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Indianapolis Athletic Club Fire-Mechanical Systems

Mechanical Systems
Three separate air-handling systems circulated and conditioned air
in the building. None of the systems was equipped with smoke detectors or
controls to shut the fans down in order to prevent recirculation of smoke.
The first sign of a fire in the building was the presence of smoke in the
lobby that had been circulated by the air handling system.
Two air handling systems, located in the basement, were dedicated
to the three floors below grade and the first through fifth stories,
respectively. Each of these systems heated, cooled, and mixed air, moving
fresh supply air to the floors through a large air shaft near the center of
the building. A separate shaft was provided for returning air from these
floors to the air handling units in the basement. Supply air was ducted to
registers throughout these areas, while return air was transported to the
shaft through a common return air plenum above the original plaster
ceiling. The dangerous accumulation of fire gases on the third floor is
believed to have occurred in this return air plenum as well as a secondary
void space between the original ceiling and a “dropped” ceiling.
Floors five through nine received air from a shared mechanical unit
located between the eighth and ninth floors. Individual units were used for
heating and cooling in the guest suites. Return air circulated through the
corridors? The provision of a separate air handling system for the upper
floors prevented smoke from the fire on the third floor from being
recirculated to the guest rooms by the air handling system.
Elevators
Although the elevator shafts did not contribute significantly to
smoke spread, some occupants used the elevators rather than stairways to
evacuate the building. A single bank of two elevators served all floors
except the mechanical penthouse. At least one hotel guest reported that
he left the building via an elevator after becoming aware of the fire.
3 The use of corridors for return air purposes is now expressly prohibited by several
model codes. See Section 803.1 of the BOCA National Building Code, 1990 edition and
NFPA 90A-(89), Section 2-3.11.1.

 

 
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