Reliant Stadium Achieves Code Compliance

Facing fire and building code challenges that simply did not exist a few years ago with large, open air assembly facilities, Rolf Jensen & Associates (RJA) recently helped reach code compliance in emergency situations for Reliant Stadium, home to the Houston Texans.

“Achieving complete and total code compliance is difficult in these types of facilities,” explained Michael Crowley, RJA project manager. “We worked with the City of Houston to gain acceptance for alternative methods of compliance for the smoke control system, exiting, and other features unique to the facility.”

RJA considered using the retractable roof as a means to allow smoke to escape in the event of a fire. The roof, which is constructed of steel with a fabric covering, completely opens in about 10 minutes. However, the roof cannot be opened when wind speeds exceed 35 mph. Because wind speeds are typically in the high teens at the roof’s peak, the city required RJA to approach the stadium as a smoke protected assembly with the assumption that the roof would not be open.

This kind of solution required pre-planning—a key ingredient in RJA’s formula. RJA evaluated models, which determined how much smoke would be generated in a fire and the most favorable ways to control it for the design of the smoke control system. Even more important was conducting exit calculations and timed egress for occupant evacuation.

RJA also negotiated a code variance with the City of Houston to allow 3,000 additional standing room only occupants to be added to the existing configuration on the main concourse, as well as providing for special fire department access to hoses at alternative standpipe locations. The first stadium to have a retractable roof in the National Football League,
Reliant Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, now is the centerpiece of the Reliant Park complex with venues for sports, entertainment, conventions, and other functions.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Rolf Jensen & Associates provides a range of engineering and consulting services for clients on projects around the world. Through its 30 offices, the company is a consulting engineering firm for fire and life safety issues, from designing a fire alarm system for a high rise building or conducting a fire model for smoke control in a new convention center to providing on site management of the life safety construction process or conducting a custom training seminar on performance based design.