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statement of qualifications

Atrium Smoke Management

Reducing Cost and Risk with Effective Design
Uncompromised Atria
Large open spaces like atria, transit stations, airports
and stadia can require smoke management systems
to address life safety concerns in the building codes.
Often the exhaust flow rates cited as code requirements
can adversely affect the aesthetic qualities of the spaces
and add significant costs without much perceived value.
Recent interest in using natural ventilation for
normal mode ventilation as well as atrium smoke
management, is a result of an effort to reduce cost,
implement additional sustainable design elements
into buildings and potentially reduce complexity
of the systems. The use of natural ventilation has
other challenges in that the viability of the system is
highly dependent on the effects of wind; temperature
of the fire smoke plume; and stack effect among
other physics. In some circumstances a zero flow
smoke management system is more robust than
having one that naturally vents to the atmosphere.
Regardless of the overall strategy, the authority
having jurisdiction ultimately has the final decision
in the acceptability of an atrium smoke management
system. These individuals must be confident that a
proposed system will provide the required protection.
RWDI has developed a process and track record
of implementing atrium smoke management
systems in complex spaces. In addition, the
team has demonstrated a smoke management
system does not require any exhaust to
make the space safe in some cases.

RWDI has a two-stage process that can be used to
develop an atrium smoke management system:
Design Review: At this stage the atrium is assessed
to evaluate i) egress options; ii) likely fire scenarios;
iii) smoke production rates; iv) the viability of lower
exhaust flow rates; and v) conceptual designs of
atrium smoke management systems. Not all atria
require a sophisticated egress model: sometimes set

of simple hand calculations are all that is required.

These steps together can be used to develop smoke
management concepts and demonstrate that the
design will provide sufficient egress time.
(Often the first step is all that is required)
Detailed Modeling: When the architecture, makeup air strategies or egress routes are complex,
computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modeling
can be used to demonstrate system viability and
may prove successful performance at reduced
exhaust rates. This step may ultimately be a
requirement of the authority having jurisdiction.

statement of qualifications

Atrium Smoke Management

Sample Project Listing
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond VA

Conceptual design and CFD modeling.

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), NYC

Design and detailed modeling of smoke management system.

Penn State Hershey Medical Centre, Hershey, PA Conceptual design.

LA MTA Memorial Park Station, Los Angeles

Assessment of smoke impact on station and surrounding

buildings including influence of sprinklers.

Manitoba Hydro HQ, Winnipeg, Canada

Developed the concept for a smoke management

system in four atria and means to reduce costs.

Dubai International Airport, UAE

Smoke management system concepts and

CFD assessment of terminal spaces.

Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA

Conceptual design of atrium and transition

space smoke management system.

Sahlia Tower, Bahrain

CFD assessment of smoke management

systems in this 20 plus storey atrium.

Lynnwood High School, Seattle WA

Smoke management concepts for zero flow exhaust system.

MIT Brain and Cognitive Science Project

Smoke management concepts for a three

stage atrium and CFD modeling.

MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex


he atrium space at the MIT BCSC is comprised

of two three-storey entrance foyers leading up
to the base of a five storey atrium. On the basis of
a strict code calculation, the smoke management
flow rate would have had to exceed 630,000 cfm
(300 m3/s). There were doubts that this would
provide satisfactory performance. The smoke
management system was instead configured to
treat the spaces as individual atria, provide local
smoke capture for some volumes, and ultimately
resulted in a smaller smoke management system
which at its maximum draws less than 260,000 cfm
(120 m3/s). This strategy was also well integrated
with the design architecture which provides
openness of the space during normal operations.
Sinclair & Du (2012), Atrium Smoke Management Natural Venting Challenges,
Presented at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, Air-Conditioning Engineers Winter Meeting, Chicago, Il.
Phillips, Duncan & Sinclair, Ray (2005), Reducing Exhaust Quantities for Atrium Smoke Control,
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Transactions, Vol. 111, Part 2.

project profile

Atrium Smoke Management

Automated People Mover Transit
Station, Dulles International Airport

he proposed people mover at the Dulles

International Airport expansion terminals
included enclosed transit tubes, fine spray mist water
suppression systems and tall atria-style architecture.
RWDI developed, with the rest of the design team,
a system to manage smoke within two stations,
including controlling the influence of tunnel fires
and demonstrated performance of these systems to
the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) using CFD.

University of California

he Genentech Hall atrium at the UCSF, was under construction.

Strict adherence to the code indicated an exhaust flow rate
of 600,000 cfm (283 m3/s). A proposed exhaust flow rate of
100,000 cfm (47 m3/s) was shown to be viable and ultimately
approved by the AHJ. Special features in the atrium such as
a large vaulted ceiling, good visibility and rapid exiting were
exploited to reduce the exhaust airflow rate requirements.

Photo by: Ray Sinclair

Pasadena, CA