MS in Fire Protection Engineering
College of Engineering
Frederick Mowrer and Christopher Pascual
This report provides a prescriptive and performance-based analysis of the Food Processing Building located on Cal Poly’s campus in San Luis Obispo, California. Food science and nutrition classes take place at the facility where faculty and students manufacture food products such as chocolates, jams, and barbecue sauces. The finished products are offered for sale in the building’s mercantile area, known as the Campus Market, in addition to other retail locations around the city. The Food Processing Building is considered mixed use with portions of the building classified as moderate-hazard factory (F-1), moderate-hazard storage (S-1), business (B), mercantile (M), and assembly (A-3) in order from most to least square footage. Originally designed in 1960, most of the building’s fire and life safety systems were based on the code requirements from the 1958 Edition of the Uniform Building Code (UBC). Construction was completed in 1962, and the existing store area was expanded in 1998. The Food Processing Building’s fire and life safety systems were checked for prescriptive compliance with the 2022 Editions of the California Building Code (CBC) and California Fire Code (CFC). The prescriptive analysis includes the means of egress, fire alarm and detection, fire suppression, structural fire protection, flammability, and smoke control. Additionally, since the building is nonsprinklered, a proposed design for an automatic sprinkler system is provided. The building meets the prescriptive requirements for exit capacity, number and arrangement of exits, exit access travel distances, fire detection, allowable height and number of stories, and fire separation distance. Other prescriptive requirements require field verification to check for code compliance. Deficiencies were found regarding common path of travel, allowable area, and visible notification coverage. The loading dock on the north side of the building relies on occupants using a step ladder to reach the sidewalk, which disqualifies it from being considered an exit. Subsequently, this creates an issue where the common path of travel from the northeast corner of the building exceeds the maximum allowed by code. Furthermore, the building far exceeds the allowable area for a nonsprinklered, F-1 occupancy. The final breach of prescriptive code is the visible notification within the mercantile area of the building does not provide adequate coverage. Occupant safety is the primary objective for the performance-based analysis. Three design fires scenarios were considered including a cooking fire in the kitchen, an industrial equipment fire during manufacturing, and a storage room fire. The storage room fire was determined to be the highest risk to occupant safety because of smoke spilling into the interior corridor that serves many adjoining rooms and spaces. This design fire scenario impacts the largest number of occupants and quickly impedes egress. Tenability criteria were defined for toxicity, temperature, and visibility which were analyzed through fire modeling to determine the available safe egress time (ASET). Occupant evacuation time was determined through egress modeling in order to calculate the required safe egress time (RSET). Visibility in the corridor drops below the tenable limit around 110 seconds which is considered the ASET. On the other hand, RSET was calculated to be 303 seconds, which is comprised of the detection time, notification time, pre-movement time, and evacuation time. Quantitatively, since ASET is 193 seconds less than RSET, the performance-based analysis concludes that the Food Processing Building’s fire and life safety systems do not maintain a tenable environment long enough for occupants to evacuate safely. Recommendations are provided to address the prescriptive deficiencies as well as improve the results of the performance-based analysis. Constructing a small exterior staircase at the north loading dock is the simplest solution for the common path of travel issue from the northeast corner. However, installing a sprinkler system will increase the maximum common path of travel to 100 feet, while also increasing allowable area for an F-1 occupancy to 48,000 square feet, thereby solving both deficiencies. Additional strobes should be installed in the Campus Market to cover the areas lacking visual notification. The performance-based analysis suggests that replacing the plastic pallets with wood pallets will significantly decrease the fuel load in the storage rooms. If a sprinkler system were installed and the plastic pallets removed, the heat release rate of the design fire will decrease, resulting in less smoke generation and more time available for occupants to evacuate via the corridor.