Benefits of Fire Door Commissioning

This guest post is provided by our #FireDoorSafetyWeek partner, Aegis Fire Barrier Consultants, and is written by, Justin B. Biller, P.E., CHFM, CLSS-HC, CFPS | AEGIS Technical Director.

Doors are a major concern for building owners and facility managers. Ongoing maintenance of doors and architectural hardware represents a significant cost margin to building owners. Nowhere, is this more true than for healthcare facility and engineering managers where building footprints are vast - often in excess of 1 million square feet or more. Maintaining all doors in large facilities is always a challenge, but of even higher concern for healthcare engineers is fire and smoke barrier management, wherein door maintenance is a critical component. This point is not lost on a highly accomplished architect, Amanda Adams AIA, who has spent much of her career in significant restoration projects – she has noted first- hand how important fire and smoke door assemblies become in sustaining code compliance, providing a safe and healthy environment for building occupants, and in achieving her overall architectural vision for a space. Ms. Adams highlighted this point to us at AEGIS, wherein she states,

“the foremost requirement of architecture is shelter. This ranks above aesthetics and creative efforts. All building occupants - users, visitors, tenants, residents - expect a building to provide shelter from the elements. At times, emergency situations arise that cause a building to offer shelter or protection from internal threats (often this is a fire threat)....whether that be protect in place or provide a safe exiting scenario. Passive life safety systems hold top priority in life safety; active systems increase safety and provide additional time. Properly functioning fire doors are a critical basic component to the passive system. A door must fit properly in its frame. Closing hardware must work properly. Positive latching hardware completes the barrier.”

The added strain on fiscal responsibilities for healthcare facilities to “do more with less” heightens the need to challenge installers to do the work right the first time – it is often noted on annual inspections of fire and smoke door assemblies that the ongoing challenges to maintenance stem from improper installation (i.e., improperly plumbed door frame and jamb, incorrect or insufficient hardware, incorrect door or glazing type, etc.).
According to the Door Security and Safety Foundation, although doors only represent 2% of a typical construction budget, on average more than 30% of punch-list items are door-related. It is, therefore, the opinion of many within the industry that it is in the best interest of building owners to verify fire and smoke doors are installed properly from the outset – a determination that committee members of NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives also found imperative. In its most current published editions (2016 and 2019), NFPA 80 prescribes in section 5.2.1 that “upon completion of the installation” these assemblies are to be inspected and tested.
Here at AEGIS we believe as well that a comprehensive survey of door installation during construction benefits the building designer and can dramatically decrease ongoing maintenance costs associated with fire and smoke door assemblies. We are here to help you implement this on your next project and can work with your design team through specification and installation through final punch-out.
What is Fire System Commissioning (FCx)
NFPA 3, Recommended Practice for Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems delineates that the commissioning and integrated testing process would include both, active and passive components of fire protection systems. Commissioning is a procedure of verifying a quality process from design inception through development and construction and extends through the life of the building by ongoing maintenance and operations. Passive fire protection systems, including fire and smoke rated door assemblies, serve as a primary component for most building life safety systems with varying degrees of complexity (based on factors such as occupancy and building geometry). Fire and smoke rated doors are often integrated with fire and life safety systems such as fire alarm, sprinkler, smoke control, and emergency electrical systems, thus it becomes imperative for the fire commissioning team (FCxT) to include qualified fire door commissioning agents (Cx) to be employed. Along with NFPA 3, NFPA also developed NFPA 4, Standard for the Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing to work in concert with the recommended practices of commissioning, outlined in NFPA 3, to accomplish this task.
AEGIS with its partnerships with engineers and architects, has the practical experience and expertise to support your commissioning team with passive fire protection system components.

Smoke Gasketing and Edge Sealing in Healthcare Occupancies

This guest post is provided by our #FireDoorSafetyWeek partner, Aegis Fire Barrier Consultants, and is written by, Justin B. Biller, P.E., CHFM, CLSS-HC, CFPS | AEGIS Technical Director.

Do corridor doors require smoke gasketing in healthcare occupancies (which are classified as Group I-2 under the International Building Code® (IBC)?

There is often confusion encircling this question with facility managers, designers, and even fire door inspectors. Gasketing is often perceived as an ambiguity in the codes. This fire door component is routinely missed during design and construction, and often leads to further confusion during the life cycle of the building. The question is multi-faceted as there is various criterion to consider.

This is the final installment of a three part series that addresses the more common questions that we have noted in our work with fire and smoke door code compliance. Parts 1 and 2 of the series can be accessed from the Aegis Fire Barrier blog page.

Part 1. When is edge sealing specifically required for fire protection rated doors?
Part 2. Do fire and smoke rated doors require smoke gasketing in healthcare occupancies which are classified as Group I-2 under the International Building Code® (IBC)?
Part 3. Do corridor doors require smoke gasketing in healthcare occupancies (which are classified as Group I-2 under the International Building Code® (IBC)?

For a general listing classification of protection methods, reference to UL is helpful in understanding the parameters of installation regarding Gasketing and Edge-sealing Materials for Fire Doors, Positive-pressure Tested, GVYI.

To address the question – do corridor doors require smoke gasketing in healthcare occupancies (which are classified as Group I-2 under the International Building Code® (IBC), in general the following code excerpts from the model codes are included below.

Corridor Doors - NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 2012
“* Construction of Corridor Walls. Corridor walls shall be permitted to terminate at the ceiling where the ceiling is constructed to limit the transfer of smoke. No fire resistance rating shall be required for corridor walls.* Corridor walls shall form a barrier to limit the transfer of smoke.”

“* Corridor Doors.* Doors protecting corridor openings shall be constructed to resist the passage of smoke, and the following also shall apply: (1) Compliance with NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, shall not be required. (2) A clearance between the bottom of the door and the floor covering not exceeding 1 in. (25 mm) shall be permitted for corridor doors. (3) Doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, sink closets, and similar auxiliary spaces that do not contain flammable or combustible material shall not be required to be constructed to resist the passage of smoke.”

As regards the application of NFPA 101 requirements for corridor walls and doors, it is important to recognize the distinction that this code makes from IBC, wherein it does not require corridor walls to be smoke partitions – note the explanatory annex language below specific to this issue:

“A. While a corridor wall is required to form a barrier to limit the transfer of smoke, such a barrier is not required to be either a smoke barrier or a smoke partition — two terms for which specific Code definitions and requirements apply.”

It is also important to note specifically, that NFPA 101 indicates that gasketing is NOT REQUIRED for corridor doors – note this explanatory language below:
“A. Gasketing of doors should not be necessary to achieve resistance to the passage of smoke if the door is relatively tight-fitting.”

Corridor Doors – International Building Code, 2012
“407.3 Corridor wall construction. Corridor walls shall be constructed as smoke partitions in accordance with Section 710. 407.3.1 Corridor doors. Corridor doors, other than those in a wall required to be rated by Section 509.4 or for the enclosure of a vertical opening or an exit, shall not have a required fire protection rating and shall not be required to be equipped with self-closing or automatic-closing devices, but shall provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke and shall be equipped with positive latching. Roller latches are not permitted. Other doors shall conform to Section 716.5.”

“710.5.2.2 Smoke and draft control doors. Where required elsewhere in the code, doors in smoke partitions shall meet the requirements for a smoke and draft control door assembly tested in accordance with UL 1784. The air leakage rate of the door assembly shall not exceed 3.0 cubic feet per minute per square foot (0.015424 m3/(s • m2)) of door opening at 0.10 inch (24.9 Pa) of water for both the ambient temperature test and the elevated temperature exposure test. Installation of smoke doors shall be in accordance with NFPA 105.”

The IBC again is more stringent in its application than NFPA 101 is for this requirement – note the ICC commentary for this section which clearly identifies corridor doors are to meet UL 1784:
“Only doors in smoke partitions that are required elsewhere in the code to be smoke and draft control doors must comply with section. Section 407.3.1 requires corridor doors in Group I-2 to ‘limit the transfer of smoke’; therefore, those doors must meet this section.”
As such, IBC does require corridor doors in I-2 occupancies to meet UL 1784. This results in the effect that life safety surveys involving the use of NFPA 101, 2012 cannot technically mandate the installation of smoke gasketing either for existing or new construction involving corridor doors.
The same would not hold true for fire prevention inspections conducted under the International Fire Code® for facilities constructed to meet either the IBC or the legacy Uniform Building Code (UBC) – previously adopted throughout Western Pacific regions of the US. What strategy should facility managers take about existing fire doors where edge sealing is not equipped on fire doors in their facility? Like so many things in code compliance, the answer depends on the specifics of your individual facility. If you need any assistance in understanding this parameter for your facility, AEGIS has fire protection specialists here to help you with code consulting services and inspection services that can help maintain compliance with fire door strategies.

Fire Door Safety Week 2018 - #FireDoorSafetyWeek

Fire doors are often the first line of defense in a fire and their correct installation, testing, and maintenance can be the difference between life and death for building occupants. However, these remain a significant area of neglect, often mismanaged throughout their service life, blocked open, or damaged and badly maintained. Consequently, Fire Door Safety Week was created.

For Fire Door Safety Week, has partnered with Aegis Fire Barrier Consultants:

  • To raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance.
  • To encourage building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and to report those that aren’t satisfactory.
  • To link together the initiatives of many organizations with common interests in the fire door and passive fire protection industries.
  • To engage and educate people, helping the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.

As a resource, the presentation below presents an overview of compartmentation and the importance of fire doors. This presentation will walk you through the code requirements and applicable standards, fire door types, components and operation, and proper inspection procedures. 

National Museum of Brazil Fire [Why We Do This Job]

On the evening of September 3, 2018, the National Museum of Brazil was gutted by fire. This 200 year old institution, a former palace for the Portuguese royal family, housed more than 20-million items and artifacts. Ninety percent of these items have been lost. These items represent a past that no longer exists for Brazil, languages that are no longer spoken, skeletal remains of the earliest living humans, and 200 years of research and collected knowledge.

This tragic loss serves as a poignant reminder for the reason why we, fire prevention, protection, and life safety professionals, do this job everyday. And the importance of our role in preventing these tragedies within our communities.

Several years ago the United States Fire Administration published a document that outlined the five impacts of fire. The premise of the document was that no fire is ever “just a fire”. Fire loss, of any size, has the potential to affect the community and the organization in five distinct ways: economically, organizationally, legally, psychologically, and politically.  As the news stories and editorial pieces continue to come out on the National Museum fire, we can clearly see how these five impacts of fire are affecting the local community, the people of Brazil, and International interests.

This is evident in the headlines and stories that include the following quotes:

“...our tangible record of life on earth…”
“...destruction of careers…”
“...a crime…”
“...systemic neglect of cultural institutions…”

Records and reports dating back to the 1950’s show a pattern of fire protection and life safety neglect. Recent citizen complaints identified the specific hazards of flammable plastic roofing material and exposed and jury-rigged electrical wiring. Additionally, other reports state “beyond a few fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, the museum did not have a fire suppression system.”

Preliminary reports have identified the cause of the fire as originating from a paper balloon lantern or an electrical short circuit in one of the museum’s lab areas.  However, there are three core reasons, at the highest government levels, that allowed this preventable loss to happen:
  • Tight budgets and availability of funds
  • Mismanagement of money and resources
  • Neglect and lack of prioritization 
These three dangerous actions and mindsets are not unique to Brazil, but are common throughout many communities. Beyond our responsibilities related to code compliance, plan review, and fire inspections, as fire protection professionals we also have a great responsibility to mold and change mindsets of our community leaders and citizens. We must constantly work to keep investments in  fire protection and life safety at the forefront, and consistently reiterate the life altering effect and impacts that lack of these essential services and systems will lead to.

Related Resources:

Developing a Fire Safety Program [for the Construction Industry]

Two construction workers lost their lives and six others were injured when a Denver building, that would be 5 stories and be comprised of 85 apartment units, burned to the ground. The fire was so large and burned so hot, more than 30 vehicles and 12 surrounding structures were damaged. An investigation has determined that trades were not at fault, and it does not seem that the cause is electrical. The official cause remains as “ will remain open and under investigation.”

Every year fires in construction, renovation, or demolition sites result in approximately 13 deaths, 132 injuries, and more than $300 million in direct property damage. The top causes of these fire incidents are cooking, heating equipment, and intentionally set fires. With losses like these it is important to see why a properly managed construction site fire prevention program is essential.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the International Fire Code (IFC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) each have requirements for the development and maintenance of a fire prevention program at construction job sites.

OSHA 29 CFR Part 1926, Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, states, “The employer shall be responsible for the development and maintenance of an effective fire protection and prevention program at the job site throughout all phases of the construction, repair, alteration, or demolition work….” [Subpart C, 1926.24]

IFC, Chapter 33, Fire Safety During Construction and Demolition, states, “The owner or owner’s authorized agent shall be responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of a written plan establishing a fire prevention program at the project site…” [IFC 3308.1]

NFPA 1, Fire Code, states, “An overall construction or demolition fire safety program shall be developed.” [NFPA 1:]

Specific components and requirements of the fire protection program are outlined in each standard. OSHA program requirements are defined in 29 CFR 1926, Subpart F.  However, both, the IFC and the NFPA reference the requirements of NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations.

NFPA 241 was developed, and is intended, to “prescribe minimum safeguards for construction, alteration, or demolition operations in order to provide reasonable safety to life and property from fire…”, and to provide “measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage” during construction operations. This standard provides a guide for the placement of temporary structures and storage of equipment and materials, safe conduct of hazardous construction processes and operations, protection of utilities, and required components of a fire protection program.

NFPA 241 provides a list of items that must be addressed within the fire safety program. Within each of these are further requirements described in full within the chapter.

  • Good housekeeping (to include location and storage of equipment, materials, and temporary structures and safe and proper application of construction methods and processes)
  • On-site security
  • Fire protection systems (installation and demolition)
  • Organization and training of an on-site fire brigade
  • Development of a pre-fire plan with the local fire department
  • Rapid communication
  • Considerations for special hazards and conditions
  • Protection of existing and surrounding structures and equipment

As with any part of a construction job, many players are required to accomplish the task, it is the same with the fire safety program. Key players are the AHJ, the building owner, fire prevention program manager, and site security personnel.

It is the responsibility of the AHJ to approve the fire safety plan. Each of the codes and standards provide allowances for the  modifications of, or additions to, the fire safety plan by the AHJ. The AHJ is responsible for clearly communicating this expectation. He may also be involved in assisting and coordinating pre-fire planning between the construction site management and the local fire department.

Ultimate responsibility for the fire safety of the site, and the development of the fire prevention program lies with the owner. The owner may manage this process directly or he can designate a program manager. Maintenance of all fire protection, inspections, and safety records are the responsibility of the owner or the designated program manager.

The owner’s designee, or the fire prevention program manager must have full authority to enforce the fire prevention program, he should be knowledgeable in fire codes and standards, and have a thorough understanding of fire protection systems and inspection procedures. The program manager is the controls the fire prevention program, and is responsible for its day-to-day implementation. His responsibilities are many and include:

  • Provide training in use of fire protection equipment
  • Supervising hot work permitting process
  • Conduct and document weekly self-inspections
  • Management fire protection system impairment procedures
  • Development of pre-fire plans and coordination with local fire department
  • Maintaining inventory and operability of fire protection devices/appliances/equipment
  • Oversee site security/guard service

Guard service and site security personnel, though strongly encouraged, may not be required on every construction site. However, it is recommended that they be required on all major projects, and other sites based on hazards, risk, firefighting access, and physical security of site and surrounding areas. Whether or not a guard service is to be provided is based on requirements of the local jurisdiction and AHJ.  Security personnel should be trained in, and will be responsible, for:

  • Emergency notification of fire department and management.
  • Use of fire protection equipment
  • Familiarity with fire hazards
  • Operation and control of construction elevators
  • Staying informed on status of emergency equipment and hazards.
  • Regular patrol of construction site/area

For additional information specifically related to the selection, training, and duties of guard service personnel, NFPA 601, Standard for Security Services in Fire Loss Prevention, should be referenced.

What is the "small room" rule?

In conducting plan reviews or fire sprinkler field inspections you may have heard, or seen, the invocation of the “small room" rule. Though not specifically stated in NFPA 13 as the “small room" rule, it is a combination of several code sections within the standard that can be utilized to provide advantages in hydraulic calculations and flexibility in sprinkler spacing.

To apply the small room rule, the space must meet all the requirements of a small room as defined in NFPA 13. A “small room” is a space that is classified as light hazard, has unobstructed ceiling construction, and is no greater than 800 sq.ft.  Application of the small room rule will affect two critical system design elements, maximum area of protection and sprinkler spacing.

The normal method for determining the area of protection per sprinkler head is to use the formula:

As = S x L

In this case the distance between sprinklers along a branch line (S) and the distance between branch lines (L) is determined and then multiplied to establish the “maximum allowable protection area of coverage for a sprinkler” (As).  The small room allowances of Section permits the sprinkler designer to ignore the rules and requirements of the S x L formula. Instead, an alternate method is allowed. If the space meets the requirements for a small room, then maximum coverage area per sprinkler can be determined by simply dividing the area of the room by the total number of sprinklers in the room.

Sprinkler spacing and distance between individual sprinklers is calculated using the tables and guidance in Section 8.6.3. In these tables, the maximum spacing distance for sprinklers is 15 feet between sprinklers and 7.5 feet from a wall. Utilizing the small room rule requirements, allows sprinklers to be spaced up 9 feet from any single wall.

The small room rule can be stated as:

In a room of 800 sq.ft. or less, having unobstructed ceiling construction, and light hazard contents, sprinklers may be located up to 9’ from any single wall with the maximum area of coverage being determined by dividing the size of the room by the number of sprinklers.

Code summary for small room rule:
NFPA 13:3.3.22 - small room defined
NFPA 13: - max. area of coverage
NFPA 13:8.6.3..4 - sprinkler spacing from a wall