rise Buildings: Part 1

Very tall buildings have several unique characteristics that increase the severity of potential fire events including higher occupancy, longer evacuation times, access issues for responders and potential water pressure/availability issues. Because of these potential obstacles, integrating adequate smoke control systems during the design process is essential.

“Smoke Control” refers to limiting the movement of smoke throughout a building via passive and/or active means. For skyscrapers, however, typically a more active approach has to be taken. This series on smoke control will focus on the engineered smoke control systems in very tall buildings. The added square footage of these buildings allow for a large variety of systems to be used.

It is incredibly common for high-rise buildings to have at least one atrium or open lobby. These large volume spaces require a smoke management system when multiple stories are involved. The most common solution is a mechanical exhaust system that actually extracts smoke from the top of the atrium or lobby. This keeps the smoke layer above the occupied areas and allows for safe evacuation of occupants.