Fire Doors: How to Incorporate Them Into an Architecture Project

Fire doors are doors that meet fire resistance standards and can prevent fire (or smoke) from spreading through the floors or living spaces of a building, allowing people to evacuate safely from a fire.

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What material are they made of?

Fire doors can be composed of one or two leaves, and are made of a combination of different materials such as ceramic fiber and steel. Its fittings include specific automatic closing and locking mechanisms. To ensure effective and complete protection, all components (including locks and hinges) must also comply with the technical fire regulations of each country.

Bodega Castanheirinho / João Albano Fernandes. Image © Ivo Tavares Studio

Where should they be located?

In much of the world, the use of fire doors is mandatory for buildings with a height of more than four floors. They are usually incorporated into the staircase area and must include two fire doors and a space large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, keeping people safe until rescue arrives.

Aeropuerto de Zagreb / Kincl + Neidhardt + Institut IGH. Image © Josip Škof

The fire door is required often in places with a high flow of people, such as theaters, shopping centers, airports, educational establishments, and multi-family residential buildings (especially in underground floors). It must also be installed in areas such as restricted access locations, escape routes, walkways, office entrances, refuge areas, separation spaces between hazardous industrial areas, and in rooms for measuring, protecting, or transforming electrical energy.

Sede Instituto BioCruces / IDOM. Image © Aitor Ortiz

When installed, a sign should be added that highlights them and reminds building occupants that they should be kept closed. Any irregularity that prevents their regular closure should be strictly prohibited.

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Some versions even have electromagnetic sensors connected to a fire alarm system and Wi-Fi, closing them automatically in case of a fire. The only exception is when the door stores equipment such as pumps or power generators, to prevent unauthorized access.

via Shutterstock, User: Pair Srinrat

Should they always have the same appearance?

As long as they are guided by all official regulations, in some cases, it is possible to cover some fire doors and incorporate them into architectural designs without altering the aesthetic pattern of the rest of the building. An example is the hidden fire door in the project 'Acute Intervention' by David Stanley Architects and Romy Grabosch.

Intervenção Aguda / David Stanley Architects + Romy Grabosch. Image Cortesia de Pexels

What certification criteria exist?

There are no exceptions: all fire doors must pass tests to ensure their true resistance to fire and/or smoke. These evaluations result in classifications that determine direct flame resistance times: 30 (less and less experts recommend this option), 45, 60, 90, 120, and even 180 or 240 minutes. In much of the world, they are identified as R30, R60, R90, and R120.

It is essential to pay attention to the laboratories that evaluate this resistance. Some of the laboratories considered most reliable include IPT in Brazil and Underwriters Laboratories in the United States.

Una ampliación a una productora de sake / a-um. Image © Nacasa & Partners

What are their regulations?

It depends. Each country has a series of specific regulations. In Brazil, for example, it is recommended to follow the specifications of NBR 11742, NBR 11785 and NBR 11711, while in the United States, there is the NFPA 80 Standard, which "regulates the installation and maintenance of assemblies and devices used to protect openings in walls, floors, and ceilings against the spread of fire and smoke within, into, or out of buildings."

© Shutterstock, User: judyjump

In addition to doors, what other elements are there to consider?

Fire doors are very important, but a set of measures is needed to ensure the full effectiveness of the system in case of danger: 

  • Continuous railing: installed at the exact height indicated by the regulations, rounded and anchored to the wall.
  • Emergency lights: essential for people to be able to follow the escape route.
  • Photoluminescent signage: these are stickers that glow in the dark, indicating the escape route, floors, exit, and access to the ground floor.
  • Fire extinguishers of all classes:
    A) Water: Suitable for solid materials such as wood, plastic, rubber, fabrics.
    B) Chemical powder: mainly used for flammable liquids such as gasoline, alcohol, kerosene, diesel, oil.
    C) CO2: used for electrical installations and equipment that use electrical energy, such as motors, pumps, generators, batteries.

The Breaking Red project by MLMR Architects, for example, is designed specifically to accommodate for the evacuation of a school in case of a fire, including through an elevator and a new staircase:

Breaking Red / MLMR Arquitectos. Image © Pablo García Esparza


About this author
Cite: Migliani, Audrey. "Fire Doors: How to Incorporate Them Into an Architecture Project" [O que são portas corta-fogo e em quais projetos arquitetônicos incorporá-las?] 10 Sep 2019. ArchDaily. (Trans. Franco, José Tomás) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Estación de Bomberos #5 / STGM Architectes + CCM2 Architectes. Image © Alexandre Guérin


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