Sprinklers and smoke ventilators: is it a case of ‘the Dream Team’ or ‘combine them at your peril’?

Posted by Paul Compton on 10/07/13 11:23

Fire sprinklerIn principle the fact that sprinklers are designed to control fire and smoke ventilators to control smoke would suggest that they are a perfect combination. However, for years there has been on going controversy regarding the interaction of sprinklers and smoke ventilators, suggesting that combining them could result in neither of them operating to its full potential. This white paper debunks this argument and explains why a combination of sprinklers and smoke ventilators should always be considered:

The Cons

There are two main arguments against the combined use of sprinklers and smoke ventilators:

  • The removal of heat and smoke by ventilators could delay the operation of sprinkler heads
  • The ventilation system could allow the fire to burn more fiercely by maintaining the oxygen content of the building. 

The Pros

  • Smoke logging in an unventilated building poses a greater threat to life and property than a potential delay in sprinkler operation
  • In the large spaces in which smoke ventilation is used, depletion of oxygen will not have significant effect on the fire growth until the building is smoke logged. 

The Tests

The latest research has shown that:

  • Ventilation did not significantly delay the operation of the first sprinklers
  • It could reduce the number of sprinklers operating away from the fire
  • The effects of ventilation on sprinkler operation were secondary to other factors
  • The effects of ventilation on sprinklers are least with fast growing, high heat fires.

The Conclusion: Dream Team!

There appears to be no reason to suggest vents should not open before sprinkler operation except in very small areas. If you would like to know more on this subject please see our whitepaper!

Download Whitepaper


Paul ComptonPaul is a Technical Director for Colt, experienced in smoke control, HVAC, solar shading and louvre systems.

Topics: Smoke ventilation, Whitepaper, Sprinklers