Smoke is the major killer in building fires, and smoke control

provides significant protection from the threat of smoke.

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The Official Website of Dr. John H. Klote, PE -  Updated January 9, 2018

The purpose of this website is to provide general information about smoke control technology intended for design engineers, architects, building owners, code officials, contractors, building managers, fire fighters and other professionals who need an overview of smoke control. Also, sources of detailed information are mentioned.

The Need for Smoke Control

Smoke is the major killer in building fires, and smoke control provides significant protection from the threat of smoke. Research has shown that roughly 7 out of 10 fire fatalities are due to smoke inhalation [1, 2]. It is well known that smoke can migrate far from the fire floor and threaten life at remote locations. While sprinklers are very important for life safety, an NFPA report shows that the failure rate of sprinklers is roughly 11% for wet pipe systems and 24% for dry pipe systems [3]. Wet pipe sprinkler systems are used in most buildings, and dry pipe sprinklers are used where water freezing is a concern.

An argument can be made that other fire safety systems (fire alarm, compartmentation, smoke control, etc.) have comparable reliability to dry pipe sprinklers provided that they have had proper commissioning and periodic testing. Today many codes and standards are based on a balanced approach to fire protection consisting of detection, suppression, and occupant protection. This balanced approach results in a reliability of fire protection far above that of any single system. Even in fully sprinklered buildings, there is a need to protect occupants from the treat of smoke, and smoke control provides that protection. Also, smoke control can provide significant protection to firefighters.

General Information

Smoke control design needs to be done by registered professional engineers who are knowledgeable about the particular systems used in their application. The Handbook of Smoke Control Engineering provides authoritative, comprehensive guidance on smoke control practice and engineering approaches. AtriumCalc is a spreadsheet application that can be used to do design calculations for atrium smoke control systems. John Klote is recognized throughout the world as an expert in smoke control technology, and he conducts seminars, courses and workshops about smoke control technology.

Smoke Control Technology

The methods used by engineers to provide smoke protection are the physical mechanisms of smoke control. Smoke control systems use one or more of these mechanisms, and the most common kinds of systems are pressurization smoke control systems and atrium smoke control. Fire and smoke control in transport  tunnels is a specialized field that makes extensive use of airflow to control smoke.

The methods of design analysis that engineers can use for smoke control systems are (1) algebraic equations, (2) network modeling, (3) zone fire modeling, (4) computational fluid dynamics (CFD), (5) scale model fire testing, and (6) full scale fire testing. However, the most commonly used methods are algebraic equations, network modeling and CFD.


1. Berl, W.C., and B.M. Halpin. Human Fatalities from Unwanted Fires. Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest 1(2), 1980.

2. Harland, W.A., and W.D. Woolley, W.D. Fire Fatality Study. Building Research Establishment, University of Glasgow, Borehamwood Information Paper IP 18/79, 1979.

3. Hall, J.R. U.S. Experience with Sprinklers. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2013.

John Klote is recognized as a smoke control expert.

Network models can simulate air and smoke flows in large and complex buildings.

Pressurized stairwells are intended to keep stairwells “smoke free” during a building fire.


Atrium smoke control provides smoke protection for large volume spaces.


About Klote

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See about Klote’s Smoke Control Courses and Workshops.

Learn about Smoke Control Systems.