Fire safety engineering should not be excluded from dormitories. From

“Experimenting on a university dormitory that was scheduled to be torn down, fire researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated that the correct combination of automatic fire sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and closed doors provided enough time and safe conditions for residents to escape safely and for firefighters to perform their job without undue hazard.”

The NIST findings are nothing new in terms of research, but the study still highlights the problems universities face when they need to retrofit dormitories. The problems renovating dormitories are two-fold. First, the window for installation is very limited. Normally, two months in the summer is the only time construction is allowed. There cannot be any obstruction of the student’s living quarters once the semester begins. Second, the fire solution needs to blend into the current dorm construction. Dormitories require extra ingenuity in order to meet these strict requirements. Fire safety engineers have to develop an affordable solution that balances good looks with a quick installation. The experience and expertise required to do the job well are not easy to find. The unique difficulties that universities face retrofitting dormitories makes building a new dorm to replace the old one an attractive option.  The challenging conditions with an existing dorm often result in expensive fire safety solutions…unless you have hired Harrington Group to develop them.

Recently, we saved $200,000 for a North Carolina University and completed the project before their aggressive construction deadline. To achieve such significant savings, we were made responsible for the design advertisement and bid support, construction administration, and final acceptance testing of their nine-story, high-rise dorm. Our unique sprinkler system design eliminated the need for an electric fire pump and emergency generator. Additionally, a decorative soffit solution didn’t require breaching the existing metal lathe and plaster ceiling assembly. Through working with the state AHJ early in the design process, we received approval allowing us to complete the project ahead of the very aggressive deadline. The combination of eliminating unnecessary fire system components, implementing elegant design solutions, and proactively managing AHJ approval saved the university time and money. We didn’t just meet the unique criteria, we exceeded it. If you have specialized fire safety needs you don’t need a fortune, you just need the right fire safety engineering consultant.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.