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Energy Costs - High Rise Buildings

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I was called out one night to a high-rise apartment building to conduct an arson investigation. It was winter and the 26 storey building had smoke on the top 5 floors. As a fire department we are well aware of the stack effect, that is that in the winter time the pressures in the building cause an upwards flow of air, thus moving the smoke to the top floors. This was the 3rd such fire in as many days and the building owner was really upset with the building design. The problem turned out to be someone was filling balloons with gasoline, I suspected with a pin prick to cause a leak, suspending them from one intake door on a string and then lighting them. This caused the damp trash in the bin at the bottom to catch fire, and the smoke to fill the chute. The perpatrator then propped open an few doors to the chute on the upper floors and then the smoke filled the hallways.

The building's resident handyman asked me why the chute remained open unless a hot fire melted a fusible link and closed the chute.

For this scenario I had no explaination, other than no product on the market that I was aware of would ensure that no smoke when up the building. This reply prompted a 4 year process of innovation that led to the design and installation of a 1.5 hour listed chute closure that has been designed to stop smoke and fire from going up the chute.

Perhaps someone out there has another explanation of how this is handled in your jurisdiction, or another product.

Or do you have any other problems related to trash/garbage/linen chutes you might like to share with me.


John Conley

Chute Controls Inc.

by the way, I've now retired from the Fire Department and have been recruited to spend a few hours a day helping my inventor friend try and get his product to market.

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I guess when I posted this I got a brain cramp and missed the last paragraph.


It was discovered early on that the same principle applied to heat in the building. Where smoke moves, the heat is moving. Thus the constant movement of heat up the chute, up the stairwells and up the elevator shaft create a condition in the building envelope that causes energy loss out of the top of the structure.

So it turns out that our fire protection device results in 18 percent savings in heating, 10 percent in cooling, stops odor and insect migration up the chute while making the building safer.

After seeing several installations in New York City, I am baffled by the fact that they have a 24 inch or larger open shaft up the building and a cage on the top to catch paper and plastic caught in the updraft. I guess this would exhaust the smoke out the top, but it really is a conduit for energy loss......

Any comment New Yorkers? (I suspect most northern american cities have similar scenarios.....

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The problem turned out to be someone was filling balloons with gasoline, I suspected with a pin prick to cause a leak, suspending them from one intake door on a string and then lighting them.


That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard! ;)

Sounds like you have an outstanding product. I can't see any reason not to have it... If only I were a highrise owner....

Do you have a website?

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That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard! ;)

Sounds like you have an outstanding product. I can't see any reason not to have it... If only I were a highrise owner....

Do you have a website?


Yes www.garbagechutecontrol.com

I have just started to re-organize the website. Someone did it in frames, they had it up 6 months but never got it crawled so you couldn't find it on Google or Yahoo. I've mocked up a first page then launch into frames and at least stalled that.

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OK here is stupid.

I get called to a townhouse complex. It is evening, light rain, late September, cool night. The police meet me as an ambulance is pulling out. The cop says we don't know what happened, but 2 are headed to hospital a guy with facial burns and a woman with smoke inhalation. I ask if they are going too and he asks why. I said well he's cooking marijuana and had a fire. He says no, they were both laying on the couch and ran out the back door when the kitchen caught fire.

"Wait" he says, "you just got on scene, how do you know that?"

"It's late September, a frost is coming and I smell alcohol fumes."

They send a cop to the hospital and find the guy with his facial skin hanging off running across the parking lot. He'd told the ambulance guys "take care of her, I'm ok"

I ask a bystander who lived across the road what happened. She heard a loud whooshthump and looked out and buddy runs out with his hair smoking and a large pot in his hands. Out the FRONT door. He ran around back.

I go in the front and the my fire crew is still pulling parts of the ceiling down. I take a quick walk through. The refrigerator is swollen up, all bent outwards, an explosion happened inside. The freezer compartment door hinges are bent out. I look inside and it's clean, nothing there. The bottom has the typical contents like milk, pickles etc.

The drywall from the ceiling is on the stove, but I move enought to see another pot with a lid inverted on top. It has some residue in it.

I move some drywall from the ceiling in the dining room. Three large leaf bags, the type used when you rake up leaves and put them in the trash, are full of marijuana.

Looking at the stairs to the basement I find a 5 gal. can of Isopropyl Alcohol, with about 1 gal. missing.

Next a look at the back of the townhouse yeilds a plastic garbge pail with 2 bags of ice and the stuff that should have been in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.

Now a walk around the area, and I find a barbque with a warm large pot containing green resin in it. The ditched pot of 'pot'.

So here's what happened. To make hash oil you put the chopped marijuana in alcohol. Boil. Invert the lid and fill with ice, condenses the oil back into the pot.

In boiling alcohol, unlike hydrocarbons, the fumes are lighter than air. They fill the top of the room and the adjacent area.

When the pot had enough residue he cooled it in the freezer compartment to put in vials. Start on the second pot.

Now the vapour is building inside the refrigerator. The mixuture is still evaporating some alcohol so when it reaches it's lower flammable limit it explodes the airspace in the freezer compartment, flying the door open. I find later it broke buddy's cheek. From the burn patterns at the top of the room I conclude that the vapours from the top down were about 2.5 feet and into the flammable range, they catch fire which causes a sudden flashover of the two rooms. Burns buddy's face. He grabs the pot, hides it in someones yard, gets an adrenelin rush to keep him going until the fire guys arrive, does the runner in the ambulance.

Turns out he was the girl's part time boyfriend. Borrowed her stove to cook a bit of oil.

I did about 40 of the same thing, different day.

How many times some idiot told me he was cooking french fries and they caught fire and geez really 200,000 dolllars damage. OK sherlock, but I'm checking the garbage, no peel. No fries in a bag. No oil in the house. What's with the itty bitty leaf I see on the floor to the basement? Hmmm......lets move this blanket the stolen tools from a local business are sitting on...hmmm a hole in the wall, hmmmm...a 25 by 14 hidden hydroponic marijuana room in the basement. Ok Sherlock, I've got it now.......

BTW, anyone in the property maintenance businss should have a thermal imaging camera, like a FLIR camera. They would find who is growing, who is wasting heat, where insulation is missing, hot electrical components about to fail....etc.

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Quote from Spartan:

Sounds like you have an outstanding product. I can't see any reason not to have it... If only I were a highrise owner.

Thanks Spartan

Thanks, the problem is just to get started. The incentives would be the following:

1. Improve Fire Safety in High Rise Residential Buildings.

-----Building Owners have told us over and over...we don't care lots of people want to rent from me.

-----Despite the fact that codes require a listed closure at a fire separation, there was no product like this. so many building codes request just an automatic closure to close the chute in the event of a fire. Most of these do not have any rating, if fact could be made of paper. Many building owners just put a ductwork closusre here, and it will never work, was not tested for that application......etc.

2. Stops the smell of rotting trash and garbage.

------- Again most building owners don't care...Some Condo corporations might..

We searched the market and have found the ideal product to deal with smell. It is an enzyme based liquid laced with bacteria, and we inject it into our system and the garbage bins, it deals with all the bad smells and more or less eliminates them. When you think what goes down the chute, from parrot feces to rotting food from refrigerators to baby diapers, dog poo, motorcycle engines, (true!) you realize that the smell can become a major problem, especially in southern climates.

3. Energy Savings

------- Although we have software to prove the product will save cash and pay for itself and reduce energy costs in high rise buildings we need to get that message out, and the advertising is not cheap. We hope that the Green Building ( Leeds Initiatives ) and Kyoto protocols will help us out here.

4. Stops Insects

-------- We have seen fruit flies, roaches etc moving up chutes --as our product keeps the chute normally closed and only opens to let garbage through we can isolate the problem in a place it can be dealt with. Again a lot of owners and property managers do not care about the smell in the garbage chute.

Oh well, we are dealing with the realities of starting a company to market this thing, without the experience at the marketing to get us off the ground. Not like I can take out an advertisement on CNN and bingo, 200 orders!

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