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EVACUATION & LIFE SAFETY STRATEGIES FOR SUPER HIGH RISE

BUILDINGS
By
Sam Aloi, Grad. Dip. (Fire Safety & Risk Eng.)VUT Melb, BE (Building) VUT Melb. &
Jason Rogers, Grad. Dip. (Fire Safety & Risk Eng.)VUT Melb, Ass. Dip. (App. Sci.) SU.
Norman Disney & Young
Level 6, 5 Queens Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004, Australia
EMAIL s.aloi@ndy.com, FACSIMILE +61 3 9862 6900, TELEPHONE +61 3 9862 6850

ABSTRACT
The paper will discuss strategies implemented for ensuring safety of occupants in tall
buildings under fire conditions. The life safety strategy must integrate key fire safety systems
with building features. The possible use of vertical transportation for phased evacuation
requires a combination of safe havens, innovative smoke management and sophisticated
communication systems to ensure occupants under threat from fire are moved to safe
locations within the building.
Application of smoke analysis to confirm the effectiveness of designs will be considered.
Theoretical design will be supported by practical examples currently being implemented on
the 88 level Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia. The Eureka Tower project is being
developed by a joint venture made up of the Grocon Group, the architect Nation Fender
Katsalidis and Tab Fried. The Builder is Grocon Constructors Pty Ltd.

INTRODUCTION
The height of very tall buildings places great demand on time for occupant evacuation, fire
fighting, search and rescue and preservation of the building. In considering fire protection
measures for tall buildings, it has become evident that the safety of occupants and fire
fighting personnel depends on the design of the building as a whole.
A fire engineered approach was used in the design of Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia
for compliance with the performance requirements of the Building Codes. Eureka Tower is
primarily a residential building comprising 88 storeys at a total height of approximately 300
metres. The development is to be the worlds tallest residential skyscraper. Eureka Tower
sits above a 10 storey podium which incorporates car parking, health centre and gymnasium,
shopping, retail outlets, restaurants and cafes. In addition to this, the top four storeys include
professional and recreational facilities as well as designated areas that will be freely
accessible by the public, namely the observation deck.
Fig. 1
The focus of the life safety strategy was to protect people in place. High rise building
occupants near the fire would evacuate using the vertical transportation system; whilst
occupants remote from the fire would remain protected within the structure. To facilitate this
strategy, the fire must be kept small and the persons in the area of fire origin must be
permitted to move safely within the structure. The key to the strategy was the design of an
integrated fire safety system, with consideration to unique building features that influence fire
and smoke spread throughout the building.
Blindly following the prescriptive requirements of the Building Codes would not address
these issues. A fire engineered approach assesses the level of fire safety and establishes
innovative fire safety solutions to suit the specific risk.

FIRE DEVELOPMENT & SMOKE SPREAD


The fire scenarios used within the quantitative fire and smoke analysis for the building were
determined via a hazard analysis. Various fire scenarios were considered within the
residential, office and public areas of the building to determine the fire risk based on ignition
potential, frequency and consequence.
The combustible fuel load throughout the building is expected to vary in content and location.
Therefore representative design fires we developed utilising a combination of the
anticipated fuel loads, fire test data and statistical information.
The considered design fires can be categorized into three main groups being smouldering
fires, flaming fires and flashover fires. Smouldering fires are generally a poorly ventilated
fire producing very little heat and thus not expected to spread beyond the object of fire origin.
The HAZARD I zone computational model, as developed by the United States Department of
Commerce- building & Fire Research Laboratory, was used for the quantitative analysis of
fire spread from typical apartments to egress paths. Time to untenable conditions were then
compared with egress and people movement.
EGRESS & PEOPLE MOVEMENT
As buildings reach for the heavens, we can not expect building occupants to evacuate using
traditional means of egress via hundreds of flights of stairs. Egress down multiple flights of
stairs is expected to slow down occupant evacuation, create queuing and bottle necks and
cause injury. Studies suggest that it is often the journey to the outside that leads to injury or
fatality, with the risk of injury increasing with the number of floors traveled.

To minimise occupant travel distance within the stairways, the Eureka Tower was separated
into Evacuation Zones according to the proposed lifting arrangement of the building. (three
vertical transportation system zones)
Fig. 2
The evacuation process and fire safety systems can be best explained as follows:
1. The occupants in the EVACUATION ZONE FLOOR OF FIRE ORIGIN ONLY via the
fire isolated stairs which discharge to Transfer Levels.
2. At the Transfer Level, occupants are transferred to express lifts (located in separate shafts
to avoid smoke/water damage and provide unimpeded Brigade access to the fire floors via
goods lifts) and shuttled to ground floor for direct egress.
To permit orderly evacuation, it is proposed to evacuate only the Floor of Fire Origin (FFO)
in the first instance. Occupants in Evacuation Zones and Floors of Non-Fire Origin remain in
place. Alert and evacuation information in the form of pre-recorded messages is
communicated to these floors as required. Occupants are also provided with the option for
building evacuation via the fire isolated stairways if required. Table 1 provides a summary of
the number of occupants evacuated and evacuation times for the respective evacuation zones.
Evacuation
Zone

Levels
Served

No. Lifts Serving


Evacuation Area

No. Occupants

L24 to L51

2 x 17 passenger

970 persons

L52 to L88

3 x 17 passenger

1303 persons

Table 1.

Transfer
Floor
Area
Lobby
Area
455

Total Zone
Evacuation
Time
1 hr 6 mins

Evacuation of
Four Floors

1 hr 10
mins

33 mins

16.5 mins

Egress & People Movement

Elevators are being considered to be the primary mode of evacuation from high rise buildings
in Australia, with some buildings proposing to evacuate the FLOOR OF FIRE ORIGIN using
the lift which awaits them, called by the smoke detection system and protected by lobby and
air pressurised system.

EMERGENCY EGRESS USING VERTICAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS


Emergency egress using vertical transportation has been acknowledged as a priority in
Australia. Currently Australian regulations and standards do not permit the use of vertical
transportation for egress in case of fire. British Standard BS5588 allows fire fighting
personnel or people with disabilities to use the lifts in the event of fire, provided the
evacuation is managed and elevator system is suitably designed and protected by the building.
European Normalised Standards EN 81-72: Fire Fighting Lifts and EN 81-6: Evacuation Lifts
have adopted the British approach for emergency egress in multistory buildings.
Given this international experience, it was considered reasonable to use the vertical
transportation system for evacuation of building occupants in the event of fire, provided the
building architecture, lifts, mechanical services, fire safety and electrical systems were
correctly designed, installed, commissioned, maintained and managed.
The zoned evacuation strategy, utilising the vertical transportation system at Eureka Place
Tower, required the development of an alternative solution to the prescriptive (deemed to
satisfy) provisions for approval by the Australian Authorities having jurisdiction. The
adopted strategy required liaison between the design team and local Authority for
identification of risks that could lead to the failure of the lifts. Once identified, systems were
put in place to mitigate the risk to satisfy the life safety of the regulations.
The following hazards associated with the vertical transportation system were identified:
The lift shafts which connect all levels presented a major path for fire and smoke spread
The piston effect generated by the movement of the lifts may increase smoke spread
Lifts may be called to the floor of fire origin due to adverse effects on controls due to fire

Lift doors may not close if opened on the fire floor, due to smoke interfering with closure
mechanisms; door distortion due to the heat of the fire; or pressure differentials at lift
doors
The potential effects of water from issuing fire hose steams or sprinkler discharge on
electrical lift equipment
Loss of power to the lifts
Lift over loading in panic situations
VERTICAL TRANSPORTATION & EGRESS SAFETY
General
The strategy implemented for ensuring safety of occupants combined the use of safe havens,
innovative smoke control systems and sophisticated fire detection, alarm and communication
systems. Smoke spread and heat damage must be limited to the fire floor by fast response
sprinklers and compartmentation. The population must be able to leave the fire affected area
to a place of safety and fire fighting personnel must be able to operate safely and efficiently.
The vertical transportation system at Eureka Place Tower was protected against smoke and
water, as follows:
Lift and stairway shafts were air pressurised
Lift lobbies were enclosed in smoke resistant construction and pressurised via lift shaft and
stair pressurisation leakage
Lobbies were protected by intelligent smoke detectors and floor sprinkler flow switches
interfaced with lift control for recall in the event of smoke or water flow
Lifts used for staged occupant evacuation were located in separate shafts from those
located in the Evacuation Zone of fire origin and as such not subject to water damage
Sump pumps were located in lift over run pits to drain water at the bottom of lift shafts

Lifts were capable of being operated from an emergency power generator


Smoke Resistant Lift Lobbies
The provision of smoke resistant lift lobbies mitigate smoke spread via lift shafts which
connect multiple compartments. Reducing the fire and smoke hazard allows occupants on
floors remote from the fire to stay in place. The lobby also provides a safe haven for
occupants and fire fighting personnel using lifts during the evacuation of the fire floor.
The lobby needs to be of sufficient size to accommodate all people who may use the lifts in a
fire emergency with the doors closed to prevent smoke. According to Australian Building
Codes, horizontal exits for commercial buildings must have a clear area of not less than 0.5
m2 per person to accommodate the total number of persons from both parts of the storey.
Hence 0.5 m2 per person was used at Eureka Tower in the calculation for the lobby & transfer
area.
The lobby also needs to resist the spread of smoke and fire from the floor or lift shaft to
maintain tenable conditions for the time required for evacuation or fire fighting search and
rescue. Given Eureka Place Tower is fully sprinkler protected, the lobbies were designed to
withstand a temperature of 200C, which was considered appropriate for a smoldering or
shielded sprinkler fire. The smoke lobbies at Eureka Tower generally comprised the
bounding wall construction of apartments complete with self closing 38mm solid core doors
fitted with medium temperature smoke seals.
Air Pressurization Systems
The effectiveness of a smoke lobby to provide a tenable environment can be enhanced by the
use of air pressurisation systems. It is important that smoke does not spread into the lift shafts
via the lobby because the piston effect of elevators can distribute smoke throughout the

building. Spurious alarms caused by smoke spread may also cause the building pressurisation
systems to operate in other adverse modes.
Each fire isolated stairway, lift shaft and Transfer Level at Eureka Tower were provided with
an air pressurisation system, with lobbies pressurised via leakage. All systems activated
simultaneously upon receipt of any general fire alarm in the building for simplicity. The
system minimised smoke intrusion by pressurisation with outside air. The system was
carefully designed to ensure that positive pressures are maintained and that stack effect,
piston effect wind and excessive pressure did not interfere with the door operation. Suitably
sized pressure relief was provided in the lift lobbies on all levels to address these issues.
Detailed fluid dynamic calculations and modeling were carried out determine pressure and
flow throughout out the building for air balancing.
Intelligent Smoke Detection & Alarm Systems
Information is critical during a fire emergency. Data from equipment such as detectors,
remote field devices and television or security cameras in lobbies would be a valuable
additional source of information to be used in a fire emergency.
Analogue addressable smoke detection technology was used in Eureka Tower to quickly
locate the fire and transmit coded signals to various building automation system for phased
evacuation. High sensitivity smoke detectors were located below ceiling in all public spaces
and lift lobbies.
Computer programs set priorities and determine which floors should evacuate using the lifts
and which floors remain in place. Lift control panels send elevators to the appropriate floor
and recall to home in the event smoke is detected in a lift lobby. Occupant evacuation within
the Evacuation Zone is intended to be cascading subject to the severity of the fire incident.

Upon fire alarm, it is proposed to evacuate the Floor of Fire Origin (FFO) in the first instance,
with the subsequent evacuation of occupants on the floors above and below depending on
smoke detection or Fire Brigade intervention.
Informative voice alert and evacuation information to building occupants is communicated
automatically by the building Emergency Warning And Intercommunication System.
The strategy at Eureka Tower is proposed to be managed by responsible fire wardens on each
floor; or an Emergency Response Team consisting of security staff, office and retail staff;
thus the importance of implementing and maintaining detailed emergency procedures. A fire
control room is provided for the exclusive purpose of directing emergency operations. Hard
wired emergency phones or Fire Brigade Intercom points are proposed in lift lobbies, elevator
cars and transfer levels to communicate between those using the elevator evacuation system
and the fire control room.
Commissioning, Testing & Maintenance
The use of lifts in a fire requires a large number of systems and components to work together.
Such systems are inherently unreliable and require periodic routine inspection, testing and
maintenance. It is strongly recommended that an overall fire safety system approach is
adopted for testing rather than individual components. The performance based design
approach relies on the integration between various sub systems; therefore each interface and
effect should be tested and maintained for correct operation.
TRANSFER LEVELS
General
Open space public areas such as sky lobbies, observation lounges and panorama decks may be
used as transfer levels where people assemble until an emergency is over or be evacuated via
the lifts servicing the level.

The following levels were nominated as Transfer Levels at Eureka Tower for the evacuation
of building occupants :
Level 52

(minimum Occupant Area of 455m2)

Level 24

(minimum Occupant Area - lobby/corridor)

The transfer levels were fire separated from the remainder of the building and serviced with
essential services equipment. The construction materials and contents within the transfer
levels were selected with consideration to smoke developed and flame spread indices; and
consistent with those nominated within regulations for public corridors leading to a fire rated
exit.
The minimum Occupant Area was determined with consideration to a maximum four levels
evacuating at any point in time. This philosophy is consistent with a cascading Emergency
Warning System as detailed within Australian Standard AS 2220, which provides warning to
the fire level, two levels above and one level below.

Transfer Level Area


The required Transfer Level area at Eureka Tower was calculated using an inflow and
outflow methodology. Project specific first principle evacuation spreadsheets were developed
for the calculation of the occupant inflow. These were based on studies by Proulx, Nelson,
MacLennan and Pauls.
Occupant outflow from the Transfer levels was calculated from data obtained from the
ELVAC computational model by Klote et al.

NON - FIRE EMERGENCY EVACUATION


The evacuation strategy adopted for the Eureka Tower also caters for non-fire related
emergencies. The fact that the evacuation zones may be evacuated independently without
relying on common equipment, is one of the primary design initiatives adopted which adds to
the versatility of the evacuation system. Other design initiatives which were adopted
removed the critical single points of failure, which included:
Distributed exit stairways which traverse the entire building and discharge at ground level.
Distributed lift banks with independent lift motor rooms.
Generator or battery back-up power located on a separate floor to the building sub-station
for essential fire & life safety services including lifts.
Distributed fire detection and alarm system with return path of communication loop
cabling located with separate services rated shafts.
Networked Fire Indicator and Master Evacuation Control panels located in separate zones
where each panel can maintain status and control of its own dedicated circuits and control
activity at other locations should a panel fail.
Ringed gravity fed fire services water supply, complete with fire brigade booster facilities.
The evacuation of the building during non-fire related emergencies requires the building
structure to remain in place for the time required to safely evacuate the building.
CONCLUSION
Tall buildings represent mans very nature to continue to reach for the heavens, creating
lasting monuments to their own ingenuity and courage. Performance-Based Codes and Fire
Safety Design Methods provide the vehicle in delivering these monuments that we can all be
proud of.

REFERENCES
1. Australian Building Codes Board, 1996
BUILDING CODE OF AUSTRALIA, Amdt. No. 8.
2. Hui, M.C., Nov. 9, 2000
LOBBY PROTECTION, Proceedings From IEAust. Conference, The Use Of
Vertical Transportation In an Emergency.
3. Johncock, Alan, Nov. 9, 2000
EMERGENCY EGRESS USING VERTICAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS,
Proceedings From IEAust. Conference, The Use Of Vertical Transportation In an
Emergency.
4. Klote J., Alvord D. M. and Deal S., November 1991
ROUTINE FOR ANALYSIS OF THE PEOPLE MOVEMENT TIME FOR
ELEVATOR EVACUATION, NISTIR 4370.
5. Levin, Bernard M. & Groner, Norman E., September, 1997
SOME CONTROL AND COMMUNICATION CONSIDERATIONS IN
DESIGNING AN ELEVATOR EVACUATION SYSTEM, Elevator World pp110.
6. Nelson, H.E. and MacLennan, H.A., June 1995
EMERGENCY MOVEMENT The SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection
Engineering, Society of Fire Protection Engineering, 2nd Ed.
7. Proulx, G.
EVACUATION TIME AND MOVEMENT IN APARTMENT BUILDINGS, Fire
Safety Journal, Vol. 24, 1995, pp. 229 - 246.
8. Pauls, J.L., 1980
FIRES AND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR, John Wiley and Sons, New York.