Using Smoke Curtains in High-Rise Buildings

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), high-rise buildings are more likely to have sprinklers and fire alarm equipment than other buildings. But even these fire and smoke safety systems could benefit from adding enhancements that would further protect the building and its occupants.

In a high-rise building, it only takes a matter of minutes for smoke and fire to channel through elevator shafts, stairwells, and air vents. Occupants can quickly become trapped and fire and rescue teams will have limited access to extinguish the fire or reach anyone trapped on higher floors. That’s why it’s always important to fully evaluate all the ways you can control smoke and fire movement in multi-floor buildings.

One way to shield these areas from smoke and flames is through the use of smoke curtains. Let’s review how smoke curtains work to help funnel smoke, minimize building damage and keep exits safe and easily accessible in a high-rise building. 

What Are Smoke Curtains?

Smoke curtains create a physical barrier that adds an extra layer of protection against smoke traveling from floor-to-floor. When dealing with multi-floor buildings, this is especially important since smoke can travel through vents, stairways and elevator shafts in a matter of minutes.

Smoke curtains are also typically designed to work with other detection and response systems. This is a great feature that will enhance your overall smoke management plan since larger buildings tend to use a combination of fire and smoke control systems to keep their occupants safe. 

How Smoke Curtains Work in High-Rise Buildings

There are several types of smoke curtains available that would work well in high-rise buildings. Let’s review a few of these options and learn more about how they work:

Elevator Smoke Curtains

Elevator smoke curtains help keep smoke from traveling through the elevator shaft. When smoke is detected, a reinforced, transparent, polyimide film is deployed. The film’s edges have flexible magnetic strips that attach to metal rails on either side of the elevator doorway, creating a seal that is virtually airtight. 

Rather than using a contained elevator lobby to control the smoke within a couple hundred square feet, these curtains contain the smoke right in front of the elevator door, creating a more controlled and concise containment method.  

Smoke Guard’s M200 and M400 smoke curtains provide comprehensive and code-compliant smoke and draft opening protection. When combined with fire-rated elevator doors, these curtains provide smoke protection necessary to comply with building codes. They can be installed into the elevator door frame and cannot be seen unless they are deployed, so they won’t detract from your building’s aesthetics.

Click here to read about Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), which is constantly expanding and renovating. Using a combination of M600 and M400 units, OHSU was able to meet current codes while preserving egress in an existing elevator lobby.

Perimeter Smoke Curtains

These smoke curtains deploy vertically from housing located in a building’s ceiling and can seal off open stairways, escalators or doorways that lead into stairwells. They can be programmed to deploy automatically in the event of a fire, or they can be manually deployed if there is an electrical outage.

These curtains help prevent smoke from entering egress routes and quickly traveling to other floors. This is especially important for building occupants who may get trapped on higher floors and the fire and rescue teams who need to travel these routes to help them.

Smoke Guard’s M4000 fire-rated curtain is ideal for shielding staircases and escalators from smoke and flames, or it can act as a reservoir for smoke on the upper floors of an atrium or open space.

Vertical Smoke Curtains

Vertical smoke curtains operate a lot like perimeter smoke curtains and work well for atrium separation, openings in walls and for specialty/custom enclosures where fire-rated protection is required.  

Smoke Guard’s M2100 and M2500 fire and smoke rated curtains are available in a wide range of dimensions and are a great option for more modern high-rise buildings with unique structural features or large vertical open spaces.

Horizontal Smoke Curtains

Lobbies and atriums are other important considerations for high-rise buildings. These spaces tend to be large and often extend upwards several stories before reaching a ceiling. This is especially true with newer buildings.

Horizontal smoke curtains, like Smoke Guard’s M3000, are designed to deploy across open sections to help prevent the spread of smoke. This also gives fire extinguishing equipment time to work which minimizes damage and costs associated with rising smoke.

These smoke curtains can also be another option for forming an independent perimeter around staircases and atriums where no walls are present, or they can create divides in open floor plans which help contain smoke. Discreetly installing smoke curtains in specific junctions throughout an open floor plan helps reduce occupant injuries and structural damage.

Always Include Smoke Protection in High-Rise Buildings

When thinking about fire safety management in your high-rise building, make sure you always consider smoke control. Elevators can quickly become chimneys for smoke, pulling it to every floor, and open spaces like atriums can also make smoke control difficult. 

The addition of smoke curtains can protect your building and its occupants, keeping them safe and potentially preventing thousands of dollars in damages to your structure. 

Click here to contact a Smoke Guard specialist and learn more about choosing the right smoke curtains for your needs. Or check out our blog to learn more about all the ways you can enhance your building’s fire and smoke safety strategy.