James Antell
Regional Practice Leader
Telgian Engineering & Consulting, Chicago

Stack effect is a critical but often overlooked consideration in the design of fire and life safety systems in tall buildings. Any path by which air can move from floor to floor due to stack effect is also a potential path for smoke from a fire to move from the fire area to remote areas of the building.

The phenomena of Stack Effect has a unique relationship to fire and life safety in tall buildings. Covering the fire history of smoke spread in tall buildings, building code changes are designed to mitigate stack effect. Current code requirements and design practices and current and future computational methods need to be explored to better address building performance in relation to stack effect.

The fire strategy for protection of occupants of tall buildings must include features to mitigate the impact of stack effect. Many of these building features are mandated by building codes in the form of natural or mechanical pressurization and depressurization systems to control smoke spread. Stack effect is a complex area and the building code requirements do not fully address stack effect in very tall buildings. There are a number of computational methods available to more fully assess building performance to mitigate smoke movement caused by stack effect.

Case studies and lessons learned in the design of fire safety systems must be shared to mitigate the impact of stack effect on occupant life safety.