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David Leigh of Detectomat UK reviews the potential for Design Conscious Fire Detection solutions using new product and system developments from the Fire industry.
Blending with traditional interiors and keeping up with changes in interior design styles and moods is a challenging task for suppliers of building components. However, a review of the general range of smoke detectors available suggests that this challenge has until recently been totally missed or not taken up by most Fire Detection and Alarm companies! The need for aesthetically pleasing devices is applicable to New Build and Refurbishment or Retrofit applications. In the latter two areas there is also the issue of installation time, access, damage to decoration, ugly surface wiring and general disruption, which can lead to “unhappy clients”! These are the current issues. Facility Managers, builders and developers need a solution to the complex requirements of providing good fire protection whilst at the same time ensuring rapid, cost-effective installation with minimal business disruption. Fire Detection needs to be attractive, complement the dǸcor and avoid the need for ugly surface wiring or damage to decorations from installing concealed wiring.
Standards and the legislative framework
Solutions to the above issues are emerging but, before we review them, we should review the Standards and Legislative environment in respect of Fire Detection and Alarms.
For New Build or Major Refurbishment – Building Regulations Part B covers all the fire detection and protection requirements in any type of dwelling in the UK, with the exception of prisons. Section 1 covers dwellings – including large houses, loft conversions and sheltered housing plus commercial and industrial properties. Section 2 covers HMOs, which are single family residences converted into a number of small flats or bed sitting rooms so that the status changes from a family residence to a multi-person residence.
In respect of Residential New Build, the minimum requirement, as per Building Regulations, is 240vAC interlinked self-contained alarms or a suitable BS5839 part 1 or part 6 solution. However, it should be noted that BS5839 is a Code of Practice, which has scope for implementation with variations subject to individual site by site Risk Assessments and agreement by the Designer, Installer and end client. Part 1 is a code of practice, which mainly applies to the installation of fire detection systems for commercial and industrial applications. It is considered to be the Bible for the fire industry, including the fire services. Part 6 is a code of practice, which covers a wide range of residential properties from bedsits to castles!
The Fire Services Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) or RRO, which came into effect in October 2006 represents a major Fire legislation change, building on and replacing the 1999 Fire Precautions in the Workplace act, which started the move from prescriptive to risk based assessment. This order, to be policed by Fire Services, is a risk based assessment emphasising fire prevention implemented by responsible and competent persons.
Fire Sytem components and Design Conscious Solutions
A Fire Detection and Alarm system should be appropriate to the task as determined by risk assessment, conform with, relevant BSEN Standards and comply with the Building Regs. There can be many alternative solutions to achieving the cover or level of protection required. However, some are more Design Conscious than others!
For example, most detection and alarm systems require automatic detection and there is a large range of suppliers but most smoke detectors have been designed by electronic engineers with little or no regard for aesthetics. However, products are now emerging, which recognise that aesthetic design is as important as detection performance. And the Designer Range below is such an example, providing self-contained alarms, conventional and addressable detectors with a range of Designer covers and colours -white, black, satin silver or glass to match traditional or contemporary interior designs, see inset-
Intergrated Detector/Sounder/Beacon products and the opportunity to semi-recess detectors as per the earliar picture at the beginning of this article are other areas in field devices, where consideration of aesthetics is coming through in modern designs.
Control and Indication panels are also an area, where size and design are an important factor and here too we’ve seen significant reductions in size over the years with considerably more thought being given to aesthetics as the example inset-
Wire-free Radio as part of a Design Concious Solution
All Fire Systems require an interconnection of the various components including detectors, manual call points, sounders and control panels, which is normally done in electrical cabling or commonly termed hardwiring. Installing cables in existing buildings is time consuming and presents access issues, damage to decoration, ugly surface wiring and general disruption, which can lead to “unhappy clients”! All of these issues can be resolved or avoided with Wire-free or Radio Fire Alarms providing a far more design concious solution and “happier clients”!
Radio, as a communication medium has been available for many years at a high cost. However, application of the latest technoledgy has produced wire-free systems, which can provide cost-effective solutions for systems as small as two self-contained alarms in a residence or as large as a shopping centre. Systems currently available range from networked wire-free, Analogue Addressable systems to radio alternatives to single Addressable loop or Conventional panels as inset-
Hybrid or Gateway systems have also emerged. This is where a hardwired Analogue Addressable system can be extended or initially configured with one or more Radio Gateway. If a Facility Manager is faced with the need to extend fire detection coverage to comply with an updated Fire Risk Assesment this can provide a particulary useful and cost-effective solution. Facility Managers and Owner/Managers want the highest level of safety for their building occupants but they also want to avoid disruption and damage to the building decoration and fabric, which only a wire-free solution can provide.
The need to avoid disruption and damage is wide reaching and as a consequence the demand for wire-free solutions is significant as a proportion of the overall market and growing at a rapid rate. Listed buildings are of course one of the most sensitive areas.
Case Study – RRO and a Gospel Church Listed Building
When Avon Fire and Rescue ruled that their existing fire protection was inadequate the Gospel Church Hall in Bath chose a wire-free, radio fire detection system. The introduction of the RRO and the results of a risk assessment and fire audit persuaded the Church administrators to bring the premises up to standard.
The Church is a Grade II listed building, which meant that the potential damage from the installation of a hard-wired system was unacceptable and a wire-free solution would have to be sought. The Hall is in continuous use 7 days a week by members of the public for various clubs, meetings and activities so there was a real need to avoid disruption, mess and dust, another benefit of using a wire-free solution i.e. minimum installation time and disruption!
Having considered various alternative solutions, the church selected a wire-free fire detection system because it offered a cost-effective solution for the task. They also choose designer optical smoke detectors with integral sounders, which complement the churches interior design see inset-
And because all the sounders were integrated within the detectors the system did not require the installation of sounder circuits. In a listed building this was a significant benefit i.e. no need for wiring additional sounder circuits, avoiding damage to the fabric of the building. The wire-free system was installed within 8 hours resulting in little disruption to the Church Hall’s activities. And because cabling was avoided, labour costs were reduced to the minimum resulting in considerable financial savings. This example demonstrates the clear benefits from using radio wire-free fire alarms to provide fire protection in listed buildings and the potential for replication is vast.
In conclusion, Design Conscious Fire Detection is now available through a combination of Designer detector covers to complement contemporary or traditional designs, modern panel designs and wire-free radio systems to reduce installation time, damage to decoration, ugly surface wiring and general business disruption.