Title:
HORIZONTAL FIRE BARRIER SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular fire barrier and method for use. The fire barrier includes numerous modules that are oriented horizontally, made up of a frame and numerous fire-resistant panels. By making the frame from tubular-shaped members, the barrier enjoys increased load-bearing ability under high temperature conditions that may compromise less robust frames. By arranging the modules to be substantially in a horizontal orientation, the frames provide sufficient support to the panels, thereby avoiding the need for additional support, such as from girts.



Inventors:
Temple, John T. (Georgetown, IN, US)
Guthrie, Wayne E. (Louisville, KY, US)
Application Number:
12/098648
Publication Date:
10/09/2008
Filing Date:
04/07/2008
Assignee:
CONSTRUCTION SPECIALTY SERVICES, INC. (Louisville, KY, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/745.09
International Classes:
E04B1/94
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ADAMOS, THEODORE V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DINSMORE & SHOHL LLP (DAYTON, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A fire barrier assembly comprising a plurality of substantially horizontally-oriented modules, each of said modules comprising: a frame comprising a plurality of generally tubular members spaced substantially parallel to one another along their elongate dimension; and a plurality of fire-resistant panels secured to said tubular members such that upon securing said modules to one another along said elongate dimension of said generally tubular members and subsequent attachment of said barrier to a load-bearing structure in such a way that said elongate dimension of said frame is in a generally horizontal orientation, a substantial entirety of a lower end of said barrier is self-supporting.

2. The barrier of claim 1, wherein each of said plurality of fire-resistant panels comprise a fire-rated panel.

3. The barrier of claim 1, wherein said fire-rated panel comprises: a substantially planar first surface; a substantially planar second surface substantially coextensive with and spaced from said first surface such that a volume is defined therebetween; and a core disposed between said first and second surfaces and secured thereto such that a layered structure is formed thereby.

4. The barrier of claim 3, wherein said substantially planar first and second surfaces comprise a metallic material, and said core comprises a cementitious mixture of materials.

5. The barrier of claim 1, wherein said frame further comprises reinforcing members that are secured to each of said spaced generally tubular members and extend therebetween such that said reinforcing members provide additional horizontal support to edges of adjacently situated said panels in said frame.

6. The barrier of claim 5, wherein said reinforcing members are generally tubular in shape.

7. The barrier of claim 1, wherein fasteners are used in said securing of modules to one another.

8. The barrier of claim 7, wherein said fasteners comprise a threaded bolt.

9. The barrier of claim 1, wherein said generally tubular members define a rectangular profile.

10. A horizontally-oriented modular fire barrier system comprising: a plurality of substantially horizontally-oriented fire barrier modules, each of which comprise: a frame comprising a plurality of generally tubular members spaced substantially parallel to one another along their elongate dimension; and a plurality of fire-resistant panels secured to said tubular members such that upon securing said modules to one another along said elongate dimension of said generally tubular members, said plurality of substantially horizontally-oriented fire barrier modules define a generally planar fire barrier wall structure; a plurality of columns laterally spaced from one another and secured in a generally vertical orientation along their elongate dimension; and means for securing said generally planar fire barrier wall structure to said plurality of columns in such a way that said elongate dimension of said frame is in a generally horizontal orientation relative to a surface to which said plurality of columns are secured.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein said columns comprise a generally tubular construction.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein at least one of said columns is substantially filled with a fire-resistant material.

13. The system of claim 10, wherein said means for securing said generally planar fire barrier wall structure to said plurality of columns comprises fastening members.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein said fastening members comprise: at least one bolt; and at least one bracket cooperative with at least one of said generally planar fire barrier wall structure and one of said plurality of columns such that said at least one bolt, when fastened to said at least one bracket, secures said generally planar fire barrier wall structure to said one of said plurality of columns.

15. The system of claim 14, wherein said at least one bolt comprises a threaded U-bolt.

16. The barrier of claim 10, wherein said means for securing said generally planar fire barrier wall structure to said plurality of columns comprises a thermal expansion means disposed between at least one of said modules and a respective one of said columns.

17. A method of placing a fire barrier, said method comprising: configuring a horizontally-oriented modular fire barrier system, said system comprising: a plurality of substantially horizontally-oriented fire barrier modules, each of which comprise: a frame comprising a plurality of generally tubular members spaced substantially parallel to one another along their elongate dimension; and a plurality of fire-resistant panels secured to said tubular members such that upon securing said modules to one another along said elongate dimension of said generally tubular members, said secured modules define a fire barrier wall structure; a load-bearing structure configured to support said fire barrier wall structure; and means for securing said fire barrier wall structure to said load-bearing structure; and installing said system such that said elongate dimension of said plurality of generally tubular members of said fire barrier wall structure is oriented substantially horizontal relative to the ground.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein said installing said system comprises installing said system adjacent an electrical transformer in such proximity that a fire caused by a malfunction in said transformer is substantially confined along a direction of fire propagation from said transformer to said system to a region bounded by said system.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein said load-bearing structure comprises a plurality of columns situated in a substantially vertical orientation relative to the ground.

20. The method of claim 17, wherein said substantially horizontal orientation of said fire barrier wall structure comprises placing the generally planar surface defined by said fire barrier wall structure in a substantially vertical orientation relative to the ground while keeping said frame comprising said plurality of generally tubular members in a substantially horizontal orientation relative to the ground.

21. The method of claim 17, wherein said substantially horizontal orientation of said fire barrier wall structure comprises placing the generally planar surface defined by said fire barrier wall structure in a substantially horizontal orientation relative to the ground while keeping said frame comprising said plurality of generally tubular members in a substantially horizontal orientation relative to the ground.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/922,276, filed Apr. 6, 2007.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to fire barrier systems, and more particularly to such systems with modular framing features and horizontal frame orientation for improved installation and maintenance.

Fire rated barriers are designed to provide containment of blast over-pressure, projectiles and the spread of fire resulting from mechanical or electrical equipment failure. One typical application involves providing a fire barrier adjacent large industrial electrical transformers. In order to dissipate the transformer's extensive buildup of heat, a liquid cooling medium (for example, fluorinated hydrocarbon oils, silicone-based oils or the like) is used. Despite their ability to convey away excess heat, such fluids are susceptible to ignition if exposed to high temperatures that may occur through a rupture or related breach in the cooling containment and related passages. Such fires can become especially violent in the case of transformer explosions. As large industrial transformers, many of which may be part of an aging electrical infrastructure, are being used to service increasingly large electrical demands, the likelihood of a failure resulting in a fire, as well as the consequences associated with damage to collateral equipment or facilities will increase.

Fire barrier systems can be used to act as a wall between the source of the fire (for example, the aforementioned transformer) and people, structures, other equipment or the like. In one form, such barriers employ large concrete slabs, while in another form, non-combustible panels (for example, concrete-cored centers sandwiched between metal skins) can be mounted onto channeled brackets (for example, L-shaped or J-shaped brackets) to form a framed panel, where the frames are sized, cut and affixed to the panels at the installation site. In a variation on this concept, the present inventors have developed a modular barrier system, where a series of non-combustible panels are mounted to a frame made from tubular members. The inventors discovered that such tubular frames give the barriers additional structural rigidity, and additionally were more compatible with modular construction, as on-site measurements and adjustments were avoided. Regardless of whether the panels and frames were configured as modular or on site-constructed assemblies, their arrangement upon fabrication included a series on upright (i.e., vertically) oriented assemblies placed side-by-side and secured to one another to define a barrier wall that in turn was mounted to numerous generally vertical columns and one or more horizontal girts. The barrier wall was typically supported underneath by either a grade beam, continuous foundation or a lower horizontal girt.

The present inventors have discovered that further improvements can be made. For example, the concrete barriers, while generally effective at limiting the damage due to a fire, are heavy (for example, between forty five and fifty pounds per square foot for a four inch thick slab), requiring significant installation activity as well as robust footers and related support structure. In addition to installation difficulties, concrete barriers are harder to move if the equipment placed between them needs servicing. The site-manufactured frames for the non-combustible panels involve significant field modifications to ensure proper fitting of the assembly; in addition, the ability of such an assembly to maintain its structural integrity can be limited in cases of severe fires, where torsional properties are especially susceptible to compromise. The vertically-oriented barrier systems that use a panel and tubular frame modular assembly, while an improvement on the other of the aforementioned fire barriers, requires one or more horizontal girts for increased overpressure and wind loading. Such girts add weight and complexity to the fire barrier system. Accordingly, there is a need for a fire barrier that retains the aforementioned modular features while being less costly and easier to install.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This need is met by the present invention, where according to an aspect of the invention, a modular fire barrier assembly is disclosed. The assembly includes numerous fire barrier modules each of which include a frame and fire-resistant panels secured to the frame. The frame is made up of generally elongate tubular members spaced substantially parallel to one another along their elongate dimension. In the present context, the panels are considered to be secured to the tubular members when coupled in such a fashion as to not be readily separable therefrom. In such configuration, the panels and tubular members may be joined by any conventional fashion, such as through bonding, welding, bolts and related fasteners, as well as sized grooves formed in the tubular members to allow insertion of a panel edge therein. The modular construction is advantageous in that by being made from a series of bolted-up panels, it can be pre-engineered for a particular installation, requires no on-site welding, formwork or scaffolding. This reduces or eliminates the shutdown time of the equipment being serviced by the barrier. Moreover, the bolted-up nature promotes ease of temporary removal of the barrier.

Upon securing the modules to one another along such dimension, the assembly takes on a generally planar form across the surfaces of the joined panels. Subsequent attachment of the assembly to a load-bearing structure is done in such a way that the elongate dimension of the frames are in a generally horizontal orientation. In this way, the entirety of the joined modules form a deep planar member that is self-supporting such that a lower horizontal member, grade beam or other undergirding of the assembly is not required. Furthermore, the horizontal orientation of the rigid tubular frame that defines each barrier, when coupled to a rigid, generally upright column structure, can provide sufficient resistance to wind load and overpressure, seismic activity or the like without relying on horizontal girt members. The inventors have discovered that the tubular shape of the frame members provides superior performance relative to conventional L-shaped or J-shaped frames, as the tubular members have increased torsional resistance, especially under high temperature conditions such as those encountered in a fire, explosion, of other significant heat-liberating event associated with electrical or mechanical equipment failure. In this way, the module frames may self-span horizontally, allowing them to support their own weight as well as the weight of the panels while keeping stresses to within acceptable limits under fire and related extreme heat conditions.

Optionally, each of the fire-resistant panels is a fire-rated panel. By being fire-rated, the panels have been determined by an appropriate regulatory or oversight agency to meet certain criteria (for insurance purposes, for example) for performance, safety and quality useful to the purpose for which the fire-rated component has been installed or otherwise employed. The fire-rated panel may come in various generally planar configurations, including substantially planar first and second surfaces coextensive with and spaced from one another such that a volume is defined between them. A core of fire-resistant material, such as a fiber cement, is disposed in the volume between the first and second surfaces and secured to them such that a laminate structure is formed. The substantially planar first and second surfaces may be made up of a metallic material, which may receive additional treatment, such as being galvanized.

In addition to the generally parallel tubular members, the frame may additionally include reinforcing members that extend between the tubular members. This provides torsional stiffness to the frame, as well as horizontal support to the edges of adjacently situated panels that are coupled to the frame. The reinforcing members, much like the frame members, may be generally tubular in shape. In one particular form, fasteners are used to secure the modules to one another, where the fasteners may be a threaded bolt or any other configuration known to those skilled in the art. In one particular configuration, the generally tubular members define a box-like, rectangular profile. Likewise, the reinforcing members may define a similar rectangular profile.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a horizontally-oriented modular fire barrier system is disclosed. The system includes a fire barrier assembly as previously discussed and mounting structure. The mounting structure preferably includes two or more columns configured to engage a support surface (for example, the ground), as well as fastening members to secure the fire barrier assembly to the columns. The fire barrier system includes numerous substantially horizontally-oriented fire barrier modules, each of which include a frame made up of numerous generally tubular members spaced substantially parallel to one another along their elongate dimension, and numerous fire-resistant panels secured to the tubular members such that upon securing the modules to one another along the elongate dimension of the generally tubular members, the plurality of substantially horizontally-oriented fire barrier modules define a generally planar fire barrier wall structure. In addition, numerous columns are laterally spaced from one another and secured in a generally vertical orientation along their elongate dimension so that the fire barrier wall structure can be secured to the columns so that the elongate dimension of the frame is in a generally horizontal orientation relative to the ground or related surface to which the plurality of columns are secured. In the present context, it will be appreciated that where the surface upon which the columns are supported is the ground, it may be that a small slope or minor undulations to the ground prevent the columns from being precisely perpendicular or normal to the surface; such minor variations are considered to be within the scope of the present invention, and are not destructive of the generally vertical relationship between the columns and the ground.

Optionally, the columns comprise a generally tubular construction, and one or both of the columns may be substantially filled with a fire-resistant material, such as concrete. The means for securing the generally planar fire barrier wall structure to the columns may include comprises fastening members, such as bolts, that are configured to cooperate with a bracket, flange or related structure. In this way, a bolt, when fastened to the bracket, secures the generally planar fire barrier wall structure to one of the columns. In a particular form, the bolt is a threaded U-bolt. In another feature, apertures formed to allow connection of the bolts or related fasteners can be sized to allow for thermal expansion of the various modules. Specifically, elongated holes of sufficient length to accommodate the total amount of thermal linear expansion are provided. In such case, a threaded fastener nut is tightened only slightly to the bolt to minimize clamping and resulting friction resistance and allow the thermal movement to occur uninhibited.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, a method of placing a fire barrier is disclosed. The method includes configuring a horizontally-oriented modular fire barrier system to have numerous modules, each of which comprise a frame made up of generally tubular members spaced substantially parallel to one another along their elongate dimension, and fire-resistant panels secured to the tubular members. By such construction, the modules, when coupled to one another along the elongate dimension of the generally tubular members, define a fire barrier wall structure that possesses sufficient structural rigidity that additional support devices, such as girts, are not required. A load-bearing structure provides underlying vertical support for the fire barrier wall structure, and is connected thereto by securing means. The method additionally includes installing the system such that the elongate dimension of the generally tubular members of the fire barrier wall structure is oriented substantially horizontal relative to the ground.

The method is particularly well-suited to reducing the spread of a fire in the event of malfunction of equipment (for example, an electrical transformer) situated adjacent the barrier. Thus, in one optional form, the method includes installing the system adjacent an electrical transformer; in this way, a fire caused by a malfunction in the transformer is substantially confined along the direction of fire propagation from the transformer to the system to a region bounded by the system. In another option, the load-bearing structure is made up of numerous columns situated in a substantially vertical orientation relative to the ground. While the overall orientation of the tubular members making up the frame of the fire barrier wall structure remains substantially horizontal to the ground or related substrate, it will be appreciated that the general planar surface making up the fire barrier wall structure may be placed in a substantially horizontal plane or a substantially vertical plane. Thus, in one form, the substantially horizontal orientation of the fire barrier wall structure comprises placing the generally planar surface defined by the fire barrier wall structure in a substantially vertical orientation relative to the ground while keeping the frame comprising the plurality of generally tubular members in a substantially horizontal orientation relative to the ground. In such orientation, the fire barrier wall structure acts as a wall. In another form, the substantially horizontal orientation of the fire barrier wall structure comprises placing the generally planar surface defined by the fire barrier wall structure in a substantially horizontal orientation relative to the ground while keeping the frame comprising the plurality of generally tubular members in a substantially horizontal orientation relative to the ground. In such orientation, the fire barrier wall structure acts as a ceiling, floor or related platform-like structure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The following detailed description of the present invention can be best understood when read in conjunction with the following figures:

FIG. 1 shows a rear elevation view of a modular fire barrier, incorporating five modules in a vertical orientation according to the prior art;

FIG. 2A shows a lateral elevation view of a modular fire barrier according to the prior art, highlighting a typical bracket connection between a horizontal girt and a vertical panel assembly;

FIG. 2B shows a top view of the modular fire barrier of FIG. 2A, highlighting how adjacent vertical panel assemblies are attached to the horizontal girt;

FIG. 2C shows a top view of a modular fire barrier according to the prior art, highlighting the connection of the tubular girt of FIGS. 2A and 2B to a concrete-filled tubular column;

FIG. 2D shows a cutaway elevation view of a footing structure used to provide support to a vertical panel assembly according to the prior art;

FIG. 3 shows a rear elevation view of a modular fire barrier, incorporating six modules in a horizontal orientation according to an aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 4A shows a lateral elevation view highlighting typical attachment of the modular panel frames of FIG. 3 to a tubular support column;

FIG. 4B shows a top view of the attachment of FIG. 4A, including how the tubular column can be filled with concrete;

FIG. 4C shows a partial elevation view of a modular panel frame and attachment brackets such as used in FIGS. 4A and 4B;

FIG. 4D shows a top view of a tubular column base with appurtenances;

FIG. 4E shows a lateral elevation view of a tubular column base and supported modular fire barrier;

FIG. 5 shows a partial elevation view of the modular fire barrier of FIG. 3 placed adjacent a transformer; and

FIG. 6 shows how the fire barrier modules may be used as ceiling-mounted fire barriers, according to another aspect of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring first to FIG. 1, a modular fire barrier system 1 according to the prior art is shown. The system 1 is assembled from numerous fire barrier modules 10A, 10B, 10C, 10D and 10E (generally designated as 10), arranged in a generally vertical orientation. The modules 10 are considered “vertical” in that the elongate dimension of the modules 10 is perpendicular to the ground or related support or mounting surface. One or more horizontal girts 20 (for example, a ten inch by six inch girt, as shown with particularity in FIG. 2B, and one or more vertical columns 30 (for example, a fourteen inch by ten inch column, as shown with particularity in FIG. 2C) are used to provide lateral structural support for the modules 10 of the system 1. The girt 20 is connected to columns 30 with brackets 40 and bolts 90, where the size is configured for the load requirements. For example, with the fourteen inch by ten inch girt 20 and fourteen inch by ten inch column 30 of FIG. 2C, an L-shaped bracket 40 may assume four inch tall, eight inch wide, five sixteenths thick construction, while bolt 90 may be a three fourths diameter, grade A325 bolt. Modules 10 connect to girt 20 with brackets 50, indicated individually by 50A, 50B, 50C, 50D and 50E. Each of the columns 30 includes a footing 35, indicated individually by references 35A and 35B. As will be understood by those skilled in the art, the footings 35 may be replaced by or formed as part of a pier structure or continuous foundation 37 at the foot of each of the columns 30.

Each of the fire barrier modules 10 comprises a rectangular frame 60 having a pair of side members 62 and 64, a top member 66, and a bottom member 68. Depending on the height of the fire barrier system 1, each of the modules 10 may include one or more intermediate members indicated generally by reference 70. The intermediate members 70 serve to divide the module 10 into a number of panels 80, 82, 84 and 86, generally suffixed with A, B, C, D and E respectively, as shown in the figure. Each of the fire barrier panels 80, 82, 84 and 86 is made up of a square or rectangular section of a fire-rated material, attached to the frame 60 and its respective top member 66, side members 62 and 64, bottom member 68 and the intermediate members 70, where the height of the fire barrier 1 typically determines the number of intermediate members 70 required. In one attachment scheme, self-drilling or self-tapping screws are used. Fastening brackets 75 may be used to secure bottom members 68 to continuous foundation 37.

Referring next to FIGS. 2A through 2D, in conjunction with FIG. 1, attachment of the various parts of system 1 are shown. Referring with particularity to FIG. 2C, girt 20 is coupled to columns 30 at the respective contact or overlap points using brackets 40. The brackets 40 may be made up of angled metal sections (as shown) and are fastened or joined (for example, welded or bolted) to respective sides of the column 30. The brackets 40 include holes aligned with matching apertures formed in the girt 20 and are fastened together with a threaded bolt and nut assembly (not shown) in order to couple the girt 20 to the column 30. Referring with particularity to FIG. 2D, the lower end of a panel 80 and a frame 60 are directly supported by continuous foundation 37, including attachment through bracket 75 and bolt, as shown. Referring with particularity to FIG. 2A, a notional placement of girt 20 relative to the panel 80 and frame 60 is shown, including the use of a bracket 50 and bolt. Referring with particularity to FIG. 2B, a top view depicting adjacent modules 10A and 10B at their lateral edges to one another, highlights how frame side members 62B and 64A abut one another.

In a variation on this configuration, a modular fire barrier structure is disclosed. The structure includes a plurality of fire barrier modules, each of which include an element for adjoining a corresponding element on an adjacent fire barrier module. In this configuration, each of the fire barrier modules include one or more panels, where each of the panels are made from a fire-rated material. In addition, columns can be used to couple to the fire barrier modules. Likewise, one or more girt members (which can either be tubular or I-beam shaped) can be coupled between two of the columns in a substantially horizontal orientation. Moreover, the girt member (or members) may include one or more brackets for coupling to one or more of the fire barrier modules. In addition, a fire-resistant cover for protecting the girt member may be used. In a more particular form, each of the fire barrier modules are made up of a first side member, second side member, top member and bottom member, where the side, top and bottom members are connected together to form a frame. In this way, the panel can be affixed to the frame. In an even more particular form, the panels are made up of a single skin of fire-rated material, where a thickness (for example, between approximately one-half of an inch to six inches) can be tailored to the environment. In one form, the members and the panels are welded together as a pre-assembled unit. Such a fire barrier structure may be designed by inputting length, height and loading parameters for the structure, determining a required number of column elements based on the length parameter, determining a required number of girt elements based on the length and height parameters, determining a column dimension for column elements, where the column dimension is based at least in part on the loading parameter, and determining a girt dimension for the girt elements, based at least in part on the loading parameter.

Referring next to FIG. 3, a horizontally-oriented fire barrier system 100 according to an aspect of the present invention is shown. Its construction provides a lightweight (for example, six to twelve pounds per square foot) alternative to concrete slabs, while its generally horizontal orientation allows further weight reduction relative to a vertically-oriented counterpart, as well as simplicity of construction and installation. System 100 is made up of a fire barrier wall structure 105 that is a large, generally planar surface made up of numerous modules (generally referred to as 110) 110A, 110B, 110C, 110D and 110E, and within each of the modules, a set of respective panels 181, 182, 183, 184, 185 and 186 secured to a frame 160 with top side 162 and bottom side 164. Intermediate members 170 connect top side 162 and bottom side 164 of each frame 160 to provide lateral support, as well as to provide structure where edges of adjacent panels (for example, panels 182A and 183A) meet; such reinforcement avoids having the edges act in an unsupported way. As with the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, columns 30 mounted to and supported by concrete foundations 35 may be used to provide a mounting structure for the fire barrier wall structure 105. An important attribute of the horizontal orientation of the system 100 modules 110 is that the parallel top and bottom members 162 and 164 with attached cross members 170 behave as a rigid structure spanning between columns 30 and are thus self-supporting without the need for a continuous support foundation 37 or other supplemental structure as with the prior art. Further, the parallel top and bottom members 162 and 164 are sized to resist loads perpendicular to the wall plane of wind or earthquake without the need for girt members 20 as with the prior art.

The panels 180, 182, 184 and 186 are preferably constructed from a sheet or layer of fire-rated material the thickness of which is determined according to the application. For example, the fire barrier panel 180, 182, 184 and 186 may have a thickness ranging from one half inch to six inches. In one form, the top, side and bottom members 166, 162, 164 and 168, as well as the intermediate member(s) 170 of frame 160 comprise steel sections (for example, tubular frame stock); the various members are attached together (through, for example, welding or fastening) into a rectangular structural frame 160. According to one embodiment, the fire-rated panels 180, 182, 184 and 186 are attached to the various top 166, side 162, 164, bottom 168 and intermediate members 170 (if present) of frame 160 using self-drilling or self-tapping metal screws (not shown) around the peripheral edge of each panel 180, 182, 184 and 186. Each module 110 is attached to another module by means of structural bolt and nut assemblies 190 through the tubular frame 160. The modules 110 are coupled to the columns 30 through brackets 40 at the respective contact points.

In a preferred setup of system 100, the supporting columns 30 and associated footings 35 or piers are located at or near (for example, within a few feet of) the ends of the modules 110. The spacing of the columns 30 is based on the particular needs of the installation, but may (in situations where the system 100 is used as a fire barrier for a conventional industrial transformer) be between ten and thirty feet in a typical setup. In one form, the columns 30 are hollow tubular members, and may be filled with a fire-rated or fire-resistant material, such as concrete 133 (shown and described in conjunction with FIG. 4B below) to provide additional fire protection. In another form, the columns 30 may be configured as I-beams or the like. In either configuration, it is preferable that the columns 30 be made from a material (for example, a high strength steel) that is capable of withstanding all of the expected environmental loads. The columns 30, footings 35 and modules of system 100 are designed or specified to resist the local environmental factors or loads associated with the location of the application, including, inter alia, wind loads, seismic loads and any expected overpressure due to a malfunction of the equipment situated adjacent the system 100.

The design considerations to which the barrier system 100 is targeted include 100% wind (for stress and total displacement), 56% wind (for individual member deflections), fire at 1100 degrees Fahrenheit (or greater) plus concurrent wind at 20% of maximum, and seismic and other loading conditions where applicable or required by particular governing codes. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that more stringent loading conditions may be designed for where specifically requested by an end user. In one non-limiting example, each of the generally horizontal modules are forty seven and one quarter inches high and twenty eight feet wide, weighing approximately one thousand and ninety pounds. Likewise, in a non-limiting example, barrier system 100, made up of five modules 110A, 110B, 110C, 110D and 110E, would be approximately nineteen feet, eight inches tall from a bottom frame tubular member of the lowermost module 110E to a top frame tubular member of the uppermost module 110A.

Referring next to FIGS. 4A through 4E, connection of modules 110 to column 30 is depicted in detail. Referring with particularity to FIG. 4A, a lateral elevation view showing tubular frame sides 164 and 162 each with a bracket (for example, an angle bracket) 15 attached to them. U-bolts 195 wrap around tubular column 30 and insert through elongated apertures in brackets 15 and secure with nut 194 and plate washer 196. In this case, a spacer bar 198 is provided to match the thickness of column base reinforcing plate 191 that is shown with particularity in FIG. 4E. Referring with particularity to FIG. 4B, a top view shows concrete fill 33 in tubular column 30. Referring with particularity to FIG. 4C, a partial elevation view of a module 110 with fire rated panel material 187 attached to the opposite side is shown. In this example, brackets 15 are placed on each side of frame cross member 170 at both top member 162 and bottom member 164, where an enlarged detail of bracket 15 is additionally indicated, along with notional dimensions. Of particular importance is the elongated aperture 15A the length of which is calculated to allow full thermal expansion of module 110 under fire or related elevated temperature conditions. Nut 194 is not completely tightened so as not to restrict the thermal movement of the attached module 110 by friction resistance. The dimensions and thickness of bracket 15 indicated may vary depending on the particular geographical site loading requirements. Those skilled in the art will recognize that bracket 15 may comprise a plate, channel, tube or other various shapes made from a structurally right material, such as steel. While the present embodiment utilizes a U-bolt 195, it may be substituted with two standard straight bolts, one each side of the column, and a plate at the back side of column 30 or other similar means.

Referring with particularity to FIGS. 4D and 4E, a base for tubular column 30 and support pier 35 are depicted in more detail. FIG. 4D shows a top view of column 30 with concrete fill 33 setting on base plate 36 with reinforcing flange plates 39 and module support bracket 32. Column 30 and flange plates 39 are welded to base plate 36. In this case, six apertures are provided for anchor rods 38, although it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the size and thickness of base plate 36 and flange plates 39 as well as the size and number of anchor rods will vary as required to resist wind and other loads particular to the conditions of the installation. Other base configurations may be used in lieu of base plate 36 to anchor the base of column 30, for example, an elongate I-beam or tube member with various attached plates or angles for connection of anchor rods could be used. Pier 35 is commonly cast-in-place concrete with embedded anchor rods 38 sized for the required loading conditions; however, other means such as special anchoring systems applicable to mounting to existing concrete or welding to existing steel work may be available and suitable for mounting of the columns 30. Bracket 32 is provided to support the bottom module 110F which in turns bears the weight of modules 110A, 110B, 110C, 110D and 110E above. Bottom module 110F is connected to column 30 flange plate with a bolt in lieu of the U-bolt connection.

Referring next to FIG. 5, an example of a fire barrier system 100 according to the present invention is used to shield a transformer 1000. The present design allows for the elimination of the top horizontal structural member (i.e., top girt 20 of FIG. 1), as well as the need for a bottom horizontal structural member or continuous foundation 37 (the latter as depicted in FIG. 1) to support the weight of the barrier modules 110. In addition to weight benefits, this also eliminates material and labor required to fireproof the bottom horizontal member. The horizontal orientation of the barrier modules may also include a bottom skirt 115 that has fire resistant panels (for example, panels 180, 182, 184 and 186) attached to lighter tubular framing members which are in turn attached to the lowermost module 110F in such a manner to allow for field adjustment to the existing grade variations. The purpose of this bottom skirt 115 is to reduce the likelihood of fire spreading or fluid leakage in the region between the bottom of the barrier modules 110 and the top of the ground. As can be seen at the near edge of the system 100, the wall thickness of the frames 160 may be rather thin (for example, one eighth of an inch thick); depending on the load requirements, such wall thickness may be varied. Referring again to FIG. 4C, in another feature, the system 100 includes an allowance for thermal expansion of the frames 160 by provision of elongated holes 15A in bracket 15 where the modules 110 are connected to the columns 30. The connection of the fire barrier assembly (which is made up of the numerous attached modules 110A, 110B, 110C, 110D, 110E and 110F) to column 30 with U-bolts 195 replaces the oversize hole connection currently used to connect modules to structural framework. The need for connector angle piece bracket 50 (such as shown in FIGS. 1, 2A and 2B) is thereby eliminated. Furthermore, in addition to the weight benefits relative to a vertical orientation, the configuration of the present invention is expected to have superior fire resistance performance. For example, when a bottom horizontal member is employed to support the other modules in the a vertical barrier configuration, it must be fire proofed. In such case, its performance is at least partially dependent on the quality of workmanship of the fireproofing material installation. By elimination of this member, such an element of uncertainty is removed.

The inventors have discovered additional uses for the barriers of the present invention. Referring next to FIG. 6, system 200 is shown as a ceiling structure. The present ceiling-oriented system 200 includes barrier system 100, made up of seven modules 210A, 210B, 210C, 210D, 210E, 210F and 210G. Instead of generally vertical columns (such as those shown in conjunction with FIG. 3), the fire barrier assembly of system 200 is mounted to existing beams 230 that are already in place as part of a building's internal structure. In a ceiling application, the system 200 is specifically configured to contain a fire from one side only, whereas the wall type barrier system 100 can be configured to contain a fire from both sides. In such an application, the fire resistant panel side of the modules 210A, 210B, 210C, 210D, 210E, 210F and 210G are oriented toward the fire (heat) side. One exemplary use of a fire barrier assembly being used as a ceiling structure is for a power plant smoke stack scrubber, where less robust equipment (for example, fiber-reinforced plastics) may not have adequate temperature resistance. In such an installation, the use of the fire barrier assembly of the present invention could provide additional resistance to a fire forming in the lower portion of the power plant's smokestack (where the scrubber and associated equipment is often situated). In another use, the barrier assembly can be used for an egress enclosure (such as surrounding stairs or the like, not shown). In another use, the barrier assembly can be configured as a cable or conduit tray (not shown) to shield such from the effects of fire or other high temperature excursions. In yet another use, the fire barrier assembly may include a coating on the surfaces of the various modules to provide additional protection against rain, fog, salt water or other related environments.

While certain representative embodiments and details have been shown for purposes of illustrating the invention, it will be apparent to those persons skilled in the art that various changes in the methods and apparatus disclosed herein may be made without departing from the scope of the invention.