Smoke curtains have become an increasingly popular safety solution in commercial and industrial buildings, especially as architectural trends have led to a wider variety of structures. Smoke and fire safety is always a top priority, and understanding how smoke curtains fit within the codes and standards for fire protection systems is vital for architects and building owners looking to keep the integrity of the design as well as building safety.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has been creating fire and smoke safety codes and standards for over 125 years. Their regulations are used to help protect buildings and occupants from the potentially devastating effects of smoke and fire. Understanding these codes and standards and how they apply in smoke curtain applications is important to the success of your building’s smoke protection system.
What is the NFPA?
The NFPA is a global, self-funded nonprofit organization operating since 1896. They are devoted to eliminating death, injury and property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
The NFPA writes internationally accepted codes and standards that are the benchmark for quality fire safety construction practices and help minimize the risks and effects of fire. These regulations establish the minimum acceptable levels of safety in constructed structures.
These codes are developed by technical committees composed of experienced professionals. Final approval is granted by a Standards Council to ensure the integrity of each code, and then these codes must be adopted by a state or local government before they become enforceable.
The NFPA believes in fire safety for everyone, and its standards are used for residential applications as well as commercial and industrial buildings. They are also dedicated to research, training, education, outreach and advocacy.
When considering implementing smoke curtains into a building’s fire protection system, the NFPA regulations should be consulted to ensure the smoke curtains fulfill the proper building codes. There are two codes in particular that cover smoke curtains one should be aware of.
NFPA 80 is the standard for fire doors and other opening protectives” used by designers and contractors. It specifies the minimum requirements regarding installing, testing, modifying and repairing devices used to protect openings against the spread of fire and smoke within, into or out of buildings.
NFPA 80 addresses different opening protectives, including fire-rated doors, fire-rated windows and fire-rated shutters. It also provides guidelines for the location of fire detection and activation devices like smoke detectors and fusible links.
All fire-rated opening protectives must be inspected and tested annually according to the NFPA 80. It also covers topics like door labeling, replacement, removal and obstruction.
NFPA 80 states that fire doors must be operable at all times and kept closed or automatically closed in the event of a fire. Fire doors are often left propped open or blocked, which renders them useless in an emergency. Object obstruction is a common reason fire-rated doors and shutters do not pass inspection.
Another common issue arises when old opening protectives need to be replaced. The NFPA stipulates that replacements meet all requirements for fire protection and be installed in the same way as new installations, which can cause problems when trying to retrofit an old building with new fire-rated products.
Whether you are designing a new building or updating an existing structure, the NFPA 80 is an important guide to choosing the appropriate fire protection solution for openings in walls, floors and ceilings. There are many options, but architects and engineers can use the standards listed to choose the right fire-rated closure solutions with installation, inspection and activation methods that best suit the needs of the building.
Where NFPA 80 sets the minimum requirements for fire-rated opening protectives, NFPA 105 is the standard for smoke door assemblies and other opening protectives for use in providing safety to life and protection of property from smoke.
Smoke is the leading cause of death during fires, and the lack of smoke control in fire door assemblies prompted the establishment of NFPA 105.
This standard highlights the importance of smoke management and describes the ways to limit the movement of smoke through door assemblies. It also details the installation, testing and maintenance of smoke protection assemblies.
NFPA 105 stipulates that smoke doors must be self-closing or close automatically when a smoke detection system is activated. Smoke protectives must also be inspected and tested annually at a minimum to ensure everything is in working order.
Any fire- and smoke-rated door assemblies must comply with both NFPA 105 and NFPA 80.
Where to Use Smoke Curtains
The main purpose of a smoke curtain is to protect paths of egress by stopping the spread of heat and smoke. Smoke curtains are a vital tool in compartmentalizing large, open spaces to help occupants more easily move to safety and protect assets within the building. They also are tamper-proof and are not easily obstructed like fire doors, making them more likely to pass testing and inspections with minimal maintenance.
Smoke curtains are particularly effective in elevator applications. During the event of a fire, elevator shafts act as a chimney, funneling smoke rapidly through other floors within the building. But smoke curtains deploy in front of the elevator doors, blocking smoke from entering and spreading. This helps keep the toxic vertical migration of smoke through the building via the elevator shaft.
Other common compliant applications include strategically installed draft curtains to guide the smoke from occupied areas to designated vents and smoke curtains that encompass atriums and stairwells to prevent smoke from traveling to connecting floors.
Smoke curtains can also be used to bring old structures up to code and are easier to install than other opening protective alternatives like fire doors and shutters. Smoke curtains make efficient use of space with a minimal physical and aesthetic footprint.
Is Your Building Up to Code?
NFPA regulations ensure your building’s structure, occupants and equipment are protected during a fire emergency. Smoke curtains provide crucial smoke mitigation and are a valuable part of fire protection systems.
SG Architectural Solutions offers a variety of fire and smoke curtains fit for a range of applications, and our specialists can help ensure your building is meeting NFPA requirements. Contact us today to get started!