Getting it right in mixed-use buildings: Fire and life safety

Mixed-use buildings—often a combination of retail and residential—are unique structures with varying needs. Fire and life systems should be considered for all tenants.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer September 30, 2015


Michael Albanese, PE, LEED GA, Senior Associate, Kohrs Lonnemann Heil Engineers, Fort Thomas, Ky.

David Callan, PE, CEM, HBDP, LEED AP, QCxP, Vice President, McGuire Engineers, Chicago

Donna Miller, PE, PEng, LEED AP, Vice President, Engineering, WD Partners, Dublin, Ohio

Gary Poole, PE, Principal, Bury Inc., Houston

Andrew H. Smith, PE, CEM, LEED AP, Principal, Jordan & Skala Engineers, Dallas  

CSE: What unique fire-suppression systems have you specified on mixed-use buildings?

Smith: There are no particular requirements for mixed-use buildings. They are typically NFPA 13/13R systems.

CSE: Describe unique security and access control systems you have specified on mixed-use projects.

Albanese: While we have not actually designed very much in the mixed-use category, what we design regularly could cross over into that category easily. We often see the integration between access control (card-reader doors) and surveillance video systems. The integration leads to both systems capturing records of common events and allowing the administrator to review the system should there be an incident. Example: Someone comes in a door but uses someone else’s credentials (proxy card) and the person reports that they have lost their card days prior to the event. The integrated system allows one to search the days since the loss and associate video recorded around the door when the missing card was used. The systems are linked together so that the access control system can produce the photo image of the person who should be using a given card. We also regularly design door-entry systems. These are as simple as a door reporting to a location that is manned full-time by security or other staff. That staff must review whether they wish to allow the person requesting entry to pass through. The other aspect of this is the use of video. The person wishing to enter appears on a video monitor allowing the staff to interact with them by audio as well as video. Once a security decision is made, the staff can remotely release the door’s lock and allow entry or deny entry. We are working on a project now where the owner wishes to capture images of all persons who enter and exit from apartments. They know by history that many unacceptable activities occur around their facilities. If a report comes in, they can verify that by checking the video of all events in the corridors for who comes and goes at any time.

Smith: Jordan & Skala Engineers offers communication, security, and audio/visual design services. Controlled access into and out of the parking structure, amenity areas, and building entrances is common practice. Wi-Fi in public areas has become a tenant expectation, along with distributed antenna systems (DAS) to boost cell phone coverage within the building.