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Retrofit Solutions for Ventilation and Smoke Control Systems

16 November 2010

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According to some of the latest reports from the Construction Products Association, (CPA), building construction has seen a reasonable growth from the beginning of 2010 compared to 2009. With the deep spending cuts being implemented by the Coalition Government, growth is unlikely to be maintained during 2011. During a recent Council for Aluminium in Building seminar, a major UK contractor warned that if the banks continue to hold back loans and funding for new projects there is little chance of any growth appearing in the foreseeable future.

Whilst new building investment will be slow to materialise, funding is still readily available to upgrade existing buildings to an acceptable standard in order to extend their life expectancy. Taking this further, more involved refurbishment of existing structures will have a positive impact on reducing C02 over new-build and it is thought by some that refurbishment of our building structure will form a larger part of the industry in years to come with Government lead tax incentives to do so.

For adaptive natural ventilation and smoke control systems to perform, windows are normally fitted with actuators linked to a controller which takes inputs from various data gathering devices and operates banks of windows to allow ventilation of natural air into the building and the exhaust of stale air or smoke to the outside. All refurbishment projects will entail some form of structural changes to provide enhanced services, it is therefore vital that a specialist smoke control and/or adaptive natural ventilation specialist is consulted at a very early stage of design. This can lead to significant savings as often the correct siting of improvements to the structure work hand in hand with ventilation provision.

Selecting which systems to chose should be based on the following criterion:
1. Upfront consultation and design services
2. Product life expectancy - quality and warranty
3. Low use of energy - energy efficiency
4. Commissioning and confirmation that the system meets specification
4. Aftercare and on-going maintenance provision

What is crucial is experienced project management from the smoke control and/or adaptive natural ventilation specialist to ensure that all parties are providing work to the correct specification for ease of final fixing and commissioning.

Commissioning should include some form of empirical testing to ensure the design does meet specification. Depending on the building variables, the specialist may have already used computer modelling to simulate air movement at any given set of circumstances. Once fully operational, handover complete with training and operation manuals should be provided to the building owner or client.

Depending on the systems installed maintenance is vital for long term effectiveness of the systems. In the case of Smoke Ventilation systems, maintenance takes a preventative view, ensuring that products are maintained to ensure trouble free use for a given future period. This is now a legal requirement for the building owner to protect the lives of the tenants or building users.

With the reduction in cost of electronic systems and the corresponding increase in reliability systems are becoming more intelligent. With improvement in materials and designs, actuators are becoming, less obtrusive and more energy efficient. Monitoring devices in the case of Smoke Control, are now more intelligent and can now alert building management systems that a fault has occurred. Engineers can then be called out for a repair which could save life in case the system is needed in an emergency.

Failure of Smoke Control systems can often be put down to building occupiers. The operation of Smoke vents on a roof has been compromised by roof clutter in the case of penthouse apartments. Vertical smoke shaft doors damaged or obstructed and even vertical smoke shafts used for storage by building occupiers restricting or blocking the escape of smoke. Education and inspection is crucial and with sophisticated monitoring devices, our buildings will be a safer place to live, work and play.

Safety systems, such as smoke ventilation now fall under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) legislation, this is the responsibility of the Management Company or Owner of the Premises. Stipulations state that all Fire Safety equipment must be maintained in efficient working order. In the event of a fire maintenance records may be called upon for both legal and insurance purposes. Regular preventative maintenance can prolong the life of essential life-safety systems and ensures that any defects are found before a critical situation arises. Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the Order, or any notice issued by the enforcing Authority, is an offence and prosecutions are on the rise.

SE Controls provide preventative maintenance visits to conform with the British Standards Institution Schedule BS 7346:1-1990, BS 5588:12-2004 and The Buildings Regulations Approved Document B, indicating that where natural or powered, smoke and heat exhaust ventilation systems are concerned it is essential that they are serviced regularly and maintained in good working condition.

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