October 2nd, 2009

I recently made a visit to a new, 3 story retail development. The purpose was to inspect two 2-hr fire-resistance rated duct shafts.  The shafts were continuous from the rooftop HVAC unit to the first floor, with openings onto all floors. Two previous inspections had failed for improper support of the shaft wall and improper framing for the fire/smoke dampers.

The building was reviewed as 2B construction and therefore the floors and columns required no rating. As the shaft walls (typical core board/metal stud construction) were built on the concrete floor, it didn’t meet the requirements for support.

Shaft walls must meet the requirements of a fire barrier and Section 706.5 of The 2006 International Building Code states “The supporting construction for fire barrier walls shall be protected to afford the required fire-resistance rating of the fire barrier supported…”  This means the horizontal and vertical steel which supports the concrete floor adjacent to the shaft must maintain the 2-hr rating. In this case, the columns and beams responsible for supporting the shaft wall were protected with spray on fireproofing.


Framing requirements for the fire/smoke dampers are specified by the damper manufacturer.  These may include doubling vertical framing members for larger dampers, specific methods for corner returns on the horizontal members and minimum and maximum clearances between the framing and the damper.

The installation of these shafts exceeded the minimum code requirements in two ways.  First, the shafts connected less than four stories.  IBC 2006 section 707.4 only requires a 1-hr rating.  Second, the shafts were not required at all.  Section 716.6.3 Nonfire-resistance-rated floor assemblies (remember Type 2B construction=no floor rating) only requires a fire damper installed at the floor line when connecting not more than three stories.

Now the design professional, building owner or building insurer might have required this higher level of protection (remember the Code is only a minimum requirement). The cost of shaft wall construction, additional protection of structural steel and fire/smoke dampers (including the electronics for the activation of the smoke dampers) should have been considered.



It Pays To Know $$$

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