In today’s world safety is becoming more and more important for businesses, institutions and facilities. Weather you work in the education, healthcare, government, commercial, hospitality or industrial sectors fire safety plays a huge roll in how a building is designed.
Fire doors are a very important component of a building’s fire safety and fire protection plans. The purpose of a fire door is to slow or stop the spread of fire and smoke in a building giving the occupant’s time to safely vacate the building. Fire doors are available in numerous types; coiling, sliding, swinging and then multiple variations within each of the types. This article will focus on a sliding fire door system.
Fire Door Certification
For a fire door to meet codes, it needs to be certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL and ULC) and Factory Mutual (FM). These companies will test a fire door system to ensure it meets the safety standards. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the codes that UL and FM test to.
Fire door manufacturers can certify their doors, both for identification purposes and to guarantee their performance in a fire situation. Fire doors will typically have to meet or exceed industry fire safety testing standards including UL and FM and are compliant with all NFPA 80 standards. To have a fire door certified that it meets the necessary codes a manufacturer will submit its drawings and a completely built door to the testing facility. They will perform the necessary tests and approve the door as meeting certain classifications. Should anything change with the design of the fire door the manufacturer would have to resubmit drawings and door to be tested again. In the case of UL, they will make random visits to the manufacturer to ensure that the doors are still being built to the approved design.
There are numerous requirements that a fire door must meet to be up to code. One example of a requirement from NFPA 80 is that the doors closing system must be tested at the time the door is installed and the door shall be inspected and tested not less than annually. The doors must be checked regularly for conditions that may affect the operation of the door. The testing requirements will vary from door system to door system.
Selecting the right Fire Door
Selecting a fire door system is based on a variety of factors derived from building requirements, how the door is designed to function and what the customer wants. One of the first things you should look at is what and how the fire door is going to be used. Is it going to be opened and closed all throughout the day or will it primarily be closed/open? What types of traffic will be using the door; vehicles and people or just one or the other? These factors will influence the kind of fire door you may need, coiling vs sliding vs swinging. For example, a door that is going to see a lot of usage will be better suited for a sliding door due to the high cycle operators that are available for them and their more robust construction. What or how it is being used will also influence other elements of a fire door. Listed below are several of the other key factors to consider when choosing a system that will meet the needs and wants of the application.
The size of the fire door can determine what type of door needs to be used, either Hollow Metal or Tube Frame.
The hourly rating of a fire door is how long it is able to block a fire. The rating of a fire door is three-quarters of the time that the wall it is being installed on is rated for. So a 2 hour rated wall will need to have a 1.5 hour rated fire door.
Temperature rise rating
A temperature rise rating is how long a fire door can control the heat of a fire, important in areas where people need to pass by during a fire. Different types of door construction will have different ratings. For American Metal Door a Hollow Metal Fire Door has a temperature rise rating of 250 degrees for 30 minutes where a Tube Frame Fire Door has a rating of 450 degrees for 30 minutes. This means that in 30 minutes the door’s temperature on the non-fire side can’t increase more than 250/450 degrees.
Does the door have to withstand a certain Pounds per Square Foot (PSF) If so this can affect how thick the fire door has to be constructed.
How much headroom is available will determine how the operating system for the door is setup. Also how much clearance there is for the door to open can determine what style of door you need; single slide, bi-parting or tele-slide and which side the door opens to. It is also important to know that a 4-inch overlap is needed at the head of the door and at the jambs of the door for it to meet fire door codes.
Different door types will have different insulation types which will offer varying degrees of temperature rise protection. Depending on your building requirements you may need a specific insulation. Tube Frame Fire Doors will typically have a fiberglass batt insulation and a Hollow Metal Fire Door will typically have a Mineral Fiberboard Insulation (MFI). MFI provides a higher temperature rise rating.
Type of closing system
A standard closing system is counterweight or cable reel but there are other variations as well. An electro-mechanical release can be synced with the buildings fire system so it will automatically close if there is a fire. This option also has a 72 hour battery backup. In situations where a door is kept primarily open an option could be an electromagnetic device which will hold the door open until the fire alarm is triggered.
Does your door need to open and close at a certain speed? How many times a day approximately will the door be opened and closed? These factors will determine the type of operator that should be used for the fire door. A typical sliding door will have an opening speed of 11-24 inches per second.
Vision lites, mono-rail notch, security devices, pass door etc. For many reasons you may have additional requirements for your door system. There are often times that you don’t want to have to open the entire door just for someone to walk through. In this situation having a pass door that is labeled as well is the ideal solution. Some facilities require large objects or equipment to travel through the fire wall on a mono rail system. The sliding fire door allows you to close the fire door around the rail system securing the opening. Fire safety isn’t the only concern, keeping your facility safe and secure can be just as important. With available security devices such as warning horns, voice commands alerting that the door will be closing and mortise style locks you can be rest assured that your fire door is providing the ultimate in safety.
Many manufacturers are able to engineer and design a door system to meet a customer’s specific need, which is a great option for those unique applications. Since these unique door systems will likely vary from what a company has tested and been certified for though, additional testing on the exact door system may be likely. Working closely with the manufacturer will ensure that you not only get the fire door system that you want but that it meets the fire codes.
For further information, go to www.doorengineering.com