Updating Fire-Rated Wall Conditions: John Tyler Community College Library

John Tyler Community College, located south of Richmond, is one of 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). The college’s library, which is housed on the second level of Moyar Hall on the Chester Campus, was recently in dire need of renovation.

Our gut and reconfiguration of the library had many interesting twists and turns. The most challenging aspect surfaced when we realized how the neglect of the building’s existing fire-rated wall would affect our renovation plans. Deficiencies included the lack of an appropriate sprinkler system for overall building protection, and a damaged one-hour partition, with existing mechanical ductwork and fire damper issues above the existing ceiling.


Properly Sealing Off the Fire Rating

Since the college didn’t want to close the building during construction, we determined that a construction partition could buffer occupants from renovation. When the Bureau of Capital Outlay Management (BCOM) reviewed our renovation plan documents, however, they ruled that the construction partition would need to be one-hour fire-rated to separate potential fire hazards in the construction space from the exit corridor. The challenge here was that all of the building’s existing ductwork was packed in the corridor ceiling, restricting the construction of the suggested partition all the way to the ceiling.

Our solution was to leave the existing one-hour fire construction partition in place and incorporate the top of the partition over to the wall just below the existing corridor ceiling, properly sealing off the fire rating.

Previous Repair Projects Haunting Current Work

When all of the existing ductwork was removed from the fire-rated wall, a series of old openings in the existing wall were exposed. These repaired (and sometimes unrepaired) penetrations were now present in the partition that was meant to be demolished. BCOM and the Fire Marshal determined that all the openings from previous college repair projects would not comply with today’s standards of fire separation and would need to be reconfigured before the library could re-open.

We worked closely with the State Fire Marshal and BCOM to come up with alternatives to address the issues inherited from past “fix-it” projects while keeping the project on schedule. To increase building safety, our redesign incorporated a new one-hour fire wall for the corridor, ceramic fire-rated glass systems, and a partial sprinkler system above the ceiling.


Trust and Open Communication

We gained a clear sense of trust with all regulatory agencies associated with the project to achieve a win-win situation for John Tyler Community College, Fire Marshal, BCOM, and VCCS. Open lines of communication and a willingness to develop alternatives acceptable to all parties in a timely manner contributed to this successful library renovation.


  • J.Paul Lewis
    J.Paul Lewis
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