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Fire curtains for flexibility and productivity

POSTED BY 15.03.2015,

With the implementation of highly automated manufacturing facilities requiring a smaller operational workforce, freedom of movement by the workforce is essential. This coupled with the freedom of movement of components and finished product all lends itself to a need for open plan manufacturing and warehouse facilities.

Fire and smoke curtains can help designers of such facilities to create large open plan premises, without compromising safety. Used in place of traditional compartmentation or sprinkler systems, smoke and fire curtains offer greater flexibility, enabling open plan areas to be greater in size than allowed under the current building standard recommendations, as laid out in Approved Document B and BS 9999.

In manufacturing premises, fire curtains can be used to protect plant areas and production facilities where multiple individual machines are operated by a limited number of operatives. They can protect production line fire break points, openings from one building to another where conveyor belts and tracks pass through, service and goods lift openings, roof lights and wells and offer building boundary protection.

What are fire and smoke curtains?

Fire and smoke curtains give designers a modern alternative to non-loading bearing fire walls, fire doors, fire rated glazing and sprinklers, offering them a means to help create modern, open plan environments which are compliant with fire legislation.

Active fire and smoke curtain barrier assemblies comprise of technologically advanced fire-resistant fabric barriers encased in a compact steel housing. The fire and smoke curtain barriers remain invisibly retracted until activated by an alarm or detector signal, at which time they descend safely to their operational position. Fire and smoke curtain barriers will stop and control the spread of fire and smoke in a building.

Fire and smoke curtain barriers have been used in all types of buildings in the built environment and in a range of applications to form compartments or protected routes in buildings. They can be used to divide buildings such as warehouses or large open spaced retail units into compartments; to close openings in compartment walls or ceilings; or to close open compartment shafts such as escalators or stairwells.

They are also used to protect atria, lift lobbies and for boundary protection to prevent vertical fire and smoke spread or building proximity issues.

Anywhere where fire shutters, fire doors, non load-bearing walls or ceilings, or uninsulated glazing partitions are used can potentially be enhanced or be replaced by fire curtains. Fire and smoke curtain barriers can allow for greater widths in less space, and since they are lighter than the more traditional products, they afford greater design freedom and openness, as well as allowing for greater freedom of movement.

Fire curtains offer three levels of critical performance; integrity (fire), smoke (leakage) and radiance (heat). A fire curtain can replicate a fire door or non-load bearing wall on all three of the aforementioned levels. In the case of shutters, fire curtains outperform shutters on every level (shutters cannot control smoke), are more compact and lightweight and cover many metres in span without the need for additional columns, pillars or secondary steel work.

Meanwhile, smoke barriers form a critical element of smoke and heat exhaust ventilation systems (SHEVS). Such systems create a smoke free layer above the floor by removing smoke and heat and improve the conditions for safe escape. This assists the evacuation of people from buildings, reducing fire damage and financial loss by preventing smoke logging, facilitating fire-fighting, reducing roof temperatures and retarding the lateral spread of fire.

When smoke barriers deploy from the ceiling they are intended to control the movement of the hot buoyant smoke within buildings in the event of fire. Smoke barriers in their fire operational position provide essential smoke containment and channelling of the smoke for extraction from the building.