Designing office space: Fire, life safety

Office building clients demand sustainability, flexibility, and cost conservation in both new and existing buildings.


Michael F. Cooper, PE, LEED AP, is a Managing Principal at Harley Ellis Devereaux in Southfield, Mich. Courtesy: Harvey Ellis DevereauxKurt Karnatz, PE, CEM, LEED AP, HBDP, HFDP, is the President of Environmental Systems Design Inc. (ESD) in Chicago. Courtesy: ESDKent W. Peterson, PE, FASHRAE, LEED AP BD+C, BEAP is the Vice President/Chief Engineer of P2S Engineering Inc. in Long Beach, Calif. Courtesy: P2S Engineering


Michael F. Cooper, PE, LEED AP, Managing Principal, Harley Ellis Devereaux, Southfield, Mich.

Kurt Karnatz, PE, CEM, LEED AP, HBDP, HFDP, President, Environmental Systems Design Inc., Chicago

Kent W. Peterson, PE, FASHRAE, LEED AP BD+C, BEAP, Vice President/Chief Engineer, P2S Engineering Inc., Long Beach, Calif.

CSE: What unique fire suppression systems have you specified in office buildings? 

Cooper: We recently specified a highly effective vortex water atomization system, which uses domestic water and compressed nitrogen. The advantages of this type of system are that it is noncondensing in sensitive equipment and computer areas, requires less cost to reset after a discharge because of the availability of compressed nitrogen, is safe for building occupants if present during a discharge, is easy to clean up after a discharge, and is environmentally friendly given that the main products are water and inert nitrogen. 

Karnatz: Depending on the tenancy needs we use combinations of traditional wet sprinkler, pre-action, gaseous fire suppression, fogging systems, and compartmentalization strategies. 

CSE: What unique egress, mass notification system, or emergency communication systems have you specified into such buildings? 

Karnatz: We are certainly seeing an increase in the application of mass notification systems beyond government and education buildings and NFPA 72 requirements, but nothing unique. 

Cooper: The critical factor is increasing communication and awareness during an emergency event, such that building occupants can get to safety quickly. We have used area of refuge intercom systems and voice signaling communications throughout a building to facilitate this. 

CSE: What are some important factors to consider when designing a fire and life safety system in an office building? What things often get overlooked? 

Cooper: Survivability is the most important factor. Maintaining system operation during an emergency situation requires system redundancy, fire-rated building components, and appropriate separation of elements within fire-rated enclosures. One often overlooked area is the proper selection and adherence to fire-rated partition assemblies. If overlooked during design and construction, this can severely compromise the longevity of system operation during a fire emergency.

Karnatz: Speaking regionally, a thorough code analysis should be done to ensure compliance with authorities having jurisdiction requirements. Specific things to look for are: smoke control, special suppression, and intelligent building communication system requirements. Installation of utility piping and ducts in the fire-rated stairs is often overlooked.

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Choosing controllers: PLCs, PACs, IPCs, DCS? What's best for your application?; Wireless trends; Design, integration; Manufacturing Day; Product Exclusive
Variable speed drives: Smooth, efficient, electrically quite motion control; Process control upgrades; Mobile intelligence; Product finalists: Vote now; Product Exclusives
Machine design tips: Pneumatic or electric; Software upgrades; Ethernet advantages; Additive manufacturing; Engineering Leaders; Product exclusives: PLC, HMI, IO
This article collection contains the 5 most referenced articles on improving the use of PID.
Learn how Industry 4.0 adds supply chain efficiency, optimizes pricing, improves quality, and more.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security