HOW DO EMERGENCY FIRE EXITS INFLUENCE ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS?
Emergency exits or fire exits are mandatory for most if not all buildings nowadays, and as such, they play a large role in planning the architecture of a building. For buildings that have more than four floors, the use of these exits is essential. They should generally be located near or within the stairway and be sufficiently wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to fit through.
What is considered an Emergency Fire Exit?
Emergency Fire Exits can be defined as fire-proof doors that help to inhibit the spread of flames through the building or the common spaces of a building if a fire should break out. This makes it easier to have a more controlled and safe evacuation in the event of a fire.
Emergency exits are normally made up of one or two sheets and are compiled with a combination of different materials, such as ceramic fibre and steel. The ironwork includes a series of mechanisms for closing and a method for automatic blockage. To guarantee effective and efficient protection, each component such as locks and hinges, should comply with the anti-fire technical requirements for each country.
In summary, a door is considered fire resistant when it complies with these characteristics:
- It is stable when faced with a fire
- Detains the fire flames
- Retains smoke
- It is heat insulated
What materials are used to make them?
Possible materials to make this doors include metal, wood or glass. Metal doors are considered the most effective and are normally made of steel sheets and rock wool on the inside and can contain one or two sheets. In terms of how they open, they can be designed to fold, slide, elevate, pivot or be move in different directions. There are also glass doors, which are considered less effective, but look more aesthetically pleasing and are usually installed in unique and singularly designed buildings.
These doors can be designed anyway the architect chooses, just as long as they comply with the official regulations. In certain cases, it may even be possible to resurface them and incorporate them into the architectural design without modifying the uniform pattern of the rest of the building.
Where should they be placed?
It is necessary in the majority of countries around the world, to have a fire escape or emergency fire exit in any building that is taller than four floors. Generally, the doors are designed and constructed in the stairway, including two fire escape doors as well as a space that is big enough for a wheel chair to fit through. Ultimately, the main objective of the doorway location is to help the people in the building escape any danger and to keep everyone who is still in the building safe until the rescue service arrives.
The use of an emergency fire exit is especially important for places with a high traffic flow of people like cinemas, shopping centres, airports, schools, corporate buildings or residencies. They should also be installed in locations with restricted passageways, walkways, office entrances, in refuge areas and access to areas of protection or transformation of electric energy.
What regulations should they comply with?
In order to evaluate if a door is actually fire-resistant, there are currently two test standards and three classification criteria, which are listed below:
- Mechanical stability: Fire stable for a certain amount of time ( 30-60-90 minutes)
- Sealing: Insulates the flames for a certain amount of time (30-60-90 minutes)
- Insulation: Impedes the movement or generation of smoke during a certain amount of time (30-60-90 minutes)
The criteria for classification corresponds to the capacity to impede the movement or generation of smoke or gases in the building interior during a certain time. This criteria is important because a large part of deaths caused by fires are due to asphyxiation from the smoke and gas in the building.
What other elements should be considered?
To guarantee that the system of emergency fire exit doors is completely effective in the face of danger, there are a group of other necessary measures to be considered, in addition to those listed above.
- Continuous handrail: Installed at regulation height and fixed to the wall.
- Emergency Lights: Key for guiding people to the emergency fire exits.
- Photo-luminescent signaling: A sticker that lights up in the dark to indicate the direction.
- Various types of Extinguishers:
- Water: meant for solid materials like wood, plastic or fabric.
- Dry chemical powder: meant for inflammable liquids like gasoline, alcohol or oil.
- CO2: Appropriate for electric installations like motors, pumps or generators.
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