Strategies for a Safer, Healthier Office Space

Your office design should be about more than increasing productivity. Office building owners and architects should also prioritize fire safety as they approach design and renovation.  

However, office buildings present a special set of challenges when it comes to fire safety. All office buildings, even ones with the most innovative designs, have features that can make fire protection and prevention more complex, such as multiple levels, open atriums, elevator shafts, and of course, working areas that are concentrated with staff.

Let’s see how several architects and owners were able to protect their occupants without detracting from their offices’ design.

Preventing Fire and Smoke Spread Between Levels

Most offices are located in multi-story buildings. These levels are often either connected by open stairwells within large atriums or by elevator shafts. Both atriums and elevators create risk for the spread of fire and smoke.


In atriums, the large, open space between floors leaves room for smoke to accumulate and rise, which sends heat and smoke into the building’s upper levels. This can lead to smoke inhalation and makes it easier for the fire to spread. Atrium smoke control is, therefore, a major concern in office space design. The Gensler design group used special smoke curtains to address smoke control in several of their recent renovations.


A renovation of the Facebook office in Playa Vista, California, needed to meet smoke control requirements for its atrium stairwell. Designers at Gensler achieved this by incorporating a Smoke Guard M400 perimeter curtain on the building’s second story. This installation effectively prevents smoke from rising to the office’s upper level, mitigating damage and maximizing safety.


The Gensler team also used an M400 fire curtain from Smoke Guard for atrium protection in another one of its projects, the renovation of two Microsoft office buildings in Redmond, Washington. The pictured building’s atrium connects three levels, but the team only needed to install a sleekly-integrated smoke curtain on the top floor.

They were allowed to only curtain off the top floor thanks to an efficiency in the local code: Atriums that only connect 2 stories do not need smoke control installations. The curtain remains open during normal office activity, but automatically seals off the third level when a fire starts or the building loses power.

By sealing the top level with the M400 fire curtain, the team achieved an excellent level of smoke control that was perfect for the needs of the multi-level atrium.

Elevator Shafts

Elevator smoke and fire safety requires its own set of solutions. When an office’s elevator shaft connects three or more stories, codes stipulate that fire and smoke protection be used to seal off each floor. This isolation is most efficiently done with the use of curtains that cover the elevator doors.


The MK Plaza office headquarters in Boise Idaho is an old building that needed to be brought up to code. To easily address fire safety requirements for the facility’s elevator shafts, the project’s team installed M200 and M400 elevator smoke curtains by Smoke Guard. These translucent coverings seal magnetically at the edges so they attach easily to the door and are also easy to roll up once the fire is over.

Protecting Employee Work Zones

When a fire breaks out in an office building, the most important thing is to protect the lives of everyone inside. Luckily, this can be done with strategic implementation of office fire and smoke protection.

Because most office workers are stationed at desks in fairly concentrated spaces, it’s possible to completely shield the areas where employees are congregated. Drop-down smoke curtains can create a safe barrier between these zones and where fires may originate.


In Charlotte, North Carolina, the construction of the Red Ventures campus had lofty goals. The building’s design needed to be stylishly modern while also prioritizing occupant safety.

The design team managed to accomplish both of these aims with the use of Smoke Guard curtains that were seamlessly integrated into the passageways between halls and staff work zones.

As can be seen in the photo above, the area of cubicles can be neatly sealed off and protected in the event of a fire by a curtain that is installed above the doorway. The curtain allows for the work area to be kept safe while employees make their way to connected evacuation routes. And because it has a minimalist design when not activated, this type of installation allows for discreet protection integration that doesn’t detract from the office’s contemporary design.

Designing Offices That Stand Up to Smoke and Fire

Each of the above projects demonstrates how smoke curtain systems can effectively solve a variety of fire safety concerns. By following the lead of the examples shown here, architects and building owners can ensure that their office spaces are able to stand strong in the face of fires.

Visit our blog to learn more about great solutions for office fire safety.