Discreet Design, Distinctive Impact

Case Study: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Veterinary Diagnostic Center


When the University of Nebraska decided to build a new Veterinary Diagnostic Center on their Lincoln campus, they called Omaha architect Nick Schulz from RDG to design the expansive research lab.

Schulz came up with a design that included an open and inviting central spine from which the offices and labs would extend. He also needed to incorporate safety features that performed to code but remained discreet so as not to stand out in the building awkwardly.

Smoke Guard’s fire and smoke curtains were the perfect solution, delivering above-standard hazard protection and fitting seamlessly into the design aesthetic.

The Challenge

Lead architect Schulz had a bright, open and airy vision for the new Veterinary Diagnostics Lab from the start. The challenge was fitting the necessary safety requirements and equipment into the design aesthetic in a way that wouldn’t distract or stick out.

Other more permanent products were considered, such as fire shutters and doors, but those options were too jarring for the design. There was simply no way to hide a fire shutter or door within the open concept, and the look of these products was too industrial for the clean, modern aesthetic.

Schulz had been interested in working with Smoke Guard’s fire curtains and saw this project as the perfect time to try them. He knew they would be a convenient solution that would fit in the limited space and easily blend into the design. He just had to make sure they met the specific safety codes required by law.

The state required that safety measures be put in place so smoke hazards could not travel between floors, which became a significant consideration for the open concept project. But the Smoke Guard fire curtains were more than capable of meeting those requirements.

The real challenge was that the university also had its own entity, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), with authority over building and fire safety codes in addition to state and national requirements. They had specific codes set in place for extra protection for which Smoke Guard’s products had never been tested.

The Solution

Smoke Guard worked with Schulz in writing up code analysis to ensure the university that the fire and smoke curtains could meet the specific requirements set in place.

And Smoke Guard didn’t just direct him to where the technical specs could be found on their website. They put him in touch with a representative who was very hands-on in putting the whole presentation together. The AHJ did allow Smoke Guard’s curtains to be used, alongside a few additional sprinkler heads, and the project moved forward with no other issues.

Schulz used three different Smoke Guard products: the M3000 horizontal fire curtain, the M4000 perimeter fire curtain and a fire-rated M2100 vertical fire and smoke curtain.

The horizontal fire curtain was built into the openings of the floor. The track for these fire curtains was recessed and lines up perfectly with the lines of the building, so they are not noticeable until activated.

The perimeter fire curtain was used to wrap three sides of the building’s main stairway. However, the AHJ expressed some concern that people may in an emergency go down those stairs and get trapped behind the curtains. The solution was simple: A button was placed on both sides of the curtain that when pressed, would lift the curtain for thirty seconds allowing the person to get by, then it would reclose and reseal behind them.

The installation of all three products was very easy and integrated perfectly into the design and build processes.

The Outcome

Both Schulz and the client were exceedingly pleased with both the discreet look of the products as well as their functionality — so much so that Smoke Guard fire curtains have been installed in other buildings on The University of Nebraska’s campus since the completion of the Veterinary Diagnostics Lab in 2017.

Schulz has even worked with Smoke Guard curtains on other projects in the state such as in a new building for the School of Dentistry at Creighton University in Omaha. He says that the groundwork they did with the Lab made larger projects like these possible, and he looks forward to the continued partnership with Smoke Guard.

“The ability that Smoke Guard had to help out and pull some resources that, honestly, I didn’t know existed was really what made it available and able to be installed for that project and on ones since then,” says Schulz.

Be sure to check out all that Smoke Guard has to offer or contact your nearest distributor for more information on Smoke Guard’s innovative fire and smoke safety solutions.

See the M2100 in action at the UNL Vet Lab!

See the M4000 in action at the UNL Vet Lab!