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Wireless by Design

11 January 2008

Complying with fire protection and safety standards does not have to result in the installation of ugly sounders and detectors, and surface wiring. David Leigh describes how new design conscious fire detection soloutions can be used in design sensitive and listed buildings

BLENDING WITH TRADITIONAL INTERIORS and keeping up with changes in interior design styles and moods is a challenging task for suppliers of building components. The need for aesthetically pleasing devices is applicable to new build, refurbishment and 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. Fire detection needs to be attractive, complement the decor and avoid the need for ugly surface wiring or damage to decorations from installing concealed wiring.

Products and systems should comply with the relevant BSEN standards for fire equipment. 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 houses in multiple occupation (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 multiperson residence.

In respect of residential new build, the minimum requirement set out in the Building Regulations is 240vAC interlinked self-contained alarms or a suitable BS5839 part 1 or part 6 solution. However, 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) (RRO) came into effect in October 2006 and 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. The RRO is a risk based
assessment emphasising fire prevention implemented by responsible and competent persons and policed by Fire Services.

A fire detection and alarm system should be appropriate to the task as determined by risk assessment, be 3rd Party certified to, or conform with, relevant BSEN Standards and 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 from Detectomat 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.

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. Installing cables in existing buildings is time consuming and presents access issues, damage to decoration, ugly surface wiring and general disruption. All of these issues can be resolved or avoided with wire-free or radio fire alarms providing far more design concious and cost-effective solutions for systems as small as two self-contained alarms in a residence or in installations as large as a shopping centre.

When Avon Fire and Rescue ruled that their existing fire protection was inadequate, the Gospel Church Hall in Bath selected Detectomat's Wireless detect - wire free fire detection system. 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 is minimum installation time and disruption!

Having considered various alternative solutions, Southern Fire recommended Detectomat's Wireless detect - RCP 6B wire free fire detection system because it offered a unique and cost-effective solution for the task with good technical support. The RCP 6B system has Designer Range optical smoke detectors with integral sounders, which complement the church's interior design, break-glass - manual call points and heat alarms. All the sounders are integrated within the detectors so the installation of sounder circuits was not necessary. The wire-free system was installed within three hours resulting in little disruption to the Church Hall's activities and considerable financial savings.

....David Leigh is Marketing Manager at Detectomat UK

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