MS in Fire Protection Engineering
College of Engineering
Frederick Mowrer and Christopher Pascual
The Berkley (aka the Silverton Timeshare Tower) was reviewed for compliance with the code of record. This included review of the full architectural set of drawings, as well as the available Fire Protection Report and Amendments that were issued prior to and during construction. This analysis has been slowly performed throughout the extent of my graduate career at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly), and has been in depth for each applicable area of study. Each of the studies performed will be reviewed in the applicable sections below, be it for prescriptive analysis of the existing facility or a performance-based analysis of theoretical worst-case scenarios.
A thorough review of the facility was conducted over the course of several years, comparing the available construction documents to the code of record, local building amendments, and applicable high-rise provisions. The occupancy classifications, finish requirements of the specific occupancies, and the ability of those occupancies to exit the facility was also reviewed in depth for the building. Other major building systems, such as the structural fire resistance, fire alarm and sprinkler systems, elevators, emergency power, and smoke control were reviewed in detail to determine their compliance with the applicable codes.
Although The Berkley was found to be in substantial compliance with the code intent, there are issues that were discovered within the documentation that show the building is not completely code compliant within several areas. These issues were not able to be field verified and may have been corrected during or after construction; specifically, the placement of exit signs appears to be deficient based on review of the egress and electrical drawings, and the placement of audible notification appliances draws into question the capability of the fire alarm notification appliances to meet the local decibel requirements. A review of the placement of additional exit signs, as well as an intelligibility and audibility analysis of the residential corridors is recommended.
Additionally, multiple performance-based calculations and simulations were conducted in order to determine the efficacy of the prescriptive based construction. The goal of these calculations and simulations was to determine if the Available Safe Egress Time (ASET) would be greater than the Required Safe Egress Time (RSET), based on developed scenarios and selected tenability criteria. These included a Contam model to validate the operation of the pressurized smokeproof enclosures serving the facility, a Detection & Activation (DETACT) Excel model to determine the activation time of the sprinkler system, a Pathfinder model to determine the time required for occupants to exit into smokeproof enclosures after activation of an alarm signal, and a Pyrosim model to determine the level of visibility within the corridor after ignition of the fire.
Through this performance-based analysis, it was shown that the selected fire activated a sprinkler at approximately 83 seconds, with occupant notification beginning 90 seconds after that (for a total time since ignition of 173 seconds). All occupants were able to exit the facility at a total time since ignition of 533 seconds; unfortunately, the visible distance within the fire floors reached the limits of tenability at 441 seconds, which would leave 6 occupants within the corridors at that time.
Based on the performance analysis that was conducted, there are several areas that could be reviewed for improved performance of this analysis. The fire itself could be reviewed for validity as a scenario, and possibly reduced. The retard time for the sprinkler waterflow alarm signal transmission was specified to be the maximum allowed 90 seconds; many times, the activation is much faster than this, but not permitted to be faster than 30 seconds. Additionally, more data could be provided for the occupant pre-movement time; as it was provided in the SFPE Handbook (Society of Fire Protection Engineers), occupant response was only capable of being simulated as a uniform distribution, which is less indicative of actual human response than a normal distribution. While the fire size may not be reduced, introduction of faster building system and human response times may reduce or eliminate occupancy of untenable spaces.