On average, non-residential fires cost businesses and building owners more than $2 billion in damages each year. That’s why fire and smoke protection should always be part of the building design process for both new construction and renovations to existing structures.
Knowing that smoke often does more damage and causes more fatalities than the fire itself, it’s worth considering adding an extra level of smoke protection to your design.
Smoke protection systems work alongside fire control systems to help contain, minimize or reroute the flow of smoke through a building. They also help create safer egress routes for building occupants and emergency response teams.
There are two types of smoke control systems: active and passive. Let’s review these systems and what you need to know about them to keep your building and its occupants safe.
Active Smoke Protection Systems
Active smoke management systems use mechanical equipment to help control the spread of smoke by containing or routing the smoke to a specific area. This type of system typically includes using smoke exhaust or evacuation systems. Exhaust inlets are located near or in building ceilings and work to remove smoke from the building. This gives occupants a clearer and safer egress route in the event of an emergency.
While active systems sound like a solid line of defense against smoke damage, they do have limitations. Designing an active smoke management system is usually a costly and complex engineering job that can increase your project’s budget and construction timeline.
Active smoke systems are also highly dependent on having a reliable power source to operate. Due to the high amounts of power exhaust systems need, they require a standby power source in the event of an electrical outage. This is something that may not be available during an emergency.
It’s also important to remember there are places where flames and smoke cannot be contained by an active system. When this happens, the building becomes compromised and there is a higher likelihood that the fire could spread beyond the control of your system.
These are all reasons why the addition of a passive smoke system may be the smartest consideration when thinking of a total protection solution for your building.
Passive Smoke Management Systems
Passive smoke management systems don’t require mechanical systems or a power source to support them. Instead, they use partitions and barriers to redirect smoke. This type of system most often incorporates smoke curtains (along with fire curtains) to help contain smoke and keep egress routes clear.
Just like a fire curtain, a smoke curtain can be housed in a building’s ceilings and walls, making it invisible when it’s not in use. Smoke curtains remain retracted and hidden until they are activated by an alarm, a detector signal or a manual switch. Once triggered, they are designed to descend into their operational position.
Choosing A Passive Smoke Protection System
When choosing an ideal passive smoke protection system, smoke curtains offer considerable flexibility. Since they can encase open areas without the need for load-bearing walls, pillars or other structural items in the design, smoke curtains can be installed in almost any area of the building and is suitable for all types of architectural designs.
Another important feature of a passive smoke curtain system is its low level of interference with security systems. Since a smoke curtain will be housed in either the ceiling or a door jamb, it will not impede with physical security and other security systems that are in place to protect a building. This is especially important in buildings where elevator and door keypads are used.
Remember to always evaluate your passive smoke control system to ensure it meets all fire and safety requirements, including local codes and regulations. Be sure to check:
- Stack effect
- Temperature effect of fire
- Wind effect
- HVAC systems
- Duration of operation
The Best in Smoke Protection
Designing and installing the ideal smoke protection system for your building takes careful planning and execution, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. SG Specialties is California and Northern Nevada’s exclusive distributor for Smoke Guard and offers several different types of smoke curtains to give your building the most optimal level of protection from fire and smoke:
- Elevator: Curtains like the M200, M400, and M600 deliver code-compliant smoke containment and opening protection.
- Vertical: Available in large dimensions, vertically deploying solutions like the M2100 and M2500 are suitable for atrium separation, openings in walls, and specialty enclosures.
- Perimeter: The M4000 perimeter curtain can be an effective complement to existing mechanical smoke and fire containment systems or additional fire curtains.
- Horizontal: Horizontal curtains like the M3000 offer fire and smoke protection that bisects atrium space between floors.
- Draft: Draft curtains like the SG Draft work well for very large spaces like warehouses and airplane hangars. These curtains channel the ceiling jet away from the fire and out of the building via roof vents either to automatically remove the smoke or to delay sprinkler activation.
There are a lot of options available when it comes to configuring a passive smoke management system, which is why you should always consult a professional when planning to include this type of system in building design.
Visit SG Specialties to learn more about the products they carry and how their team of experts can help you determine the right kind of system you need. They can even help you find the best solutions to address smoke protection in your project.