Fire Safety for Very Tall Buildings

Very tall buildings have distinctive fireplace security design points that are not experienced in different forms of structures. For example, as a result of the peak of the construction is past the reach of ladders, tall buildings are outfitted with more fireplace safety features as it’s not potential for the fireplace department to initiate exterior rescues from ladders and suppress fires with exterior hose streams.
In regards to fireplace safety, the performance historical past of very tall buildings whereas very profitable, has not been with out catastrophic incidents. Many of these incidents have resulted in 1) numerous deaths and accidents, 2) excessive property loss and 3) disruptions in enterprise continuity. For instance, the One Meridian Plaza high-rise hearth in Philadelphia that occurred in 1991 resulted within the loss of three firefighters and constructing by no means being re-opened. In 1988, the fire in the Interstate Bank Building in Los Angeles experienced one fatality and resulted in the constructing being out of use for six months.
Based on research and lessons discovered, the model constructing codes have made vital progress in addressing fire safety issues in very tall buildings. At the identical time, the complexity and distinctive challenges of today’s very tall buildings have created an environment the place comprehensive performance-based options have turn into a necessity.
To assist the design group with creating performance-based hearth security solutions for very tall buildings, in 2013, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) partnered with the International Code Council (ICC) to develop the Engineering Guide: Fire Safety in Very Tall Buildings.1 This publication is written as a information for use in conjunction with local codes and standards and serves as an added device to these involved in the fire protection design of unique tall buildings. The guide focuses on design issues that affect the hearth safety performance of tall buildings and the way engineers can incorporate performance-based fireplace safety through hazard and danger evaluation methodologies into the design of tall buildings. This article will focus on a few of the distinctive hearth safety design strategies/methodologies employed in the design of tall buildings which may be referenced within the ICC/SFPE Guide.
Emergency Egress

Developing an efficient evacuation technique for a tall constructing is challenging as the time to finish a full building evacuation increases with constructing top. At the identical time, above sure heights, the normal method of requiring all occupants to simultaneous evacuate is most likely not sensible as occupants turn into more weak to further dangers when evacuating by way of stairways. That is why tall buildings often employ non-traditional or different evacuation methods.
When designing an egress plan for a tall constructing, the primary goal should be to offer an acceptable means to allow occupants to maneuver to a spot of safety. To accomplish this goal, there are several evacuation methodologies which might be available to the design group. These evacuation methods can embrace however usually are not limited to 1) defend-in-place, 2) shifting folks to areas of refuge and 3) phased/progressive evacuation. It can be potential that a mixture of these methods can be this greatest answer. When deciding on an acceptable technique, the design staff ought to contemplate the required degree of safety for the constructing occupants and the constructing performance objectives that are identified by the building’s stakeholders.
Using protected elevators has turn into one other evacuation technique that’s becoming extra prevalent in the design of tall buildings. In addition to helping the fire division with operations and rescues, protected elevators are now getting used for building evacuation, particularly for occupants with disabilities. When contemplating elevators in an evacuation technique, there are a selection of design issues to contemplate: 1) safety and reliability of the elevators, 2) coordination of elevator controls and building safety techniques, 3) education of building occupants and first responders and 4) communication to building occupants in the course of the emergency.
Tall buildings usually employ non-traditional or various evacuation strategies.
Fire Resistance

The consequences of partial or global collapse of tall buildings because of a severe hearth pose a major threat to a lot of folks, the fireplace service and surrounding buildings. At the same time, tall buildings typically have unique design options whose role within the construction and hearth response usually are not simply understood using conventional fireplace protection methods. These unique factors may warrant a must adopt an advanced structural fireplace engineering evaluation to reveal that the building’s performance goals are met.
Performance-based design of structural fire resistance entails three steps: (1) determination of the thermal boundary circumstances to a construction ensuing from a fire; (2) calculation of the thermal response of the structure to the fireplace exposure, and (3) dedication of the structural response of the construction. Guidance on performing this kind of analysis could be discovered within the SFPE Engineering Standard on Calculating Fire Exposures to Structures2, and SFPE Engineering Standard on Calculation Methods to Predict the Thermal Performance of Structural and Fire Resistive Assemblies.3

Water-Based Fire Suppression Systems

In tall buildings, the water provide required for fireplace safety methods may be greater than the capability of the basic public water supply. As such, fireplace protection system water supplies for sprinkler techniques and standpipes require using pumps and/or gravity water tanks to boost the water stress. Reliability of this water provide is a key consideration. As such, redundant fireplace pumps, gravity-based storage provides, or both may be wanted to boost system reliability.
Another problem to contemplate when designing water-based hearth suppression systems is strain management as it is potential for system parts to be uncovered to pressures that exceed its maximum working stress. Consequently, it could be necessary to design vertical stress zones to control pressures within the zone. Additionally, pressure regulating valves are often needed. When put in, diaphragm seal have to be taken to guarantee that these pressure regulating valves are put in correctly and adequately maintained.
Fire Alarm and Communication Systems

Providing constructing occupants with accurate data throughout emergencies increases their capability to make acceptable choices about their very own safety. Fire alarm and communication techniques are an important source of this info. Very tall buildings employ voice communication systems that are integrated into the fireplace alarm system. When designing voice communication techniques it is essential to make sure that the system supplies reliable and credible data.
Fire alarm system survivability is one other import factor to assume about in hearth alarm system design. For tall buildings, consideration ought to be given so that an assault by a hearth in an evacuation zone doesn’t impair the voice messaging outdoors the zone. Some of the design concerns to attain survivability might include: 1) safety of control tools from hearth, 2) protection of circuits. 3) configuration of circuits and 4) shielding of panels.
Tall buildings often employ smoke control techniques that either vent, exhaust or restrict the spread of smoke.
Smoke Control

Controlling the unfold of smoke is extra difficult in tall buildings. For example, tall buildings experience a phenomenon referred to as stack impact. Stack impact occurs when a tall building experiences a stress distinction throughout its peak because of temperature differentials between the surface air temperature and the inside constructing temperature. This causes air to move vertically, relying on the skin air temperature – either upward or downward in a building. It also can cause smoke from a building fire to unfold throughout the constructing if not controlled. That is why tall buildings typically make use of smoke management methods that either vent, exhaust or limit the unfold of smoke.
Other considerations in tall buildings included the air motion created by the piston impact of elevators and the results of wind. Air motion caused by elevator vehicles ascending and descending in a shaft and the effects of wind can lead to smoke movement in tall buildings. These impacts turn out to be extra pronounced as the peak of the constructing improve.
Because very tall buildings complicate smoke spread, effective smoke control is tougher to realize. The potential options are numerous and embody a combination of lively and passive options similar to however not limited to: 1) smoke barrier walls and flooring, 2) stairway pressurization techniques, 3) pressurized zoned smoke control supplied by the air-handling tools, and 4) smoke dampers. The solution implemented into the design needs to handle the building itself, its makes use of, related occupant characteristics and reliability.
First Service Issues

It goes without saying that tall buildings current unique challenges to the hearth service. During the planning and design phases, it’s important for the design team to work with the fireplace service to discuss the kind of assets that are wanted for an incident and the actions that might be wanted to mitigate an incident. This contains growing development and post-construction preplans. These preplans should embrace and not be limited to making provisions for 1) hearth service entry including transport to the highest degree of the constructing, 2) establishing a water provide, 3) standpipe methods (temporary and permanent), 4) communication systems, and 5) understanding the operations of the hearth protection techniques within the building.
One of the challenges the fire service faces during incidents in tall buildings is the flexibility of firefighters to move tools to the incident location. Designers ought to take into account how the fire service can transport its tools from the response stage to the best stage in a protected method.
Additionally, care needs to be taken when designing the hearth command center as it’s going to present the fireplace service command employees with essential information about the incident. The hearth command center needs to be accessible and will embrace 1) controls for constructing methods, 2) contact information for building administration, 3) present buildings plans, 4) emergency response and egress plans and 5) preplans.
1 International Code Council/SFPE. (2013). Engineering Guide: Fire Safety for Very Tall Buildings. Country Club Hills, IL.
2 SFPE. (2011). SFPE Standard S.01 2011, Engineering Standards on Calculating Fire Exposures to Structures. pressure gauge , Maryland.
three SFPE. 2015). SFPE Standard S.02 2015, SFPE Engineering Standard on Calculation Methods to Predict the Thermal Performance of Structural and Fire Resistive Assemblies. Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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