Smoke Control Solutions Come of Age

The control of smoke and airflow in a building during a fire situation is critical. Managing how smoke and fresh air can travel within and be extracted out of a building is essential in safe evacuation, protecting occupants, helping to contain fires, assisting firefighters and clearing the building of fumes and particulates post-fire.  It can be extremely complex in high-rise buildings which are common in our region.

While many technical solutions to this problem fit under the banner of smoke or fan and damper control, not all are equal, and some make this critical and historically complicated process simpler, safer and more reliable. The electronic systems that manage them are becoming smarter than ever, with the building's fire alarm panel giving access to a wide range of cause by effect options, increasing functionality even in dynamic fire situations.

 

Understanding the composition of a smoke control system  

A comprehensive smoke control system is comprised of a number of components:  The control panel, often a dedicated unit but increasingly integrated into the building’s fire alarm control panel; detection in the form of smoke, CO and other gas sensors, duct and multi-sensors; interface modules that handle the interaction between the panel and fans, dampers, fire doors, elevators, emergency signs, lighting, suppression systems, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems; fire fighter monitor and control annunciator interfaces, cabling to connect everything; the pipe and ductwork and; monitoring of main and backup power sources.

An integrated smoke control solution controlled through the fire panel offers a number of performance gains and cost saving opportunities, however historically such panels have been proven to be overly complex to program. Smoke control systems can be required by the local codes and standards to either be dedicated, independent of an HVAC system or non-dedicated, sharing components with other systems including the building’s HVAC system. Smoke control is a critical life safety function, and a comprehensive understanding of smoke control design, application and national and local code requirements is mandatory to ensure a code compliant, safe system is installed.

 

Standards

Smoke control requirements have long been included in the UL 864 standards, used widely across the Middle East, for some time. Whenever UL 864 approved fire panels are certified for supporting smoke control, they must also meet UL’s requirements in the UUKL category.

Although EN54 parts 2 and 4 are not relevant to smoke control systems, smoke and heat sensors need to be connected to an appropriately approved panel and Part 13 is a good indicator of system performance. EN12101 part 9, currently in draft, will specify the product characteristics of control equipment operating as part of smoke and heat exhaust systems, detailing test methods, assessment methods and compliance criteria. 

 

Programming

The programming of smoke control systems has long presented a notorious challenge to the fire industry. Meeting specifications involves programming that historically has been based on complex mathematics and obscure programming languages. Programming smoke control systems to work in harmony with the fire detection system when housed in the fire panel can be complicated. Troubleshooting these system designs could only be done at the jobsite, until now, thanks to Advanced’s new solution called DynamixSmoke. 

DynamixSmoke with its innovative programming matrix, eliminates the need for complex mathematics. The matrix solution was derived by taking the consultant/specifying engineer’s design, placing it into a spreadsheet, then essentially copying the spreadsheet into the fire panel. Definition of smoke compartments is simple, turning on and off fans, opening and closing dampers under various conditions is straightforward, SLC loop based I/O modules auto configure for smoke control use and automatic checking is done in the programming tool that eliminates the need to test and debug at the jobsite. 

 

Operation

The demands placed on smoke control systems by a variety of international and local standards are becoming increasingly complicated to understand and implement. A best in class system will meet the challenges of these demands, providing a wide range of features including: post alarm purge which allows the smoke to be manually cleared from an area or all of a building following a fire event; automatic stairwell or lift-elevator shaft/lobby pressurization is a very common requirement and keeps exit routes clear of smoke; cascade options are particularly important on complicated sites; as smoke spreads to different fire compartments of a building it can be necessary to prioritize the safe containment or extraction of smoke in a specific area over another; automatic testing is a vital feature to identify; and much more. With such critical but complicated systems, testing of correct operation can be a significant investment. 

Whatever options are chosen, the role of smoke control in fire protection is of significant and growing importance and specifiers should be aware of the requirements and the technical options available.Learn more about Advanced’s solution DynamixSmoke, at: /fire-systems/axis/axis-ax/dynamixsmoke.aspx

 

21/09/2018

 

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