MS in Fire Protection Engineering
College of Engineering
Frederick Mowrer and Christopher Pascual
This culminating report is a fire, explosion, and life safety evaluation of a Research Laboratory ("Laboratory") where significant quantities of flammable, combustible, and hazardous materials are used and stored. The report's initial portion provides a prescriptive-based analysis using applicable sections of the 2016 California Building Standard Codes and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Because of the unique challenges to hazardous laboratory spaces, the prescriptive- based analysis includes both a review of codes applicable to all occupancies (e.g., egress, fire-resistance, building area), and codes applicable to Group H and L occupancies (e.g., electrical area classification maps, control areas). Unfortunately, detailed data of building drawings and material lists were limited. Thus, only a general analysis was possible in many areas. Unique to the Laboratory is the ongoing requirement to manage hazardous materials in either Control Areas, or in High-Hazard Group H occupancies. Except for the items listed below, the building was found to comply with the prescriptive codes related to (1) passive fire protection which requires up to 3-hour fire resistance rated materials tested to standard UL 1709, (2) egress with maximum travel distance of 210 feet, (3) fire suppression systems with the highest water demand of 1481 gpm at 66 psi, and (4) fire detection systems with connections to the laboratory control room and the company fire house. Additionally, the fire water supply provided sufficient capacity for the suppression systems with a water pressure safety factor of 37%. The report’s second portion drew the following conclusions based on three performance-based analyses: (1) A smoke detection system should be added to a high bay laboratory compartment to meet explicit life safety goals specified by stakeholders. (2) The power cabling for the building's air handling unit is not at risk of failure if a fire were to occur in a critical laboratory compartment. As a result of the prescriptive and performance-based analyses, the report demonstrates that most of the building compliance with the codes used, but there are several improvements recommended: (1) DIKING. A mixing vat with an existing foam suppression system should be diked to limit fuel spread of an accidental release and improve the foam system's effectiveness. (2) INTERIOR STAIRWAYS. Two interior stairways should be enclosed with fire barriers using required fire- resistant rated materials with automatic closing doors. (3) INTERVENING LOCKABLE DOORS. One compartment in the Group B occupancy has an egress route through an adjoining lockable compartment that should have its locks removed so that personnel cannot be prevented from exiting the building during an emergency. (4) SMOKE DETECTORS. Consideration should be given to adding smoke detectors in one high-bay laboratory compartment to improve the current 435 second ASET (sprinkler initiation) to a 308 second ASET (smoke detector initiation) to satisfy the calculated 310 second RSET.