Fire pathways are required for most photovoltaic projects in the United States. The Aurora application allows you to easily place fire pathways that meet the code requirements of your design’s jurisdiction.
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Setbacks vs Fire Pathways
In Aurora, fire pathways are flexible, and you can place them or move them anywhere on the roof. You can only set setbacks to be a certain distance from a given edge type (e.g., ridge). In order to properly meet code requirements, you must use fire pathways, whereas setbacks can be optionally used for installation needs (e.g., safety buffers or to accommodate an array skirt). Note that setbacks supplement fire pathways. Every design must have fire pathways; depending on your install requirements, some designs might have both fire pathways and setbacks.
Here is an example of a roof as it previously might have been designed with setbacks, compared to how it might look with setbacks as a safety buffer (yellow) and fire pathways (purple) to meet code requirements.
There is more usable roof space and the flexibility to maximize the system productivity.
How to Auto Place Fire Pathways
Note: Some Aurora users have used setback defaults as their fire pathways. In order to realize the full benefits of Auto Place Fire Pathways, Admins should check and adjust that default setbacks are set to reflect only an installation cushion and no longer set to try to replicate fire pathways.
Auto place fire pathways will automatically place pathways on the design. When there are no panels on the roof, Aurora will place the minimum set of pathways required by the international fire code of the project’s AHJ (which is automatically set based on the location). When there are panels already on the roof, Aurora will account for the amount of available space covered by panels when placing the minimum set of pathways. The result will avoid panels when possible, but will place pathways over panels when necessary (e.g., if the panel is very close to a ridge). The overlapping panels will turn yellow to make it clear that they should be moved.
Auto place fire pathways is available in both Sales Mode and Design Mode. You can see an overview of how to use this feature by watching the screen recording below:
Auto Place Fire Pathways in Sales Mode default setting is set to on and admins can turn on/off the feature in Sales Mode by following these steps:
- Navigate to “Settings”
- Under “Application”, click on “Design”
- Click “Edit” at the top right corner
- Under “Sales Mode fire pathways”, toggle on/off “Auto place fire pathways”
- Click “Save” at the top right corner
If enabled by the admin, Aurora will automatically run Auto place fire pathways when a user performs a system design within Sales Mode, placing the pathways prior to placing panels. Please refer to the images below for more details:
Auto place fire pathways is available for all users in Design Mode and be accessed following these steps:
1. Hover over “Fire pathways” and click on “Auto place fire pathways
2. Review that the AHJ for the location is accurate, then click on “Place fire pathways” You can also choose to toggle on “Fire sprinklers” and Aurora will place the fire pathways in a less conservative manner allowing for more roof space for designing the system (depending on jurisdictions).
Design Mode users can edit fire pathways after running Auto place fire pathways by clicking on the a pathway and then changing the values within the inspector on the right hand side of the screen (images below include “Fire pathway” inspector).
How to Draw Fire Pathways
Draw fire pathways allows users to manually insert fire pathways in their design based on the identified AHJ and code year. Any Design Mode user can place fire pathways manually by:
1. Clicking on “Fire pathways” which will open up the inspector on the right hand side of the screen
The Fire pathway inspector will include the AHJ along with the Code year and the percentage of the building covered by panels. You can click on the AHJ name to access the AHJ Database. A default value of 36 inches, the typical code requirement, will be set for the width, which you can modify as needed.
2. Click anywhere on the roof to start drawing the pathway; then move your mouse and click to place the other endpoint. If you hover near any corner or edge, the cursor will snap to it for ease of use. If you are snapped to an edge when placing the first endpoint and move your mouse along the edge before clicking to place the other endpoint, the pathway itself will snap to the roof edge.
3. When drawing a fire pathway along a ridge, hip, or valley of the roof, the pathway will split between the adjacent roof faces (half on each face). The inspector will display each width, which you can modify individually. Note that “Width 1” is always the most northern one.
4. Fire pathways can be moved to a different location by clicking and dragging, which will maintain their orientation and total width.
5. When two pathways intersect, they will meld for a clean look, but you can still edit them individually.
6. When panels are placed over a fire pathway, the overlapped panels will turn yellow. This function can be turned off in the “View settings” menu
7. You can click the DXF button and download a DXF with the fire pathways included as a distinct layer.