Best Practices | Design & Engineering

How to Stage a Steel Blast-Resistant Building

October 14th, 2021   |  7 min. read
How to Stage a Steel Blast-Resistant Building Blog Feature

Suppose you’ve researched different kinds of blast-resistant structures, like steel blast-resistant buildings, modular concrete blast-resistant buildings, or even blast-resistant tents or air shelters. In that case, you know that there is a lot of conflicting information about why you should buy one type over another. Since the beginning, our team has been in the blast-resistant building design business and has done its fair share of testing. They’re continuously upgrading and working on new methods of keeping occupants of hazardous areas safe. 

It’s important to remember that with different types of buildings, there are some differences in how a building may be staged on the inside. Believe it or not, but the way you arrange the things on the inside makes a difference! 

Another important consideration when buying a blast-resistant building is to remember that proper blast design doesn’t stop with the building structure.  All non-structural items should also be examined and scrutinized when manufacturing a life-saving product.

A Brief Discussion of Flex, or Dynamic Load Transfer

One of the protections that steel offers is the ability to flex. This means that when impacted by a blast wave, a steel structure will bend slightly (flex) rather than crumble apart. 

It could be argued that too much flex is a bad thing, and our engineers would likely agree with that. However, RedGuard’s design limits flex (or deflection), thus limiting the risk of non-structural damage and occupant vulnerability. One of the keys to RedGuard’s design is the ability to allow for some dynamic structural movement while at the same time limiting total deformation limits.

When it comes to a modular steel blast-resistant building, like those available at RedGuard, we have some specific pointers about properly staging the building to accommodate flex. 

Adding Internal Elements to a Blast Resistant Building

Because of the flex that could occur if a blast wave impacts a steel building, experts at RedGuard recommend that large items added to the building, like desks or other furniture, are placed at a minimum of two inches from the wall. This space allows the structure a minimal area to flex, thus absorbing the blast wave and avoiding the movement of furniture and large items. 

And, speaking of added items, the quality and general structure should be more robust than your average commercial furniture or fixtures. The building provider should be able to either provide appropriate furniture or fixtures or give recommendations for them. 

The exception to the rule about leaving space between large items and the wall is for items that are properly affixed or anchored to the wall. To attach things to a wall, the item must be attached directly to a structural member, not to the substrate, using a fastener with a high thread count per inch. The fastener should also be sized for the weight or size of the item being installed. Anchored items usually refer to cabinets, shelves, countertops, or other large fixtures. 

For each anchored item added to a blast resistant module, occupants must consider what would happen if it were to dislodge. And, it’s important to note that if you have hanging cabinets in your blast resistant building, keeping them closed and fastened (unless you are retrieving something) is essential. A cabinet that is left open could spill out, creating flying debris, or it could become dislodged during a blast. Therefore, we don’t recommend using open shelving or cabinets without latching doors. 

If you are placing items with mass that can not be affixed or attached to a structural member, they should be placed on the floor or below waist height. 

Everything Evaluated in a Blast-resistant Unit, Right Down to the Walls

At RedGuard, we also evaluate the construction of interior components to make sure they are robust enough to be part of a hazardous work area. That includes the walls themselves. We sometimes refer to walls being made of OSB, or sometimes incapsulated composite panel, but that isn’t always the case. Those two are used for their durability, but it’s always important to think further than “the way it’s always done.” For example, if we’re trying to meet a specific fire rating, another material could be used. 

Typical commercial products can be used, but special considerations must be made for how elements are installed. This can mean the introduction of adhesives in conjunction with fasteners, backer boards, additional fasteners, additional wall framing, and more.

We also analyze the way ceilings and lights are installed. A suspended ceiling is a good way to finish a blast resistant building since it adds a nice commercial, professional look. But, like so many things, it’s not just aesthetic. A suspended ceiling allows for easy access to utilities for repairs or additions/changes. However, it’s important to note that how the track is installed is crucial. Wires must be of a certain size, and the track must be attached to structural members. 

Additionally, we look at heavier items such as lights. They are supported independently of the ceiling grid to ensure they are adequately restrained during a blast event. Objects with less mass, like ceiling tiles, aren’t detrimental if they become dislodged during a blast, but if a light fixture hits an occupant, it could cause a severe injury. 

Staging and Design are all Important in Blast-Resistant Buildings

When manufacturing a life-saving product, a key point is that proper blast design doesn’t stop with the building structure itself. The staging of added items is essential, and all non-structural items are examined and scrutinized. 

Designing a blast-resistant building isn’t straightforward. It takes a company with years of experience to meet (or exceed!) blast resistant design and performance standards, while also meeting national and local building codes. It takes the right knowledge and experience to combine specialty engineering with architectural engineering. 

Companies that aren’t used to navigating the world of code enforcement can easily get tripped up along the way. These stumbles could result in a nonconforming building, additional costs incurred by the customer through change orders, and worst of all these, a building that just isn’t safe during a blast.   

We have the experience to know how to best incorporate simple items like fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, or emergency egress lighting. But, because we’ve been at this longer than others in the blast-resistant building business, we can also incorporate more complex systems such as full fire detection and suppression systems, gas detection, hazardous area electrical components, and specialized HVACs.

If you have questions about the proper set-up for your blast resistant building, we can be of assistance! You can schedule a meeting with Phillip Lange, our Technical Sales Manager. Some other areas of interest might be our Ultimate Guide For Blast-Resistant Buildings or our Concrete vs. Steel comparison.


Carreen Gibbons

Carreen Gibbons

Carreen Gibbons is the Communications Specialist at RedGuard. With a natural curiosity toward technical subjects and a love of learning new things, she writes content for the SiteBox Storage and RedGuard websites and spends her days learning new things about the industries that the companies serve.