Detection. Active systems. Compartmentalization.
Architects and building engineers should recognize these three terms as the components of building fire safety. Working together, this three-part strategy keeps occupants safe from harm in a mid- or high-rise building fire.
The first two elements perform a superb job of fire warning and suppression. But both are dependent on other building systems to do their job, such as a backup power generator when electricity fails. And if the backup generator goes down? Failure is a possibility. That’s why compartmentalization – passive fire-containment – is critical to public safety and prescribed by code. It’s the Ultimate Plan B. It works when all else fails.
But what compartmentalization strategy is right for your project? Every building is different. A containment approach that works for one exterior wall assembly may not work for the next. How to achieve façade innovation without code issues?
Angie Ogino has some ideas.
She and her technical services team at Owens Corning curate a large, comprehensive library of UL- and Intertek-tested perimeter fire containment solutions. All told, it’s a repository of nearly five decades of code-compliant perimeter wall solutions representing tens of millions of dollars in proprietary testing data.
“The methods and the manner in which buildings are constructed always changes,” Ogino explains. “Façade aesthetics constantly evolves. That leads to issues with mullion and transom spacing, floor to sill height, curtain wall mounting bracket protection, and other changing conditions. Yet one thing remains unchanged: How does the façade comply with perimeter fire containment code?
“What is the supporting documentation that demonstrates full code compliance for fire compartmentalization?” Ogino asks.
Producing the proper documentation can put an architect in a challenging position. If a building product manufacturer doesn’t have test reports to support the façade’s aesthetic intent, a project can be delayed, go over budget, and risk the architect’s reputation.
Why Owens Corning is uniquely qualified to assist designers is summed-up with a single term: Enclosure Solutions. “Enclosure Solutions deliver a range of options for different types of construction with customizable components you can select to fit the needs of your project. For example, Thermafiber Mineral Wool Insulation, an Enclosure Solutions component, safely handles temperatures well above 2,000 F when tested in a fire-rated assembly,” reports Ogino. “We’ve produced Thermafiber for a long time, even before there were test standards for fire containment. In fact, we pioneered the first perimeter fire containment system and collaborated with the UL on developing the test methodology that evolved into the standards all of us observe today.
“We’ve been testing fire containment solutions since the late 1960s. That body of test data differentiates us from other manufacturers. When an architect requests it, we can pull a vetted system that may represent a very similar condition,” Ogino says. In other cases, Owens Corning will write an engineering judgment based on historical test data.
Access to comprehensive test data is important peace of mind. It may be one reason why the project teams behind One World Trade Center, Burj Khalifa, Petronas Towers, and many other prominent mid- and high-rises consult with Owens Corning.
To learn more about code-compliant compartmentalization, visit here.