What's About to Happen to Stairs
According to Laura Huch Kerckhoff, president of Castcon-Stone Inc., these are some of the design recommendations that will affect egress in the near future.
- Actual, rather than theoretical fire rating tests.
- The careful locating of stair towers farther from one another, with uniform signage so they are easy to locate. For example, New York City has introduced a bill that significantly limits using scissor-type stairs because that design entails two stairways using one shaft. If the shaft is damaged, then both stairs may be rendered inaccessible.
- Constructing stair towers and elevator towers out of fire-safe, impact-resistant materials such as concrete. Many drywall stair tower walls in the World Trade Center buildings collapsed due to impact from planes and flying debris. The collapsed walls blocked egress.
- All buildings should be designed to accommodate timely full-building evacuation. Making stairways wider (at least 56 inches wide if 2000 people could be using them, per the new NFPA rule) to accommodate both building occupants exiting and emergency personnel entering. There is a related recommendation for a separate stair designated for emergency personnel.
- Photo luminescent painted signage and stairways if there is a power outage.
- Commercial buildings will be evaluated and designed with wind tunnel testing to determine sway and rigidity. This would encourage designers to use concrete stairs because they provide stability.