Disasters including Grenfell and high-rise fires in the UK and the Middle East have highlighted the need for collaboration between those in the supply chain to ensure the fire protection of lives and property in large buildings where large numbers of people move about. Graham Turner of AEI Cables examines the issues.
With new design, materials and products continually coming on to the market for major projects, there is an increasing need for the various parties involved to work together.
For modern design of new hospitals, high-rise apartment blocks, shopping malls and airports where large numbers of people move about, the need for consistent quality of products and application collectively and individually in the supply chain cannot be underestimated.
The electrical-supply industry, not for the first time, is having to take a good hard look at how it works together.
The various experts and organisations in regulation, design, specification, product supply and installation are all considering their positions and how best practice can be guaranteed every time.
In the event of a fire, the safe and effective evacuation of people is the priority. And to ensure the fire-and-rescue services can evacuate people quickly, the continuity of power is essential to keep emergency lighting and alarm systems functioning.
The continuity of power will also ensure that sprinkler or water-mist systems can continue to operate where they exist.
The choice of cabling to power these functions cannot be taken lightly and should be detailed at the earliest opportunity with the rest of the specification rather than at the end of a project. In commercial buildings, there may also be smoke evacuation fans, which help to enable safe evacuation.
These building services buy time for the fire-and-rescue services, who can then read fire-alarm information and see the areas of most danger.
Specifiers looking at large public-sector projects such as hospitals should refer to BS 8519 for the electrical supply, and the most relevant cabling system.
This Code of Practice specifies that the type of system selected during the design phase ‘should be derived from a detailed process of consultation with the relevant authorities’ and that ‘the design should be agreed at an early stage.’
The decision-making process for cable selection relevant for life safety and firefighting systems is clearly defined.
This covers three categories ranging from 30 minutes’ to 120 minutes’ fire-survival time. Categories 1 and 2 cover means of escape for 30 minutes and then 60 minutes respectively, and these cables are tested in accordance with the relevant codes.
Category 3 for firefighting to 120 minutes refers to power and control cables meeting the 120-minute test according to the relevant standards. It should be emphasised that only Mineral Insulated Cable (MIC), or an enhanced cable meeting the requirements of BS7846 F120, will meet this criteria.
We should point out that BS 8519 does not take precedence over BS 5839 for alarm systems and BS 5266 for emergency lighting.
The best practice under Business Information Modelling (BIM) and all best practice of Fire Safety Engineering methods should be observed in conjunction with project partners.
Using additional software such as Amtech allows designers – including consultants and contractors – to create and manage specification documents using a comprehensive library of the latest relevant technical guidance to provide a fully robust building construction specification.
As the inquiry into Grenfell unfolds, it is clear that Part B of the Building Regulations for fire safety will come under further scrutiny, and we welcome that, especially where projects may have been compromised in the past for whatever reason.
Dame Judith Hackett, who is leading the Grenfell inquiry, sums it up: “As the review has progressed, it has become clear that the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so. What is initially designed is not what is being built, and quality assurance of materials and people is seriously lacking.”
AEI Cables provides a full range of cabling products through our Total Solutions service with the support of our parent company Ducab based in Dubai, with the design, manufacture and supply of MIC, Firetec Enhanced or Firetec Power depending on specific needs.
The ethos of pursuing excellence in modern cable performance ensures that the highest-performing materials are available, both in fire resistance and fire reaction.
We are committed to working with specifiers, designers and contractors on major projects to meet all best-practice standards. Indeed, there can be no compromise when it comes to products that protect lives and property in these critical environments.
For more information, go to www.aeicables.co.uk