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Effect of tighter building envelopes on smoke behaviour

Moves towards more sustainable infrastructure and improved energy efficiency in buildings include use of more air-tight building envelopes. This study evaluated the impact of building tightness on smoke movement in high-rise residential buildings.

Using the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s CONTAM software to simulate building-wide airflow and pressures, carbon monoxide (CO) levels were modelled to evaluate how firefighting procedures and building envelope construction affect smoke flow inside a building.

For all scenarios considered in the analyses, air flow reduces as the building envelope becomes tighter, reducing carbon monoxide (CO) levels in upper corridors.

Lowest CO concentrations occur when the fire room window is closed and stair and elevator shafts are open.

Highest CO levels occur when the only building opening is the fire room window.

The findings of the study are significant from both a sustainable infrastructure perspective and in terms of firefighter activity and the life safety of occupants.

The detailed results of this study may lead to future modifications to fire rescue and firefighting procedures.

This study improves understanding of how tightening of building envelopes to improve energy efficiency can affect smoke movement experienced by occupants and firefighters during fires in high-rise buildings.