Today, fire-rated doors are usually a requirement for most buildings in order to adhere to the International Building Code (IBC) mandates. A fire-rated door is typically located around stairwells and elevator shafts to help prevent smoke and fire from traveling throughout multiple floors of a building.
In the event of a fire, these doors help maintain the flow of traffic for building occupants and emergency response teams so they have access to exit routes. In addition to keeping occupants safer, having the right type of fire and smoke protection in place also helps contain damage and minimizes your building’s downtime and need for repairs.
Recently, many architects and builders have started replacing traditional fire doors with deployable smoke and fire curtains. Because they can be hidden in ceilings and only deployed when needed, this type of fire and smoke curtain system offers more flexibility including:
- An increased level of safety
- Virtually tamper-proof
- Better traffic flow management
- Customization options
- The ability to easily work as part of larger fire and smoke control systems
Let’s learn more about when and where fire-rated doors are required in commercial buildings and how smoke curtain installation can help add an extra level of fire and smoke protection.
Fire-Rated Elevator Doors
Fire-rated elevator doors can greatly speed up evacuation times and help firefighters navigate through multiple floors with more ease. When elevator doors are also configured for smoke protection, an extra layer of safety is added that benefits emergency response teams and the building’s occupants.
Using smoke-rated curtains in addition to fire-rated elevator doors will keep smoke from traveling through the elevator shaft and onto multiple floors. This type of smoke-rated gasketing curtain is made of reinforced, transparent, high-performance film and when it is deployed, it helps create a seal that is virtually airtight.
Installed above the elevator door frame, these types of curtains remain invisible until they are deployed and can also connect to your building’s fire and smoke control system if needed.
Some buildings like hospitals may have special requirements that call for fire doors in different areas like hallways. These areas also need to secure access points, sealed off quarantine areas or have the capability to push things through the doorway (like carts or gurneys). Currently, architects use fire-rated swing doors in front of already fire-rated elevator doors to satisfy IBC codes for smoke containment at the elevator hoistway.
Instead, by replacing clunky fire-rated swing doors with deployable smoke curtains like the M400 elevator curtain, buildings can maintain the flow of traffic for emergency situations, maintain the needed level of security and still uphold all IBC requirements.
The largest benefit of using a fire curtain instead of a fire-rated swing door is that a smoke-rated rolling magnetic gasketing system is only deployed in the event of an emergency. That means the system is hidden when not in use, so it stays safely out of the way of gurneys, wheelchairs and health care personnel. Plus, unlike traditional fire doors, deployable smoke-rated curtains cannot be as easily propped open or blocked by furniture.
Case Study: Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center
Smoke containment in a hospital or medical facility is critical for both patients and staff in the event of an emergency.
The multilingual Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center uses the M400 elevator smoke containment system throughout the facility. These units protect elevator openings for the adjoining parking garage to the inner core of the hospital.
In combination with the fire-rated doors used in nearly all elevators, Smoke Guard system elevator smoke curtains deliver code-compliant smoke and draft opening protection. These units are listed by the California State Fire Marshal and integrate seamlessly with existing fire protection systems to quickly bring a structure up to code.
As we’ve learned, smoke- and fire-rated curtain systems play a particularly important role in the overall safety of a building, creating safe egress, compartmentalizing smoke, flames and heat, and saving lives and minimizing property damage. When using curtain systems in combination with fire-rated doors, testing requirements are complicated.
The combination of a door, frame, hardware, curtain and glazing that work together to provide smoke and fire protection are typically tested as separate products by a nationally recognized testing agency. They are then listed, labeled or classified for use in fire door assemblies. However, there are some instances where specific components are tested together. If this is the case, then these components must be used together to maintain the fire rating.
The basic requirements for fire-rated door assemblies include:
- Fire ratings (20/45/60/90/180 minutes) are granted by third-party testing agencies and are labeled on the products.
- Fire-rated door assemblies must meet the requirements of the applicable building or life safety code, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80: Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, NFPA 101: Life Safety Code, the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Fire Code (IFC).
- Fire doors are required to be self-closing and positive latching.
- The fire rating of the wall dictates the fire rating of the door.
Case Study – Ocean Towers
During Santa Monica’s Ocean Towers condominium renovation, the building’s elevator doors and openings needed to be remodeled to become code compliant and meet “S” label requirements.
Instead of replacing them with new fire-rated doors and jambs, SG Architectural Specialties recommended having a third party test the compliance of the existing elevator doors and affix a new fire label to them, which satisfied code and compliance concerns.
SG Specialties then consulted with the project architects and the general contractor to design the Smoke Guard M200 smoke gasket units above each hoistway opening to satisfy the “S” label requirements when paired with the re-validated fire-rated elevator doors.
Smoke Guard’s M200 and M400 elevator smoke curtain system provides comprehensive and code-compliant smoke and draft opening protection. These units are easy to install and integrate seamlessly with existing fire protection systems to quickly bring a structure up to code.