The coordination of a construction project is a major endeavor. For a fire inspector, ensuring that all code provisions are met can require much effort. Reviewing a proposed smoke control system design for a mall especially tests the inspector’s knowledge of the codes as well as his endurance.

While coordination of a proposed design is not an inspector’s duty, verifying compliance is. To achieve a code-compliant design, it often is beneficial for the inspector to step in and bring all the necessary parties together for a code coordination meeting. Experience has shown that such meetings —from a code standpoint—are necessary for the design and all related pieces to come together. As a minimum, the following individuals should be in attendance: the architect, the mechanical engineer, the electrical engineer, the general contractor, the mechanical contractor, the fire alarm contractor, and the sprinker contractor.

Start the meeting by discussing your needs. Explain that the design and operation of the smoke control system must be code-compliant. Usually the architect is responsible for ensuring compliance of the overall project. Explain code requirements and objectives and how everyone present plays an important role in meeting these objectives.

Then outline what you, the inspector, expect from each participant. Provide specifics, such as the following:

The architect should provide you with a full set of architectural plans, showing all rated assemblies (including those that separate smoke zones), the different smoke zones (in shading or other highlighting), the room containing the manual controls for the smoke removal system, and so on. The architect ensures that all code deficiencies are identified and corrected.

The mechanical engineer is responsible for providing a full set of smoke removal system plans showing all the components on each floor level. The plans should show all fans and their ratings, dampers, louvers, ductwork, manual controls, and other equipment. A full set of calculations used to size the smoke removal system is necessary, as is a zone diagram showing each of the smoke zones with labels (such as M-l, T-l). This way you can compare the zoning that the mechanical engineer provided with the zoning shown by the other design parties. A matrix of operation showing all system reactions to a fire in a specific zone must be provided. Finally, the mechanical engineer must provide a complete and detailed set of testing criteria, which should propose several tests widi corresponding pass/ fail criteria.


The electrical engineer must provide a set of plans showing all of the smoke zoning provided, the matrix of operation as specified for the mechanical engineer, and all smoke removal initiation devices including smoke detectors and water-flow switches.

The general contractor ensures that you receive all the information you need to carry out your review, is in contact with the design professionals, and assists in scheduling inspections and making sure all necessary parties attend.

The mechanical contractor installs and tests the smoke removal equipment, sets up inspections, provides the smoke-generating devices used to test the system, and gives you the test results.

The fire alarm contractor must provide a full set of plans showing all smoke removal system initiation devices, all wiring, and the zoning diagram and operation matrix; provide specification sheets for all equipment; and schedule an inspection of the fire alarm system to verify its operation.

The sprinkler contractor must provide a full set of sprinkler plans showing all piping, heads, dimensions, associated equipment with specification sheets (including flow switches), and a full set of hydraulic calculations, as well as schedule all necessary hydrostatic and installation inspections.

Now all parties involved know what to expect. Encourage them to read the applicable codes and understand them. This meeting hopefully will eliminate many problems down the line.

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