Degree Name

MS in Fire Protection Engineering


College of Engineering


Frederick Mowrer and Christopher Pascual


The Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center Fire Protection and Life Safety Report evaluates the building’s prescriptive compliance and provides a performance-based analysis. The original construction documents were completed in 1993 in line with UBC 1991 requirements, however, the 2016 Edition of the California Building Code was used for the purpose of this analysis.

The Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center was constructed as a Type I-B building, fully protected with a sprinkler system and an emergency voice alarm system. The building is located far enough from surrounding buildings as to not require a fire-resistance rated exterior, with the exception of a fire wall that is shared with the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre. The performing Art Center consists of predominantly assembly use, as well as business and storage occupancies. The egress strategy provides sufficient capacities to evacuate the occupants with use of interior exit stairways and exit access passageways and the ability to discharge at multiple levels.

The prescriptive analysis found that the Performing Arts Center largely complies with applicable codes and standards, although there were several exceptions. Several exit doors don’t swing in the proper direction and fail to meet egress requirements. An internal egress stairway requires occupants to pass through the level of discharge without meeting the necessary code exceptions. Lastly, the building’s sprinkler demand exceeds the available supply given the absence of a fire pump.

The performance-based analysis compared the required safe egress time (RSET) to the available safe egress time (ASET) as well as evaluate the building’s structural components during fire scenarios. The RSET was determined with use of the evacuation software MassMotion and the ASET was determined with the use of Fire Dynamics Simulator. In the case that the smoke curtain is unsuccessfully deployed, analysis found that the seating hall experiences untenable conditions during a design fire. The smoke layer in the seating areas descends too quickly for occupants to safely evacuate. The design fire, located above the stage, was represented by a fast (0.0469kW/m2) α-t2 growth rate with a maximum heat release rate of 5MW. The smoke generated by the fire descended under the proscenium wall and entered the seating area. The temperatures in the upper balcony and the toxicity levels remained tenable, however, visibility fell short of the code-required value of 10m across much of the upper balcony.

Analysis of the detection and smoke control systems found that installing smoke detection above the stage would have reduced the RSET to meet tenability requirements. Additionally, vents would activate sooner and therefore improve tenability conditions. Structural analysis found that the building’s structural elements maintain compliant deflection and load capacities when subject to design fires.

Dowdy Cal Poly FPE Presentation.pdf (8352 kB)
Final Presentation



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