Atrium Features and Firefighting Tactics

Issue 3 and Volume 165.

BY RONALD R. SPADAFORA An atrium (plural, atria) is a large open space, at least three stories high and with a glazed roof. Often, it is positioned just beyond the main entrance doors within a larger multistory building. Atria are a popular architectural design feature because they enhance the perception of light and space within structures. Basically, an atrium is defined by building codes (such as the International Building Code) as an opening connecting two or more stories other than enclosed stairways, elevators, hoistways, escalators, plumbing, electrical, air-conditioning, or other equipment, which is closed at the top and not defined as a mall. Buildings with atria, however, can be dangerous for occupants in a fire. A large, unenclosed shaft that extends upward through multiple floors is contrary to fire safety, which asserts that compartmentation is required to limit the spread of fire and smoke from the point of origin. The…

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