Most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Often, smoke incapacitates so quickly people are overcome and cannot make it to an otherwise accessible exit. (See National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s), “A Reporter’s Guide to Fire and the NFPA” by visiting www.nfpa.org.) Given the nature of many modern buildings (e.g. high-rise) where it may take minutes, if not hours, to evacuate the building during an emergency, occupants need all the tools at their disposal to help them get out during a fire.
Keeping costs down while maintaining the highest standard of safety and meeting building requirements is a goal for any project. In most cases, this is easier said than done, but following best practices in fire protection engineering can provide oft-overlooked ways to achieve this goal. Neglecting to consider the big picture when making specifying decisions is a common oversight; minor points can quickly add up.
Fire-rated curtain walls can prevent a fire from traveling to or from neighboring buildings without restricting visibility. Unlike gypsum, masonry, and other opaque fire-rated materials, this multi-functionality can bring fire and life safety goals in line with the aesthetic design intent where building codes deem the threat of fire is significant from adjacent construction.
Glazed curtain walls are best known for their ability to visually integrate two otherwise separate spaces. Less talked about—though, perhaps more important—are curtain walls with the capability to retain visibility and access to daylight while standing guard against fire.
The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design has several requirements that continue to surprise architects and specifiers. This article examines changes to door hardware operable force, use of low-energy automatic operators, protrusions into egress, and the need for proper maneuvering clearance.