Use Smoke & Fire Curtains to Achieve Fire Code-Compliance in Multi-Story Atriums


A multi-level atrium can be a beautiful and welcoming architectural feature to any building, creating a sense of openness and bringing in natural light. With an ever-increasing focus on energy efficiency and employee wellness, using natural light can make a building more attractive to potential tenants and visitors.

But several stories of open space pose unique challenges when it comes to fire safety planning. In the event of a fire, an atrium without the proper smoke and fire control technology can facilitate the rapid spread of fire from one floor to the next, leading to extensive property damage and creating dangerous conditions for building occupants as they evacuate.

While many architects and building operators consider options like fire-rated doors when preparing a fire safety plan, these doors offer no protection for the open space of an atrium. And they could make it difficult for you to achieve the beautiful, open design you want while staying code-compliant.

To protect your building and the people inside, and achieve the design you want, you need to look at other options, like smoke and fire curtains.

Smoke and Fire Curtain Design Options


There are a variety of smoke and fire curtains available, designed to fit different spaces and serve different functions based on your needs. In an atrium, a selection of curtains may be needed to meet fire code requirements and effectively control the spread of smoke and fire, both vertically from floor-to-floor and horizontally to protect the occupied areas on each floor.

Horizontal fire curtains are built to extend horizontally over open spaces, like an atrium, effectively compartmentalizing one floor from the next. The Smoke Guard M3000 horizontal fire curtain can be customized to fit an open space from as small at 6-foot by 3-foot to 24-foot by 30-foot. When a horizontal fire curtain is deployed, it rolls along a track hidden in the walls, cutting the space into two.

While horizontal curtains help control the spread of fire and smoke from one floor to the next, if your building’s atrium is open to occupied areas on each floor, you’ll also need to install curtains to protect occupants as they move toward points of egress. Vertical perimeter atrium fire curtains descend when an alarm is tripped, closing off the atrium from the rest of the floor.


The Smoke Guard M4000 atrium fire curtain is a pleated curtain that can be used to shield staircases and atria. The curtain assembly is installed in the ceiling and deployed when an alarm signal is received. The M4000 curtain can be customized to floor-to-ceiling heights up to 15 feet high and spaces up to 200 feet wide.

Who Uses Smoke and Fire Curtains?

University of Idaho Innovation Center


The University of Idaho’s Integrated Research and Innovation Center is a multi-disciplinary research facility opened in 2017. The building hosts a rotating roster of research teams who may use the space for a few months or several years. As a result, flexibility in the space is key.

The Innovation Center’s atrium spans three stories, offering lots of open space and natural light to university staff, students and visitors. To help manage smoke and fire migration, the university installed two M3000 horizontal fire curtains to bisect the atrium and close off each floor. These curtains significantly reduced the need for costly mechanical smoke evacuation systems.

University of Nevada Reno Pennington Student Achievement Center


The 77,345 square foot, 3-story William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center was opened in 2016. The new building brings together a number of student resource services that were previously scattered across campus. With a focus on accessibility and collaboration, the building boasts a multi-story staircase and atrium to welcome students and visitors.

Smoke Guard was brought in after the university had a problematic experience with smoke control in their library. As part of the Pennington Center’s construction, the design/build team was tasked with finding alternative smoke control solutions. Working with Smoke Guard, the team installed seven horizontal fire curtains, thereby eliminating the need for mechanical smoke control altogether.

400 Fairview, Seattle


Completed in 2015, the building at 400 Fairview was designed to be a multi-use site, with retail and community space in the podium and a 10-story office building above. The LEED Platinum building includes collaborative workspaces, flexible floorplans and lots of natural sunlight.

When dealing with an open concept multi-purpose building like 400 Fairview, horizontal smoke curtains are an effective way of closing off upper stories in the event of a fire. Smoke Guard worked with the architect and building owner to engineer an effective fire protection solution that worked with the aesthetic of the building.

Facebook Offices


If the trend of open concept offices and bright atria is popular anywhere, it’s in the fun and sunny tech hub of southern California. Smoke Guard was brought in to support a renovation of the Facebook offices in Playa Vista, California.

The building included a two-story atrium, surrounded by open staff spaces on both floors. Smoke Guard installed a perimeter curtain around the stairwell and atrium. The design requires no corner posts, which helps to maintain the aesthetic of the original building design.

Isagenix World Headquarters


The Isagenix World Headquarters Building, in Gilbert, Arizona, includes a three-story atrium in a 150,000 square foot office complex. The result is a bright and spacious office facility, but it also requires additional planning for fire protection. The high ceilings and open space have the potential to allow smoke and fire to migrate quickly between floors.

For the Isagenix headquarters building, the solution was a 136-foot atrium curtain that will automatically close off upper floors when a fire is detected. This type of curtain can be customized to fit nearly any size space, including corners, at a variety of angles.

Alfred Taubman Wing of the University of Michigan Art & Architecture Building


This 36,000 square foot addition was opened in 2017. The new wing includes open stairs and ramps around a 5,700 square foot, two-story atrium designed as a gathering and event space. The building includes a studio, offices and collaborative learning space. Designers used a perimeter atrium curtain to provide fire and smoke protection at the top of the staircase.

Choose the Smoke and Fire Curtain That Works for You

Horizontal and atrium curtains are an effective way to protect tenants, visitors and other building occupants. They can also reduce your building’s overall fire protection costs by limiting the need for expensive mechanical systems. To find the configuration of smoke and fire curtains that works for your project, visit the Smoke Guard website.