Firebreak question

Yesterday’s inspection was a one year builder warranty inspection on a townhome. The unit was an end unit. There was a courtyard/atrium on the common side of the unit in the middle. This courtyard was open to the exterior at the roof.

Amoung other issues with the courtyard/atrium. There was an exhaust vent opening into this area from the adjacent unit’s cooktop exhaust (I inspected the adjacent unit several weeks ago so I can deduce that is the function of the vent from its location.)

My thought is that this should be considered an unsealed penetration in the fire break between the units. Am I off base in that thought? Would it be accepted because the courtyard is open to the exterior at the roof?

Perhaps the writer failed to notice the many large windows in the pictured walls. Had he done so, he probably would not be worried about a kitchen exhaust opening.

Seriously, this is a gray area. The courtyard is open to the sky, yes, but if there were a fire in a wall which opens into it, the only access for firefighters would be through either the unit with the fire, or another unit, unless there is some access that we can’t see in the pictures. But, with so many windows into this courtyard, there can’t be any fire separation between units. American ingenuity has done wonders, but it has yet to invent fire-rated windows.

There were windows? Damn I must have missed those.

The “shared” or common wall does not have any windows. The end unit has many windows to the courtyard, but the interior unit does not. This is a fire wall and is constructed as such in the attic. The only penetration I saw was the vent.

Personally, I would have a problem with the neighbor’s cooking exhaust venting into my private courtyard, regardless of the firebreak question. They should have taken it out the roof or into that units backyard area on the other side.

I see my share of zero lot line type houses and townhomes. I cannot say I have ever seen something exhausted into the neighbor’s area. Single home units don’t have eve vents on that side, etc.

There were a number of major problems in this place related to this courtyard design. The placement of this vent does not seem right to me, but the information I have found just has a time rating for metal pipe penetrations. I have no way of knowing if it meets that. In the end I recommended getting confirmation in writing from the builder and checking with the city.

Are these those, Richard?

uhhh…do they have a rating when they’re OPEN?? Maybe next they’ll have to invent windows with fusible links that will close in a fire. Or maybe they already do, who knows, I didn’t read the literature.

And here is another that I have used on a project 2 years ago.
Very, very expensive.

Marcel :):smiley:

Yes, it appears they do.

“Automatic heat closure devices (Heat activated fusible links) are standard for all operating windows.” :smiley:

:mrgreen::mrgreen:Sorry Richard:):smiley:


Go to a public building and look at the glass in the doors to the stairwells. It is tempered and has reinforcing steel in it. That is a fire-rated window as required by the IBC.

The IBC dictates where fire-rated windows must be next to property lines. It depends on the zoning type. I don’t have my IBC handy, but any fenestration less than 90 degrees to the property line and within a certain distance is required to be fire-rated. The first window is at 90 degrees to the property line. The second, angled one is not. It could be in violation of the IBC. I couldn’t be sure unless I knew the zoning and and checked the table in the IBC.