Best practices for mixed-use buildings: Fire and life safety
Taking on a mixed-use structure—such as one that includes retail and residential portions—can be an engineering challenge. With all the different engineered systems involved, it can be like working on and integrating several different projects at once. Fire and life safety systems must be carefully considered.
- Anil Ahuja, PE, RCDD, LEED BD+C, CxA, President, CCJM Engineers Ltd. Chicago
- Jason R. Gerke, PE, CxA, LEED AP BD+C, Mechanical and Plumbing Team Leader, GRAEF, Milwaukee
- Keith Lane, PE, RCDD, NTS, RTPM, LC, LEED AP BD+C, President/CEO, Lane Coburn & Associates, Bothell, Wash.
- Brian A. McLaughlin, PE, Associate, Arup, Los Angeles
CSE: What unique fire suppression systems have you specified or designed in a mixed-use facility?
McLaughlin: Mixed-use buildings will often incorporate wet-pipe automatic sprinkler, pre-action sprinkler, and gaseous suppression systems. Unique approaches are often employed as a means to provide fire protection in line with the intent of the code, while not meeting the prescriptive guidelines. For example, a recent project strived to omit sprinkler protection above a certain ceiling height because sprinkler effectiveness was deemed marginal due to the extremely large volume, steep ceiling geometry, and specific use of the space. On another project, pre-action sprinkler systems were employed throughout the entire building due to the owner’s design to minimize accidental water damage. The approach to fire suppression must combine code requirements, design intent, and owner project needs to reach a suitable level of protection that addresses the objectives of all stakeholders.
CSE: What type of unique smoke control solutions have you designed in these buildings? What were the challenges/solutions?
McLaughlin: One of the technologies that is becoming a more viable option within the United States is fire protective curtains. These devices have been in use in various parts of the world for many years, but only in the last few years have the manufacturers focused on obtaining the various U.S.-based approvals that enable them to more easily be used in U.S. jurisdictions. In some cases, these products can facilitate the reduction in size or omission of mechanical smoke control for large-volume spaces, potentially saving significant first costs and maintenance costs.
CSE: Describe a recent project in which a mass notification system (MNS) or emergency communication system (ECS) was specified. Describe the challenges and solutions.
McLaughlin: As mixed-use developments strive to become more interactive for the patron experience, public address systems of varying sophistication are becoming more commonplace. Because these systems are often designed to ensure audibility throughout the occupied spaces, they become a prime candidate for integration to the fire alarm and evacuation strategy. However, since the public address equipment is often not listed for fire alarm duty, a comprehensive strategy must be developed to demonstrate to all stakeholders that this type of system can be effective.