Saving Lives with Accordion Fire Doors

July 07, 2019
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During a fire, smoke and flames can move quickly – far more quickly than the people who may be trying to escape them. In many large buildings such as offices or hotels, a fire breaking out in one section doesn’t just stay there; it spreads rapidly between floors, often trapping occupants who were nowhere near the fire when it broke out. Thankfully, there are many ways to design buildings that can help avoid these types of catastrophes. Some examples include using smoke and fire curtains to achieve fire code compliance. Another method includes the use of accordion fire doors, which can deploy as needed, but which won’t detract from the overall design of the building.

What Is an Accordion Fire Door?

Accordion fire doors are physical barriers that can close in the event of a fire, blocking the spread of flames and smoke from the affected area to other sections of the building. They typically extend horizontally across a space, with the door itself folded inside a wall or hidden behind a panel until needed.

The accordion style of the doors ensures that they can not only fold neatly out of sight when not in use, but also allows them to conform to unique spaces. For example, a curved doorway or open area where there may not be a defined space that needs to be covered. The accordion door slides across on tracks, without needing to be manipulated into place, so no matter what type of area you are attempting to cordon off, the accordion style of door gives you several possibilities.

Why Include Accordion Doors in Your Design

There are many different ways to help stop the spread of fire within a building. Smoke curtains on elevators and stairwells, sprinkler systems, and the use of non-combustible building materials can also help make a difference in protecting the occupants of buildings if they can't escape and follow their fire saftey plan. But it’s not always possible to know where a fire will break out, or the path it will take once it begins spreading.

That’s why it’s important to have procedures in place to help contain smoke and flames in many areas of a building. Open stairwells, atriums, wide doorways, and open format rooms all present challenges to overcome with the use of traditional building materials.

For one, open areas like this make it more difficult to contain smoke. Open areas may also allow more smoke to escape than closed rooms. Remember that smoke is often the most dangerous part of a fire, and even using non-combustible materials in the walls does not stop the possibility of a fire starting with the furnishings in the room, and the smoke getting out of hand.

Open areas are also aesthetically pleasing, and good for certain work places and lobbies where large groups of people may congregate. These types of areas look best when they are left wide open without little to no barrier or obstruction. So, traditional fire doors and other screens may take up more space than can actually be given to them without affecting the look and style of the room.

Accordion fire doors fold up inside the wall, a little like a pocket door. They’re there when needed, but most people will never notice their presence when folded away. This enables you to include the fire protection that a high occupancy building needs, without negatively impacting the style or flow of the building.

Where to Include Accordion Fire Doors

Accordion fire doors are able to stretch across large openings. This makes them ideal for numerous sections of a building, particularly areas such as atriums, open stairwells, elevator lobbies, pass through areas and places that have minimal headroom. They may also be beneficial covering large windows and other entry points of buildings that are close by one another, thus helping to block smoke and flame from an adjoining building from entering. Most accordion doors are able to extend for extreme widths, but are limited in height, making them best suited to creating doorways or use in stairwells and lobbies.

Design Considerations

The only true consideration you may need to deal with when installing accordion fire doors is the additional wall thickness necessary to conceal the door when not in use. This is easily done, usually without affecting the style or flow of a room. Likewise, any electrical or battery wiring can be concealed with the door. Most accordion doors are meant to be deployed automatically when fire is detected, making the need for physical access minimal and having little to no impact on the design of the space.



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