Reducing the risk. As co-op and condo boards wrestle with the best way to protect their buildings amid the recent rash of fires caused by exploding e-bike lithium-ion batteries, some are considering banning e-bikes altogether. But one company, Aufgang Architects, has come up with another solution: build a better bike-storage room.
“We asked ourselves how we can improve existing designs to mitigate the threat of fire to residents of these buildings,” says Sam LaMontanaro, the director of engineering at Aufgang, in Suffern, N.Y. So the company’s engineering team set about designing a bike-storage room that could be incorporated into new construction or retrofitted into an existing building.
Containment strategy. “We designed a bike storage room for apartment buildings that is fully encapsulated within cinderblock to contain and limit the potential for fire and heat spread,” LaMontanaro says. “As the first line of defense, sprinklers will slow the spread of fire, allowing time for firefighters to get to the site. To maximize sprinkler speed and effectiveness, our design increases their density within the bike room.”
Extra safeguards. The design also specifies installing smoke and heat detectors, including infrared sensors that trigger fire alarms and alert building staff in the event of a fire in the bike room. The doors are fire-rated.
Since most explosions occur when lithium-ion batteries are being improperly recharged — typically by plugging chargers into extension cords or power strips — the storage room is fitted with electrical outlets fed by dedicated circuits so there is no need for power strips or extension cords and no additional strain on the feeds to residential and common areas. Incorporating such a bike-storage room into a new building would add minimal cost, LaMontanaro says, while retrofitting one into a 60-unit building would cost about $25,000.