The use of sophisticated computer analyses in the design phase is by now a common part of how large, complex projects are undertaken, according to building teams across the country. Recent high-profile projects have used smoke and egress modeling to evaluate performance criteria or demonstrate code compliance. Examples include the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, the massive Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the more recent Philadelphia Regional Performing Arts Center, now under construction.
Another instance was the 22,000-seat Staples Center in Los Angeles (BD & C, March 2000), for which a "smoke-movement analysis" was compared with an "occupant-movement analysis," says Jeffrey S. Tubbs of fire-protection engineer The RJA Group, Los Angeles. "The test results allowed the final design to include additional exterior exit stairs," he says, because the smoke layer would stay above walking surfaces and the "radiant exposure" to occupants could be limited to twice the egress time. The modeling allowed the stadium's owners to meet the level of safety intended by the 1996 Los Angeles Building and Fire Codes-without actually adhering to the letter of the code.
Such "performance-based" variances can cut costs and improve space utilization, adds Hughes Associates' Eric Rosenbaum: "Smoke-movement modeling can result in significant dollar savings, and can help protect the integrity of the architectural design.