Technology drives fire, life safety design in K-12 schools

Updates, COVID and tech trends are shifting the way K-12 schools’ fire and life safety systems are designed

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer April 7, 2022
RTM provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting design and construction administration for the ground-up, 67,189-square-foot Eagle Heights Elementary School in Smithville, Missouri. To keep the design as energy efficient as possible while also accommodating the vaulted, open ceiling floorplan present in the school corridors, wall-mounted, high-bay LED lighting was used throughout for both direct and indirect lighting. Courtesy: RTM Engineering Consultants


Luis Alvarez, PE, Electrical Engineer, Associate, Page, Austin, Texas, David Bonaventure, PE, CEM, Principal, Salas O’Brien LLC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lawrin T. Ellis, PE, LEED AP, Managing Principal, TLC Engineering Solutions Inc., Fort Myers, Florida, Keith Hammerschmidt, PE, Senior Project Manager, RTM Engineer Consultants, Overland Park, Kansas, Scott Peck, PE, Vice President, Peter Basso Associates, Troy, Michigan

What fire, smoke control and security features might you incorporate in these facilities that you wouldn’t see on other projects?

Lawrin T. Ellis: Stages and associated fire/smoke systems are the most atypical with respect to most other project types.

How has the cost and complexity of fire protection systems involved with K-12 school projects changed over the years? How did these changes impact the overall design process?

Lawrin T. Ellis: We have not seen significant complexity with fire protection systems design. The biggest challenge is having to retrofit an existing unsprinklered campus when major renovations dictate fire protection under current codes.

How have changes to codes, BIM and wireless devices/systems impacted fire and life safety system design for these buildings?

Lawrin T. Ellis: Code changes requiring that first responders have radio coverage throughout campuses have had the greatest impact to wireless communication devices and systems. These are specifically BDA, bi-directional antenna and DAS, Distributed Antenna Systems that require design modeling and field testing before final acceptance by public safety facilities.