Pentagon and Department of Commerce fire door safety use Won-Door

The Pentagon and the Department of Commerce Buildings

Won-Door does its part for national security

By Sharon Haddock

Pentagon and Department of Commerce fire door safety use Won-Door

In Washington D.C., the Won-Door Corporation is doing its part for national security with fire-rated safety accordion doors standing ready to protect and secure.

The Pentagon and the Department of Commerce buildings both utilize the Won-Door FireGuard door as a part of their fire and safety plans. Both buildings have tremendous historical and current significance.

The Pentagon is the headquarters for the United States Department of Defense.

Designed by George Bergstrom and built by general contractor John McShain, the building was dedicated Jan. 15, 1943.

It's the largest office building in the world, with 6.5 million square feet of space for 26,000 workers.

It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of hallways plus a five-acre central plaza that is shaped like a pentagon.

In the Pentagon, there are more than 100 Won-Door accordion folding fire doors in the five building wedges, protecting cross corridor traffic from fire, smoke and potential calamity.

The ongoing renovation project began 18 years ago and continues today.

Originally, Won-Door products were brought in to replace the bank of swing doors that were continually damaged by the streams of utility carts transversing the halls. These corridors are more than 13 feet wide and the clear openings were reduced to half of that with the limitations of the swinging doors.

The cost of replacing the damaged cross-corridor doors made it economically wise to put in new Won-Door accordion folding fire doors providing the added benefit of unimpeded cross traffic flow and clear corridors.

For the Pentagon, the safety doors added a new measure of protection as the doors were also integrated to the security system.

Jeremy Sibert, project manager for Hensel Phelps Construction who handled the Pentagon Restoration said, "Every time the fire alarm goes off, the doors close automatically and work perfectly as designed. The Won-Doors meet the rigid performance guidelines of the project."

Following the 9/11 terrorist attack in which the Pentagon lost power after an American Airlines plane crashed into the building (killing 125 people inside), government officials realized they needed a low-level exit plan that would provide people path illumination in an emergency, similar to that utilized by airplanes.

Won-Door engineers came up with an electro-luminescent package for the Pentagon doors. This package included audible voice exiting instructions, strobe light exit locators and markings on the doors that could be seen in the dark.

"When the building lost power, it was dark and difficult to see," said Jeff O'Brien, Won-Door District Manager for the Washington, D.C. area. "There was a need for something that would provide a guide out of a dark interior. As a result, we integrated a number of special features on our fire doors that are standard for the Pentagon."

The new doors also had to be engineered for stability given the strong and constant air movement in the Pentagon's long, enclosed, hallways.

"Of an added benefit is the low maintenance required for reasonably priced fire protection," O'Brien said.

For the Department of Commerce project, the designs had to take the recommendations of the National Historical Committee into account.

The Herbert C. Hoover Department of Commerce building, located at 1401 Constitution Avenue was started in 1927 and completed in 1932 (at that time the largest office building in the world) and is part of what is known as the Federal Triangle of official structures.  The building is owned by the General Services Administration and serves as headquarters for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Rectangular and built in the Neoclassical Greek Revival style with Doric columns on three sides, pavilions, statues and six interior courtyards which provide natural light and ventilation to the inner offices.  The sprawling structure makes up almost the entire west side of the triangle with more than 3,300 rooms connected by 1,000 feet of unbroken hallways.

The National Aquarium is in the basement and the White House Visitor Center is on the first floor. The Department of Commerce Library is also located inside and at one time, the official Population Clock was housed in the lobby.

To preserve the building's historical integrity, little could be added or changed.

Three Won-Door FireGuard doors were installed in the cross corridors, hidden in their pockets. The doors were a cost-effective solution that not only brought the building up to current life and safety standards but matched the stone interior and decorative metal ceiling without the use of floor tracks.

"There was nothing else they could have done to meet the fire and safety codes and historical standards," said O'Brien. "Won-Door was the answer."