Combining Good Commercial Design with Fire, Life & Safety

Fire Extinguisher blogBy Kevin M. Kozlowski

These days, putting safety first shouldn’t mean putting design second, and the construction industry doesn’t need to accept that safe, functional design can’t also be attractive.

Although some safety products create aesthetic challenges in commercial buildings, there are solutions:

Sprinkler heads in an atrium-style building: In an atrium space or commercial building with a skylight, sprinkler heads must be able to douse flames in case of fire. Instead of placing sprinkler heads in the skylight, hide them in eaves or install a water curtain in place of a sprinkler head, which is more discreet.

Exit door signs: In the past, these were lit by incandescent bulbs and were unattractive. However, edge-lit LED signs now are available and better complement building design.

Fall protection for skylights: OSHA regulations require guards for skylights and floor openings. In an office or hotel, where design is an important element, a screen detracts from the design. Instead, install a safety cage that can’t be seen from the ground but still protects anyone working on the roof from falling.

Emergency lighting: Traditionally, emergency lighting in an office or other commercial building is on a wall, but some dislike the way it looks. Instead, integrate it into the overhead lighting on the ceiling, which looks nicer.

Fire extinguishers: Most available fire extinguishers are five to six inches wide and require thicker walls in which to recess the extinguishers and their cabinets. This adds to project cost and can make a building look less balanced. Alternatively, one can surface mount the fire extinguisher, but this may create noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, which limit protruding object depth to four inches (most fire extinguishers have a greater depth than that). There are new, more slender fire extinguisher products that solve both of these issues, however.

Marrying safety and design: You can achieve high design standards while complying with crucial safety regulations with these three tips.

  • If an architect, contractor or designer has a preferred type of safety product that will create a more streamlined, attractive commercial building, these specs should be in the scope of work from the start.
  • Good communication among all parties throughout the entire design process is key.
  • Ensure the client and all parties understand each other – especially in trade-off, where the architect needs to tell the client that less expensive options are available but may adversely impact the design aesthetics in the finished building, while the slightly more expensive option may yield nicer-looking results. The client then must choose: save money and get a lower-quality item or less attractive design, or spend a bit more and have a better product and nicer-looking facility?

There is a whole host of new products on the market that are attractive and work as well as – or better than – the products of old, letting architects, contractors, builders and designers create beautiful commercial buildings that are safe and secure for the people who live and work inside them. 

Kozlowski KevinKevin M. Kozlowski is president of Oval Brand Fire Products. He can be reached at kkozlowski@ovalfireproducts.com

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