If you have ever been to an IKEA store, you know it’s a unique shopping experience. At these iconic stores, products are set up on display for customer convenience, while inventory is stored on tall, warehouse-like racks. This uncommon setup calls for special consideration with fire protection, as detection and suppression systems are tasked with helping to protect retail traffic as well as high-storage inventory.
In 2017, Code Consultants, Inc. (CCI) reached out to Johnson Controls to come up with a fire suppression solution for IKEA’s Coquitlam, British Columbia store featuring this type of multifaceted storage arrangement. In developing their goals for the project, IKEA wanted the new sprinkler system installation to:
- Ensure fire safety for their store, products, visitors and workers
- Maximize storage flexibility for space and ease of use
- Realize project cost savings
- Minimize retail store downtime during installation
- Utilize the existing pipe and pump systems
In the end, CCI and Johnson Controls developed an innovative solution that met IKEA’s goals. Let’s look back on this successful project and focus on several takeaways that can be considered when protecting modern, multifaceted storage arrangements:
Expect to face and overcome unique problems
All storage and warehousing arrangements are unique, and the needs for IKEA proved no different. In addition to protecting a blended retail-warehouse environment, the inventory includes a high percentage of exposed expanded group-A plastic (EEP) materials, which pose greater fire-suppression challenges than normal cardboard packaging. The project required meeting NFPA-13 standards while also achieving the racking flexibility IKEA needed, so an individualized plan had to be formulated. With the project requirements and challenges in consideration, three individualized options were offered and compared, which included two system replacement options and one system retrofit option.
Comparing options is worth the effort
This project required weighing the pros and cons of several solutions before moving forward:
- Option 1: Replace the existing in-rack sprinklers with a scheme using extended coverage upright sprinklers. This in-rack scheme is designed to protect EEP materials but would have required replacing all the sprinkler piping, as well as the addition of horizontal barriers within the racks. IKEA ultimately declined this option due to cost, limited flexibility of moving racks because of fixed piping, as well as concern about the potential of damaging the in-rack sprinkler.
- Option 2: Replace the in-rack system with a ceiling-only system using the protection scheme in NFPA-13 for EEP. This would involve installing early suppression fast response (ESFR) sprinklers, vertical barriers, as well as a fire pump upgrade from 1,500 GPM to 2,500 GPM to provide the necessary pressure and flowrate. The benefit of this ceiling-only scheme was that it provided rack arrangement flexibility, but due to the cost of the pump upgrade and reduced operational flexibility due to the installation of the barriers, this option was also declined.
- Option 3: Retrofit the system with an electronically activated sprinkler system (Tyco EAS-1). This option required the replacement of sprinkler heads, the installation of sensors and wiring, and the addition of an EAS-1 suppression releasing panel.
‘We asked our FPE partner, Code Consultants, Inc., for a new and innovative option that met our needs, and EAS-1 was the right solution’, said Jason Lee, Engineering Manager, IKEA.
Electronically activated sprinklers are ideal for multifaceted storage arrangements
The EAS-1 was selected as the optimal fire protection system after reviewing the options CCI presented to the IKEA team. The EAS-1 provided a ceiling-only protection scheme while permitting full flexibility for racking. Further, the system had a smaller K-factor with less pressure and less water being discharged during suppression events, which limits water and smoke damage to the store’s inventory.
Using a performance-based design, the EAS-1 utilizes the intelligent operation of an array of sprinklers around a point of origin. The sprinklers use metron activators and, with the addition of heat sensors and sensor-wired suppression releasing panel, the system detects fire locations quicker. Once a temperature surge is detected, between six and nine sprinklers are activated to execute a surround-and-drown tactic.
This solution was realized with the installation of 1,360 sprinkler heads through the 130,000sq. ft (12,077m2) facility, and with 90% of the work done with no store downtime. The store is now equipped with fire protection for years to come.
Partnerships drive successful projects
A unique solution requires a unique partnership. Project success relied on the collaboration among all three groups – IKEA, CCI and Johnson Controls. CCI reached out to the Johnson Controls team early in the project evaluation process to ensure all system requirements met IKEA’s needs. Open communication was essential and allowed technical staff to review details of prior fire tests and listing information directly with the CCI team. These technical details were a great asset to the planning process and confirmed the viability of the system in the beginning phase of the project.
Based on the project location, Johnson Controls took steps to add ULC Listing to all system components that were previously UL Listed only. Completing this step early in the project avoided delays in the overall timeline. As the project progressed, the local fire officials assessed the fire protection plans and the distinctive ways it met all needs. Johnson Controls was able to help facilitate this conversation in support of IKEA’s end goals.
‘Johnson Controls collaborated with our local fire marshal to ensure system approval, which was a great support to our team,’ said Larry Frank, Senior Project Manager, CCI. ‘They also support us with direct access to technical staff who help us build solutions for our customers.’
With these takeaways in mind, project teams can overcome challenges, weigh options, find the right solution and execute the project successfully with the right partners.
For more information, go to www.johnsoncontrols.com/eas