Case Study: Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha

At Smoke Guard, we believe the key to success lies in building lasting relationships with our clients. Due to the consistent feedback from architects, Smoke Guard products have become the industry standard in fire safety design.

The versatility of our products were on full display when the new School of Dentistry building at Creighton University was designed. Architect Nick Schulz approached the project knowing he would specify Smoke Guard fire and smoke curtains.

Good First Impressions

Nick Schulz, RDG Planning and Design architect, was already familiar with Smoke Guard products after using their smoke curtains on a previous project. When designing the University of Nebraska’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center, Schulz initially had difficulty finding a way to incorporate the necessary fire safety measures into his modern and open concept. Fire doors and shutters were simply too industrial and jarring for his aesthetic.

Then, Schulz discovered Smoke Guard’s fire and smoke curtains which fit seamlessly into his design. They preserved his initial concept while also bringing the building up to code. Smoke Guard even worked with Schulz to draft the code analysis and present to the university in order to assure them that the curtains would meet all necessary requirements.

Smoke Guard’s fire and smoke curtains were a reactive solution to the challenges brought up by the Veterinary Diagnostic Center project, but Schulz was so impressed by the product that he began proactively incorporating them wherever he could in future designs.

Design With a Mission

When approaching the Creighton University School of Dentistry building, Schulz aimed to keep the school’s mission at the heart of his design. The School of Dentistry is not merely an institution of learning, but also provides exceptional care to the surrounding community — particularly to underserved populations. The design strategy was meant to highlight the connection between the campus and its urban context.

This vision included an open concept design, communal spaces located throughout and a stunning atrium right in the heart of the building. But the budget, timeline and safety codes made implementing the design vision a challenge. The crew had to get creative when fabricating and installing key features like the exterior envelope to keep costs down, but creativity can only go so far when it comes to fire safety requirements.

An atrium spanning several floors, like the one in the Creighton University School of Dentistry building, typically requires an active smoke management system to exhaust or evacuate smoke in an emergency. Exhaust vents are an intricate and complicated mechanical system that consists of several parts and complex engineering that can significantly set back a budget and deadline. Furthermore, smoke exhaust systems need a backup power source in the event of a power outage caused by a fire.

The costs of labor and parts for a smoke exhaust system did not fit within the project budget, and neither did the physical and visual footprint that impacted the design. Other passive alternatives like fire doors and shutters could have brought the building up to code but would have also compromised its visual appeal.

Fortunately, Schulz had already taken all of this into consideration and knew exactly what was needed to fulfill his vision and the fire code requirements

Creative Solutions for Unique Designs

Smoke Guard’s smoke and fire curtains once again fit seamlessly into the design.

Smoke and fire curtains are a part of a passive smoke management system that serves to contain the fire and smoke in certain areas and provide safe exit pathways for occupants.

In the Creighton University School of Dentistry project, smoke curtains were used around the atrium space to enclose it in the event of a fire emergency and prevent smoke from rapidly spreading throughout the building. Smoke Guard curtains were also used in a convenience stair application in another part of the building.

Smoke curtains were the best choice of fire safety for several reasons:

  • They are more cost-effective and are easier to install than mechanical exhaust systems that require skilled engineers and several parts to install.
  • Smoke curtains do not need additional power to operate in case of a power outage.
  • They are virtually invisible when stowed and do not take up nearly as much space as their mechanical counterparts.

Lasting Legacy

Smoke Guard custom-makes their stairwell application curtains to ensure the product’s full efficacy during a fire emergency. Smoke Guard representatives worked closely with RDG to make sure the dimensions were accurate and the smoke curtains were installed correctly.

For those who use the building daily, the smoke curtains are out of sight and out of mind, but they are tucked away and ready to go in case of an emergency. Facility managers have said the smoke curtains are much easier to test than mechanical systems and require testing less frequently.

For Schulz and RDG Design, Smoke Guard’s smoke curtains are a product they continue to come back to. Smoke curtains have become the first choice RDG considers in their designs, and there are already other projects underway where Smoke Guard products will be implemented.

To learn more about what draws architects consistently back to Smoke Guard products and how they could be the perfect safety solution for your project, contact us today.