Jan 17, 2011

Smoke Barriers vs Smoke Partitions

So close, yet not the same. Barriers are not partitions. Their obvious purpose is to prevent the ready and quick passage of smoke. Their difference is in the fire resistance properties:

  • Smoke Barriers, Building Code Section 709.3 "A 1 hour fire resistance rating is required for smoke barriers."
  • Smoke Partitions, Building Code Section 710.3 "unless required elsewhere in the code, smoke partitions are not required to have a fire rating."

This can make a big impact in your building construction, so pay close attention when reading into those fire rating requirements. For more details, exceptions, and commentaries, pick up that arm wrestling code book of yours.. and good luck!


  1. So what is the difference then between a smoke barrier and a 1 hour fire wall?? Why label it a smoke barrier on the code plans and confuse everybody? why not just label it a 1 hour wall?

  2. I am not sure if a 1-hour rated fire partition needs to resist the passage of smoke to the extent that the smoke barrier does, but it would seem that they would be of the same construction and resist fire and smoke equally.
    However, the difference does come into play with ductwork: at a 1-hour rated smoke barrier, combination fire/smoke dampers are required. At a 1-hour fire partition, only a fire damper is required.

  3. Correct, there is a difference in dampers (fire/smoke or smoke only), and I understand there is a price difference too. 1-hr fire walls use fire/smoke dampers, and are usually seen where there is a separation of occupancy, hazardous storage and exit enclosures. Also you typically see 45-minute rated openings (ie: doors). Smoke barriers are focused on the passage of smoke, use smoke dampers, and are usually seen in areas of refugee, and I-2 and I-3 occupancies with only a 20-minute rated openings.