Office Smoke Control System Designs
November 18, 2020
A lot of thought and planning goes into designing an optimal office environment. It is a place where your employees will be spending a great deal of time, so it needs to help them work productively, while also ensuring their comfort and safety. Putting together an office design means focusing on your brand, on the needs of your office employees and on the ways that those areas intersect.
But, in this post-COVID world, employee safety takes on a whole new meaning: Now, offices have more safety factors to take into consideration. Sanitation, social distancing and safety partitions are all part of the new normal for office spaces. But, while you work to accommodate these new additions, you should also take the opportunity to ensure that your existing safety measures are up to current code, including your fire and smoke safety systems.
As part of the safety of your office setting, you’ve likely included some type of fire suppression system in the design. While fire suppression is a great step toward helping to protect your property and your employees in the event of a fire, it isn’t the only thing you can be doing.
Smoke control is just as important.
Smoke isn’t limited to the areas where flames may be; it can travel throughout a building. Smoke can also cause poor visibility and a lot of damage; it can even be more fatal than the flames themselves.
That’s why adding smoke control systems to your office is so important: They can help block and prevent smoke from traveling through the building in the event of a fire. You not only want these precautions in case of a fire, but the NFPA also states that COVID-19 safety partitions need to be fire and smoke rated as well. Fortunately, there are many solutions for smoke control systems that can easily fit into a new building design or even a remodel required thanks to the changes brought on by the new coronavirus.
Types of Smoke Control Systems
While fire suppression systems (think sprinklers and fire alarms) get a lot of attention, smoke control is just as important. And like fire suppression systems, there are choices for smoke control that you can combine to get the best protection, while also preserving the look and design of your office.
Smoke ventilation is a frequently used method of gaining smoke control in large buildings. It can be used in one of three ways:
- Dedicated smoke ventilation systems that vent stairwells and funnel smoke to the roof.
- Natural ventilation systems that give the smoke the ability to escape.
- Mechanical ventilation systems that use fans.
Ventilation systems can be very effective at getting smoke out of a building or a specific area like a stairwell. However, these types of systems are only effective if the smoke is actually in the area.
According to the EPA, ventilation is also an important step in lowering the concentration of indoor air pollutants that can include viruses and other contaminants, like COVID-19. With proper ventilation and other safety precautions, these contaminants can be greatly reduced on regular days, along with smoke in case of a fire.
Smoke moving unchecked through the building until it reaches ventilation can still cause a lot of damage, so ventilation should be used in conjunction with other methods that will help stop its spread.
Vertical Smoke Curtains
Vertical smoke curtains will help block and stop the spread of smoke throughout a building. They effectively seal off rooms, protecting the occupants inside as well as the furnishings. Use them to seal windows, open doorways and other places that smoke may travel through. But, when redesigning your office to fit COVID-19 requirements, you need to ensure that these curtains are spaced in a way that will not force employees into tight quarters without any social distancing if they deploy.
When they aren’t deployed, these curtains sit discreetly tucked out of sight. They don’t ruin the appearance of a room or compete with its appearance. They only deploy when smoke is detected, so unless they’re in use, you won’t even know they’re there.
Horizontal Smoke Curtains
If your office has an atrium, loft or very high ceilings, then it’s important to include smoke curtains that can help prevent the smoke from rising upward in the building, spreading to other areas above. Smoke and heat rise, so a fire that breaks out on a lower floor will have smoke that begins to rise long before the flames do.
A horizontal smoke curtain seals off upper stories and areas that the smoke would naturally flow to. This type of curtain makes it easier for smoke ventilation systems to work as well, because it can help direct the smoke towards a vent or exhaust, rather than letting it spread freely.
These curtains may also help with preventing the spread of viruses and contaminants, especially when combined with a high-quality ventilation system. Therefore, contaminants will be unable to spread as easily, keeping employees safer.
Another tool that works with ventilation systems is a draft curtain. These curtains are installed out of view until needed, deploying automatically to help channel the ceiling jet away from the fire.
This can help the smoke move toward the correct areas for venting, getting it up and out of the building, rather than allowing its unchecked spread. Because the draft doesn’t provide a barrier for occupants, it can help offer protection anywhere without impeding exits.
Draft curtains are an excellent option in a post-COVID office since they do not create any barriers. This means employees can abide by social distancing guidelines without having to worry about fire or smoke exposure.
Smoke wants to travel, and one place that it will frequently move through is the elevator shaft. Because the shaft extends the length of the building, any smoke that enters will have access to every floor. With smoke curtains designed for elevator coverage, the smoke doesn’t have a chance to enter and spread.
The curtains are installed invisibly behind headers so they don’t compete with your decor. They deploy when needed to block and cover the elevators, stopping the spread of smoke.
There may be times when the best way to protect an area is to completely surround it, whether this is an open stairway, a set of documents or a priceless artifact. By completely surrounding the perimeter of the area that you want protected with smoke blocking curtains, you will help prevent any damage to that area.
Take Control of Smoke
Smoke can do just as much (if not more) damage than the flames during a fire. Suppressing the flames isn’t enough to help prevent damage and loss of life; you need to install smoke control systems as well. Make sure you consider all the ways you could be protecting your office from smoke and take control of the situation for your workplace.
But, today, you also need to keep COVID-19 safety in mind, which adds a whole new level of complexity. Take the time to study the situation and you plan your office remodel to ensure you can ensure employee safety from smoke and fire — and from COVID as well.
For more information on a better smoke control system for your office, contact Smoke Guard today.
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Company: Smoke Guard, Inc.