New closure solutions influencing the commercial design industry

Grilles with decorative weaves allow design professionals to enhance the building’s aesthetics while providing security for owners and occupants.
Grilles with decorative weaves allow design professionals to enhance the building’s aesthetics while providing security for owners and occupants.

While rolling steel, fire-protective doors and similar products are designed for fire-rated wall openings, they also provide security and access control for use in openings that are not part of a building’s required means of egress. Recognizing the dual roles these products play in ensuring life safety and securing access, manufacturers have developed new design options that enhance owner satisfaction and utility. Advanced fire door systems are designed to automatically activate the door in the event of smoke or fire. Once the door is in the closed position, fire and smoke are prevented from migrating throughout the building, allowing occupants to safely evacuate. Additionally, the cost of ownership is low because some advanced systems reset or auto open after a fire or power outage, thereby saving time and money.

Annual inspection and drop testing can now be performed in a matter of minutes with systems that automatically reset and re-open (owners/facility managers can do their own testing, and this applies to schools as well). In fact, virtually all inspection and testing are possible from the floor with no tools or special equipment. This again drives down the annual cost of ownership.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires operational and periodic testing.

Operational testing

Following installation, operational and drop testing is required in accordance with Section 5.2.3 of NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, with all inspections and testing signed by a witness and kept for inspection by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) for the life of the assembly.

Periodic testing

Facility managers are also required to conduct inspection and drop testing annually. This testing includes all of the items noted in Section 5.2.4 of NFPA 80, such as visual inspection, operational evaluation, drop test, and system reset (also emergency power sources).

Meanwhile, fire-rated rolling counter shutters, also known as fire-rated counter doors, can secure smaller openings using tiny and more aesthetically pleasing guides, slats, brackets, and hoods than traditional rolling fire doors. Fire-rated counter shutters protect communication openings through interior corridor walls and create barriers with life safety as a priority. Fire shutters can fully close to the floor when a more compact door footprint is desired.

Regardless of the door size, manufacturers offer hundreds of color and finish options. This includes powder coating with a polyester finish for increased durability, aesthetics, superior finish life, and cost-effectiveness. It is important to note custom color matching will cost extra.

Further, insulated fire doors provide these same aesthetic options with enhanced acoustic control and temperature resistance. By using mineral wool and other material—with an R-value of 5.3 and U-value of 0.189 based on the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Handbook of Fundamentals—to create an insulated barrier, the door is suitable for an exterior-facing application, but, in which there is a planned expansion requiring a fire-rated opening in the future.

It is important to note the insulated fire door curtains are 25 percent thicker than standard rolling fire doors due to the added insulation within individual slats. This requires a larger coiling mechanism and hood clearance, as the fully coiled insulated rolling fire door will also be larger than a standard rolling fire door.

Steel fire doors give the structural separation required for openings needing more than 20 minutes of fire protection. Woven fabric or fiberglass curtains should be only viewed as supplemental fire protection, as they do not offer the structural separation provided by rolling steel fire doors. However, it is worth mentioning some woven fabric and fiberglass curtains carry anywhere from one to three hours of fire-protective ratings.

One major trend in the rolling fire door industry is the constant improvement and activation of these doors under alarm. The solution is to incorporate electrical fail-safe components in lieu of fusible links, an outdated thermally active device that has been around for decades.

Fusible links separate at 74 C (165 F) and cannot activate quickly enough to stop the migration of smoke throughout a facility, but electrical detectors react at the first whiff of smoke, activating the doors to close immediately and helping to compartmentalize a potential disaster.

Protection for building occupants

While some products protect against fire damage and smoke inhalation, others defend against two of nature’s most destructive forces—tornadoes and hurricanes.

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