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7.18 Historic Structures

Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse, Portland, ME
Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse,
Portland, ME

For an overall fire protection plan and to emphasize the Design Team’s responsibility to address fire protection and to preserve the historic integrity of historic structures, the Design Team shall explore alternative approaches outlined in state rehabilitation codes, International Existing Building Code (IEBC), and performance based codes to resolve conflicts between prescriptive code requirements and preservation goals. In addition, the requirements and recommendations of NFPA 914 shall be considered for rehabilitation projects in historic structures. The Design Team shall also evaluate the HUD Guideline Fire Ratings of Archaic Materials and Assemblies that provides test data on the fire resistance of a variety of historic materials and GSA publication titled Fire Safety Retrofitting in Historic Buildings.

GSA’s regional fire protection engineer serves as the AHJ, who must exercise professional judgment to assess the acceptability of alternative compliance solutions. Early and frequent coordination between the architects, State Historic Preservation Officer, Regional Historic Preservation Officer, preservation specialists, external review groups, and the Design Team’s fire protection engineer is imperative to timely resolution of conflicts between fire safety and preservation goals.

Fire Protection Alternatives for Consideration. Listed below are fire protection alternatives for the Design Team’s fire protection engineer to consider when designing a project:

New stair enclosures in historic buildings should be designed to minimize visual impact on significant spaces, including historic lobbies and corridors. Crosscorridor doors should be designed to provide maximum height and width clearance and avoid visually truncating the corridor. Oversized hold-open doors will achieve this end in most circumstances. For more ornamental spaces, accordion rated doors may be used. Transparent treatments, such as rated glass assemblies or historic doors modified to incorporate rated glass should be considered when barriers must be kept closed to maintain a rated enclosure. Non-prescriptive compliance solutions, such as modification of historic door assemblies, must be approved by GSA’s regional fire protection engineer.

Spokane Federal Building/U.S. Post Office
Spokane Federal Building/U.S. Post Office
  • New fire-rated doors in preservation zones should be designed to resemble historic doors in panel detailing and finish. True-paneled fire doors are preferred for replacement of original paneled stair or corridor doors.
  • In historically significant spaces, sprinklers should be carefully placed to minimize damage to ornamental materials. Develop detailed drawings for architecturally sensitive areas, showing precise sprinkler locations and finishing notes as necessary to ensure proper installation. Sprinklers should be centered and placed symmetrically in relation to ornamental patterns and architectural features defining the space, such as arched openings.
  • Sprinklers and escutcheons should match original architectural surfaces or hardware. Oxidized brass or bronze heads are recommended for use in deeply colored (unpainted) woodwork. In elaborately decorated ceilings, heads should be camouflaged by custom coating and omitting escutcheon plates. In such cases, low profile, quick response sprinklers are preferred.
  • In historically significant spaces, smoke detectors should be carefully placed to minimize destruction of ornamental surfaces. Where ceilings are elaborately embellished, explore alternative detection products and approaches such as air sampling detection, projected beam, low profile spot detectors, recessed installation, or custom-coating detector housings to blend with ornamental finishes. Application of special finish treatments outside of the standard factory process must be coordinated with, and approved in writing by, the manufacturer to ensure that UL labels and detector performance are not compromised. Smoke detector housings must be removed prior to application of special finishes.

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