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Evaluating Smoke Detector Spacing Requirements for Parallel Beamed Hallways and Sloped

Ceilings
Jason Floyd, Siamak Riahi, Dan Gottuk
Hughes Associates, Inc.
3610 Commerce Dr., Suite 817
Baltimore, MD 21227
410-737-8677
jfloyd@haifire.com

INTRODUCTION
In 1993 through 1994, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) funded two projects at
the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to investigate smoke and heat
detection for flat and sloped beamed ceilings [1][2]. The project used FLOW3D, a commercial
k- computational fluid dynamics (CFD) program. While limited by the CFD technology and
computing power available at that time, a number of findings were reported which were used to
develop rules for beamed ceilings in NFPA 72.
Recognizing that advances in fire modeling software and computing hardware has enabled the
ability to perform a wider range of fire modeling, in 2005 the FPRF funded a project to extend
upon the work performed by NIST. This project, performed by Schirmer Engineering
Corporation and Vision Systems Ltd. evaluated smoke detector spacing for hallways with deep
perpendicular beams (beams across the width of the hallway) and rooms with deep beam pockets
[3]. This project also relied solely upon fire modeling, and it used version 4 of the NIST CFD
program Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) [4]. As with the prior effort, findings from the project
were used to make changes to NFPA 72.
While an extensive amount of modeling was performed by the 2005 project, it only investigated
two of the three major beam configurations for flat ceilings and did not investigate any
configurations for sloped ceilings. In recognition of this, and to address concerns related to
model validation, the FPRF funded another project that began in 2007. This project had two
parts. The first, was to perform experiments to validate the conclusions reached by the 2005
project. The second, was to perform new modeling to evaluate flat beamed ceilings with long
beam pockets (were smoke movement is predominantly along the beams rather than transverse to
the beams) and sloped ceilings with beams parallel to the slope, beams perpendicular to the
sloped, and beam pockets. This paper will focus on the second part of the project. A companion
paper in this symposium will focus on the first part [5].

MODELING
Overview
All modeling was performed using FDS v5 [6]. The multi-block feature of FDS was used to
reduce the requiremed computational resources. A discussion of the specific blocking schemes
for each category of runs is discussed later in this section.
The goal of this study is to evaluate smoke detector spacing requirements for beamed ceilings of
varying slope and beam configurations. Two key inputs to this evaluation are the method for
determining detector activation and the metric by which detector performance will be evaluated.
There are two primary categories of spot smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric. While
previous studies have indicated that these technologies will have a varying response depending
on the soot morphology [7], there is also the role played by the detector design. How smoke
penetrates the detector housing to reach the sensor and how the device processes the sensor
signal to determine an alarm condition is reached will also affect the response of a detector.
Rather than attempt to model actual smoke detectors with their wide range of variance, this study
primarily used the criteria proposed in the 2005 study of using 0.14 OD/m as a threshold for
activation which represents the upper bound of the 80 % percentile activation threshold for
flaming fires [7]. A secondary criterion of 13 C was also evaluated.
The basic requirements presented in NFPA 72 are for smooth ceilings with beamed ceilings
having additional requirements. This suggests that an appropriate metric for beamed ceilings
would be to compare the detector performance with beams to that for smooth ceilings. If the
performance of a detector spacing with beams is equivalent to the maximum allowable smooth
ceiling performance, then that beamed spacing should be permissible. This leads directly to the
need to determine what equivalent performance is. In the absence of any consensus guidance
from standards committees, the metric used in the 2005 study, detection within 1 minute of the
smooth ceiling detection time for that ceiling height, was also used in this work.
Flat Ceiling, Parallel Beams
The flat ceiling, parallel beams portion of the study examined scenarios where the ceiling had
deep beam bays where the walls were sufficiently far away down the length of the beams that
layer development would not be significant at the time of flat ceiling detection. A total of 74
scenarios were evaluated, these are summarized in Table 1.
All fires were modeled as a medium growth ( = 0.011 kW/s2) fire with a 2.2 % soot yield. For
each ceiling height a smooth ceiling simulation was performed with detectors at 15 ft. and 21 ft.
from the centerline of the fire, respectively representing 30 ft. and 42 ft. detector spacings. In
each case with beams, the fire was centered beneath a beam. Detectors were located in the
center of the beam pockets and on the bottoms of the beams at distances from 10 ft. to 50 ft. from
the fire. For each simulation three full beam pockets, two partial beam pockets, and four beams
were modeled (see Figure 1). The full pockets were located one on either side of the beam above

the fire and a third pocket on one side of the fire. A partial pocket was located on either side.
Beams were 6 in. wide. All surfaces were given the properties of gypsum wall board.
Table 1. Flat Ceiling, Parallel Beam Scenarios
Ceiling Height
(ft)
10
20
40
60

Beam Depth
(ft)
0, 1, 2
0, 1, 2, 4
0, 2, 4, 6
0, 3, 6, 9

Beam Spacing
(ft)
2, 4, 6
4, 8, 12
4, 10, 16
8, 16, 24

Fire Size
(kW)
100, 200
200, 500
500, 1000
500, 1000

Meshing for the flat ceiling cases consisted of five meshes: two fine and three coarse (see Figure
1). The first fine mesh encompassed a region around the fire to approximate one beam depth
below the deepest beam. The second fine mesh encompassed a region from the top of the first
fine mesh to the ceiling spanning the beam bays, beams, and a small spillover region into the
partial beam bays. The three coarse meshes were from the floor to the bottom of the second fine
mesh, and a small region on each side of the domain. Fine mesh sizes were 2 in., 2 in., 2.4 in.
and 3.2 in. for the 10 ft., 20 ft., 30 ft., and 40 ft. ceiling heights respectively. Coarse mesh sizes
were twice the applicable fine mesh size.

Figure 1. Computational domain and meshing strategy for flat ceiling cases.

Sloped Ceilings
The sloped ceiling portion of the study examined three beam configurations: beams parallel to
the slope (i.e. up slope), beams perpendicular to the slope, and beam pockets. As with the flat
ceiling portion, smoke layer development was not allowed to take place. A total of 117 scenarios
were evaluated, these are summarized in Table 2. Each combination of height, depth, and
spacing was run using each of the three beam configurations.
Table 2. Sloped ceiling scenarios
Ceiling Height
(ft)
20
40
60

Fire Size
(kW)
200
400
600

Slope
(degrees)
10, 30, 45
10, 30, 45
10, 30, 45

Beam Depth
(ft)
0, 2, 4
0, 4, 6
0, 6, 9

Beam Spacing
(ft)
6, 12
6, 12
12, 18

The ceiling height was measured from the fire centerline to the ceiling directly overhead. The
same fire growth rate and soot yield were used as for the flat ceiling. The fire was again located
directly beneath the center of a beam and for the beam pocket configuration was located directly
below the intersection point of the pockets beams (see Figure 2). FDS uses a Cartesian block
grid, so it does not explicitly handle angled surfaces, but rather they are specified like a set of
stairs. There is an option in FDS to prevent the formation of vorticity at these artificial corners.
This option was enabled for the slope of the ceiling.
Meshing for the sloped ceiling scenarios also used the multi-block feature of FDS. The mesh
strategy was similar to the flat ceiling cases; however, to avoid the computational expense of a
single fine mesh for the region containing the beams, the meshes around the beams were stair
stepped (see Figure 2). Additionally, the coarse meshes beneath the beam meshes were not
extended to the floor but rather only occupied a depth equivalent to the fine mesh. This provides
a sufficient distance from the fine mesh to the edge of the computational domain to prevent edge
effects while greatly reducing the computational requirements. Fine mesh sizes were 2.3 in., 3.5
in., and 10 in. for the 20 ft., 40 ft., and 60 ft. ceiling heights respectively. Coarse mesh sizes
were twice the applicable fine mesh size.

Figure 2. Computational domain and meshing strategy for the beam pocket (top), perpendicular
beam (middle) and parallel beam (bottom) sloped ceiling scenarios.
RESULTS
The FDS outputs at each detector location were recorded at 1 second intervals. Prior to
performing the analysis, there were further reduced by performing a 5 second windowed
average. This was done to prevent biasing the study due to a short duration local peak in the data
which could have a contribution from numerical error in the transport scheme of FDS.

Flat Ceiling, Parallel Beams


Figure 3 provides a summary of the nomenclature used in the discussion of results for the flat
ceiling scenarios. For each simulation with beams, the time to reach the detection criteria was
recorded for the detectors located in the vertical plane 21 ft. from the fire (in the beam bays and
on the beam bottoms). These times were compared with time it took the detector at 21 ft. from
the fires from the smooth ceiling simulation at the same ceiling height to reach the detection
criteria.
2B= Second Beam
D = Beam Depth

S = Beam Spacing

1B= First Beam

H = Ceiling Height

1P= First Pocket


2P= Second Pocket

Figure 3. Nomenclature for Flat Ceiling Scenarios.


Table 3 shows for each scenario if the indicated detector location with beams was within 1
minute of the smooth ceiling detector response. The shaded beam depth cells indicate scenarios
where the beam depth is 10 % of the ceiling height and the ceiling is 40 ft. Note that with
the exception of H=10, B=1, S=6 case (the shaded results cell), that all of the shaded scenarios
met the criteria for success along the first beam bottom (1B) away from the fire. In the next
pocket over (2P) there were five cases (horizontal hashing results cells) were the criteria for
success was not met. For the 60 ft. ceiling cases there were few successes along the first beam
bottom (1B) away from the fire and even some failures within the first pocket (1P) next to the
fire. This suggests the fire size for the 60 ft. cases was near the limit of detectability. This will
be discussed further in the limitations section.
Based upon the results, the following spacing recommendations are suggested:

If the ceiling height is 40 ft. and the beam depth is 10 % of the ceiling height
detectors should be located on every other beam bottom and the spacing can be extend to
the maximum irregular area spacing for smooth ceilings. This spacing only applies if the
spacing between alternate beam bottoms is the smooth ceiling required spacing. (i.e if
the beam spacing was 25 ft. then every pocket would be required).

For all other configurations a detector must be located in every beam pocket; however,
the beam bays can be treated using the smooth ceiling irregular area spacing.
Table 3. Summary of flat ceiling results
Ceiling Height
(ft)

Beam Depth
(ft)
1

10
2
1
20

2
4
2

40

4
6
3

60

6
9

Beam Spacing
(ft)
2
4
6
2
4
6
4
8
12
4
8
12
4
8
12
4
10
16
4
10
16
4
10
16
8
16
24
8
16
24
8
16
24

1P

1B

2P

2B

Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N

Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Y
N
N
N
N
N

Y
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
N
N
N
Y
N
N
Y
N
N
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N

Y
Y
N
N
N
N
Y
Y
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N

Sloped Ceilings
Parallel and Perpendicular Beams
Table 4 shows a summary of results for the sloped ceiling scenarios with parallel or
perpendicular beams. Column headings are as described in Figure 3. For the parallel beam
scenarios, the mere presence of the beam on a sloped ceiling is extremely effective at channeling
smoke. Almost no detector locations in the second pocket (2P) or on the second beam (2B)
reach the activation criteria. Activation is only seen about two thirds of the time on the first
beam (1B), when the beam is 10 % of the ceiling height and occasionally otherwise. For
perpendicular beam scenarios, with a few exceptions, detection is seen both in the first pocket
and on the bottom of the first beam. As shown in Figure 4 smoke is concentrated on the upslope
side of each pocket. For those cases where detection was not seen on the first beam bottom fully
upslope of the fire, detection would have been seen on the beam bottom directly over the fire (as
shown by the back contour in Figure 4). In the beam pocket, however, depending upon the
slope, depth, spacing, and the exact location of the detector in the pocket, the potential exists to
have the detector lie below the high concentration region.

1B
1P

Figure 4. H20D4S6A30 Smoke Optical Density Contours


Based upon the above results, the following spacing recommendations are suggested:

Parallel beams: Inside every pocket, can use smooth ceiling irregular area spacing
requirements based on projected ceiling distances.
Perpendicular beams: On every beam bottom, can use smooth ceiling irregular area
spacing requirements based on projected ceiling distances.

Table 4. Summary of sloped ceiling parallel and perpendicular beam results


Ceiling Beam Beam
Angle
Height Depth Spacing
(deg)
(ft)
(ft)
(ft)
10
6
30
45
2
10
12
30
45
20
10
6
30
45
4
10
12
30
45
10
6
30
45
4
10
12
30
45
40
10
6
30
45
6
10
12
30
45
Beam Pockets
Table 5 and

Parallel Beams

Perpendicular Beams

1P

1B

2P

2B

1P

1B

2P

2B

Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y

Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
N
N
N
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
N
N

Y
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N

Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N

Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y

Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
N
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y

Y
Y
Y
N
N
N
N
N
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N

Y
Y
Y
N
N
N
N
N
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
N

Table 6 show summaries of results for the sloped ceiling scenarios with parallel beam pockets.
Column headings are as described in Figure 5. The results tables show that for beam depths 10
% of the ceiling height (shaded D in Table 5 and

Table 6), that with one exception the detection criteria is reached three perpendicular beams
upslope above the fire. The exception is for a case with a 12 ft. beam spacing (shaded Pe+y
value in

Table 6). For ceiling heights > 10 % of the ceiling height the criteria is reached two beams (i.e
3Pe) above the fire.
4Pe
3Pa
D = Beam Depth

3Pe

Pe+y

4Pa
Pa+y
4Po

S = Beam Spacing

3Po

1Pe

Po+y

2Pe
Pe+x
2Po

H = Ceiling Height

2Pa

1Po
1Pa

Pa+x
Po+x

Figure 5. Nomenclature for Flat Ceiling Scenarios


Table 5. Summary of sloped ceiling beam pocket results for near detector locations
H
(ft)

D
(ft)

S
(ft)
6

2
12
20
6
4
12
6
4
12
40
6
6
12

A
1Po 2Po 3Po 4Po 1Pa 2Pa 3Pa 4Pa 1Pe 2Pe 3Pe 4Pe
(deg)
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
45
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
45
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
45
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
Y
N
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
N
Y
N
45
Y
N
N
N
N
N
N
N
Y
N
Y
N
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
45
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
N
45
Y
Y
N
N
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
45
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
10
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
30
Y
N
N
N
Y
N
Y
N
Y
N
Y
N
45
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y

Table 6. Summary of sloped ceiling beam pocket results for far detector locations
H
(ft)

D
(ft)

S
(ft)
6

20

2
12
6

40

4
12

A
(deg)
10
30
45
10
30
45
10
30
45
10
30
45

Po+x
Y
Y
N
N
N
N
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
N

Po+y Pa+x
Y
Y
Y
N
N
N
Y
Y
N
N
N
N

Y
Y
N
N
N
N
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
N

Pa+y

Pe+y

Y
Y
N
N
N
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
N

Y
Y
Y
Y
N
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y

Based upon the results, the following spacing requirements are suggested:

For sloped ceilings with beam pockets, detectors should be located on beam bottoms
centered in the pocket on the beam running perpendicular to the slope.
For beam depth 10 % of the ceiling height, detectors can be placed upon every third
beam, provided that a minimum projected spacing of 30 ft. is maintained.
For beam depth > 10 % of the ceiling height, detectors can be placed upon every second
beam, provided that a minimum projected spacing of 30 ft. is maintained.

LIMITATIONS + CONCERNS
Some building features were not considered in this study:
No ventilation, either forced or natural draft, was imposed upon the computational
domain.
Beams were considered to be solid with no gaps between the beam and the ceiling
Beams were only modeled as a rectangular parallelpiped (i.e. did not attempt to model
any beams as a T beam with a wide bottom flange).
The impact of walls was omitted
This study made a number of assumptions; changes in which would likely result in changes to
the recommendations:

Fires were simulated as a medium growth rate fire, and growth was not continuous but
rather capped at a value. Slower growth rates or a faster growth rate/continuously
growing fire might have resulted in reduction or an expansion of the allowable detector
locations.

The results of the 60 ft. height flat ceiling scenarios suggest that the fire size was near the
limit of the detection criteria. This leads one to question what should be the appropriate
fire size for this type of analysis. Options would include a fire that is barely detectable
for the smooth ceiling scenario, a fire size and growth rate that is detectable within a
specific time for the smooth ceiling scenario, or a fire size specific to the use of the space
where detection is being installed.
If the one minute time difference were changed to a 30 second time difference, then the
sloped ceiling recommendations would remain unchanged, but the flat ceiling
recommendations would change to limit beam skipping to depths 5 % of the ceiling
height. Clearly the performance metric will impact the recommended spacing.
Additional consideration should be given to what metric should be used in this type of
analysis. It could the same metric be used for all types of buildings, or it could be a
function of building usage (manufacturing, public assembly, etc.).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors wish to acknowledge that this project was funded by the Fire Protection Research
Foundation.
REFERENCES
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on Detector and Sprinkler Response, Technical Report Year 1, Fire Protection Research
Foundation, Quincy, MA, 1993.
[2] Forney, G., Bukowski, R., and Davis, W., Field Modeling: Simulating the Effect of Sloped
Beamed Ceilings on Detector and Sprinkler Response, Technical Report Year 2, Fire Protection
Research Foundation, Quincy, MA, 1994.
[3] OConnor, D., et al., Smoke Detector Performance for Level Ceilings with Deep Beams and
Deep Beam Pocket Configurations, Fire Protection Research Foundation, Quincy, MA, 2006.
[4] McGrattan, K., et al., Fire Dynamics Simulator (Version 4): Technical Reference Guide,
NISTIR 6783, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, 2001
[5] Gottuk, D., Mealey, C., and Floyd, J., Experimental Validation of Smoke Detector Spacing
Requirements, SUPDET 2008, Fire Protection Research Foundation, Orlando, FL, 2008.
[6] McGrattan, K.B., Hostikka, S., Floyd, J.E., Baum, H.R., and Rehm, R.G., Fire Dynamics
Simulator (Version 5): Technical Reference Guide, NIST SP 1018-5, National Institute of
Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, October 2007
[7] Geiman, J. and Gottuk, D., Alarm Thresholds for Smoke Detection Modeling, Fire Safety
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