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September 30, 2010

Carl Schmidt, Bristolite

Smoke and heat vents, working in conjunction with draft curtains, have long been used as an effective fire protection measure. They can typically be found installed in warehouses, stores and malls. They provide a pre-established path for hot gases and smoke to exit a building and offer several key benefits:

  • Minimize structural damage
    By preventing heat from mushrooming over the fire area and heating other materials to the point of ignition, fire venting has a marked effect on reducing the lateral spread of fire
  • Improve fire-fighting efficiency and safety
    Fire vents allow arriving firefighters to quickly determine the approximate interior location of the fire by observing the exterior location of the smoke plume from the open vents. Prompt venting has also been proven to reduce dangerous heat, vision-obscuring smoke and toxic or potentially explosive products of combustion.
  • Enhance occupant life safety
    Raising the smoke layer inside a burning building not only improves visibility of exit paths, it helps save lives given that the vast majority of fire fatalities are due to smoke inhalation.

These benefits are essentially why building codes have mandated the use of smoke/heat vents in large-area single-level buildings (i.e.; warehouses, discount centers, manufacturing facilities, etc.) for many years.

Current standards governing the acceptance, listing and approval of smoke and heat vent products are primarily UL 793-08, Standards for Automatically Operated Roof Vents for Smoke and Heat, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 204-07, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting, FM Global 4430 (2007), Approval Standard for Smoke and Heat Vents and ICC-ES AC331-2008, Acceptance Criteria for Smoke and Heat Vents. There are cross-references among these standards (for example, UL-793 is referenced within ICC-ES AC331), and various code requirements are based on them, including applicable provisions of NFPA 204-07, the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Fire Code (IFC). There are also allied standards, such as NFPA 92B, Standard for Smoke Management Systems in Malls, Atria and Large Spaces and the international standards ISO 21927-2:2006, Smoke and heat control systems -- Part 2: Specification for natural smoke and heat exhaust ventilators and ISO 21927-1:2008, Smoke and heat control systems -- Part 1: Specification for smoke barriers, but the UL, FM and ICC standards most often govern in the U.S.

In general, once the performance tests have been completed as specified within each document, the product may be “listed” by UL, “approved” by FM Global or “recognized” by the ICC Evaluation Service. Product labels may be specified. However, it is virtually always left up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) – such as the local Building Department – to specify which standards must be met and which identification methods must be used.

The Smoke and Heat Vent Standards table summarizes the current requirements of these standards for dome or metal lid mechanically operated units. These are mechanically-opened vents consisting primarily of a body frame, one or more damper covers or hatches and operating mechanisms, which generally include a heat responsive device and spring(s).

AAMA’s Smoke Vent Task Group has been at work over the last several years to foster research testing that has helped shape these standards and influence code changes to reflect actual in-field performance and interaction of building fire protection systems. The task group will continue to monitor standards and code activities and develop educational information to ensure the standards are of practical use to project specifiers, owners, fire authorities, code officials and others involved in the field. 

http://www.aamanet.org/news/1/10/0/all/429/standards-mandate-the-use-of-smok

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