By: Nikhil Parasuraman, SE Controls India
In any type of property being conceptualised, we must focus on the type of occupancy, the expected load of occupants, and the fire load based on the purpose of the property and possible materials being used. This will give us a good starting point to design a solid fire-safe design. However, a point must be kept in mind that, once the property is operational and services being to enter the property, regular assessments and audits must be carried out to understand if firefighting and life safety services initially designed and installed are still valid and will function during an actual fire emergency.
Every product that goes onto a curtain Wall of a building or within a building has fire tests to study and understand the behaviour of how it will act in reaction or its resistance to fire. Purely from an Automatic Opening Vents (AoV) for early smoke release point of view, the products are to be tested to EN12101-02 for the actuation systems and EN12101-10 for control panels and power supplies. The AoV itself must be put to a fire test so that we can have a Complete Tested Solution rather than a tested actuator to a non-tested Smoke Vent.
An initial scoping document that showcases the basic and advanced fire and life safety systems that are to be used in the property based on the codes of the region, and then must make sure that all the participating stakeholders are given this minimum requirement to ensure that only tested systems are being specified, approved, applied into the property. Appropriate resistance and/or reaction to fire certificates must be provided by the bidding agencies of such systems.
Fire spreads both vertically and horizontally during a fire emergency. Compartmentalization is key to this when it comes to horizontal separation. This can be achieved using automatic dampers in the HVAC systems, AoVs, smoke hatches (roof vents) for early smoke exhaust, fire curtains, pressurisation, fire doors and the likes, these govern the spread internally of both fire and the resulting smoke. When it comes to vertical spread, like on the perimeter of the building, which comes primarily from the leapfrog effects as well as secondary debris, we can use materials like fire-rated ACPs, smoke stop/seals and cavity barriers which can contain this spread to a good extent, if not completely contain it to the region.
Lesser space available in urban regions, and the cost of real estate going up, bring about a lot of challenges when designing a fire-safe property, considering the complexities involved. There are the latest tested systems available now in our market which are designed for a purpose and need to be inputted into the initial design and fire strategy of the project. Safety is being met from the get-go, rather than an afterthought or retrofitted, which is more expensive and cumbersome. AoVs, fire and smoke stops, smoke seals, cavity barriers, fire-rated ACP, fire curtains, and automatic fireman access doors (A.FMAD), must be brought under the minimum equipment list (MEL) for any high-rise going forward for our region.