Safeguarding our Heritage
The protection of historic buildings is unlike that required by most other types of building. In some cases the objective is to preserve the structure itself, sometimes the invaluable works of art or other items of historical significance are of most concern, and often it is both. Thus, the art of preserving heritage sites needs to find fire protection solutions that are consistent with their particular needs: fast and reliable detection at an early stage of the fire, minimum installation requirements – possibly without cabling – and automatic extinguishing with tailored agents that do not harm the valuables.
Simple compliance with mandatory building codes does not necessarily provide adequate fire protection, particularly in terms of irreplaceable asset and value protection. Heritage sites such as castles, churches, museums or libraries therefore require special measures as they feature specific challenges. For example, the often ancient structure of the building has to be kept intact. In contrast to modern buildings, historic premises often lack compartmentation, which would help facilitate fire protection, and adequate escape routes are missing in the majority. Paintings, historic furniture, tapestries, wall hangings, carpets and wooden parquet floors, as well as other combustible materials, add to a high fire load. And, in addition to all these challenges, the safety and integrity of occupants and visitors must, of course, be guaranteed at all times.
As many historic buildings are designated as World Cultural Heritage sites, the particular desire to preserve the aesthetic look and feel is an important additional challenge; the integrity of irreplaceable interior architectural details such as unique wall decorations, stuccoed ceilings and frescoes are of significant importance, both to the owners and custodians of these buildings and to the public who seek to enjoy them.
These particular challenges presented by historic buildings increase the demand for innovative fire safety systems that can combine modern fire safety requirements with the goals of historic character preservation. A combination of high performance detection and automatic extinguishing from systems that do not impact too overtly on the aesthetics of the environment they are protecting is the answer.
Preserving Aesthetic Premises without Compromising Fire Safety
Wireless technology is widely adopted in such applications, given the aesthetic issue with cabling, and the wireless fire safety system Swing from Siemens is one of the most advanced wireless systems to be used in heritage applications: while offering great freedom in detector placement, it also features the unique ASA technology (Advanced Signal Analysis) that eliminates false alarms and provides very early detection to protect people and historical assets.
Swing also offers fast and highly reliable detection, with the detector featuring two optical and two heat sensors. ASAtechnology allows the detector to be optimally adapted to its environment by choosing an application-specific parameter set. This means the detector is immune to deceptive phenomena such as dust or special effects as may be used in theatres, thereby preventing false alarms.
The Swing system is based on wireless mesh technology, which maximises communications redundancy and so matches the security and reliability of a cable-based solution. Within the mesh network, each wireless device communicates with the adjacent devices, which means that at least two redundant paths are available at any time for transmitting information.
To further increase reliability, each device has two frequency bands with multiple channels. If a detector fails, the network “repairs” itself by automatically changing channels and/or frequency bands or forwarding information via an adjacent device. This ensures that information always reaches the gateway and ultimately the fire control panel, providing maximum system availability at all times. With its grid-like communication pattern, the mesh technology is also especially helpful to overcome obstacles like very thick walls as often found in historic buildings.
Another benefit of mesh technology becomes apparent when setting up large wireless networks. Since each fire detector communicates with its neighbours, the central gateway no longer has to be in direct radio contact with each detector. Using a single gateway, a network can be installed in a radius of up to 90 meters and, dependent on local regulations, spanning up to five floors.
Sensors Smell Smoke – and React Fast
For highly ornate applications, such as artistically decorated walls and ceilings, another type of detection is available. Aspirating smoke detection (ASD) is used to provide what is effectively invisible fire protection. ASD uses pipes that can be hidden in ceiling voids, with the detectors sampling the air for the presence of smoke particles, reacting early and reliably in the event of a fire and well before active flaming occurs.
This is a significant advantage when looking to minimise the impact on decorative features in historic buildings. ASD is an ideal smoke detection method for a wide range of heritage buildings, including churches, cathedrals, libraries and any building characterised by high ceilings and large open areas. Such applications will frequently lead to smoke stratification because smoke from a small fire lacks sufficient thermal buoyancy to reach high ceiling mounted beam type or conventional detectors. ASD from Siemens uses innovative optical dual-wavelength detection technology which offers early warning of fire while also ensuring high immunity to deceptive phenomena.
Automatic Extinguishing Keeps Irreplaceable Artwork Safe
Turning to fire extinguishing methods, automatic sprinkler systems are often installed to protect the building structure. While water can be an issue in potentially damaging historic collections, sprinklers often do their job, however only to protect the structure and preventing the fire to spread to other buildings. Therefore, a detection system that provides an early and reliable alarm is essential.
For applications where water is an issue it actually makes sense to combine or even replace the sprinklers with an automated extinguishing portfolio such as Sinorix from Siemens that features clean agents that leave no residue and do no harm to people or assets. This highly sophisticated extinguishing system offers a broad spectrum of solutions that can be precisely tailored to the fire protection requirements of any given application in historic sites, such as archives, libraries, electrical rooms or server rooms. The Sinorix portfolio includes extinguishing solutions for every need and application. Furthermore easy solutions with hardly any installation effort are available with Sinorix Compact, a preassembled fire detection and extinguishing product for small rooms up to 130 cubic metres.
Matching the Technology with the Risk
Historic buildings, certainly the larger ones, will often have a number of different rooms with a range of uses: theatres, exhibition spaces, archives and libraries are just a few examples. It is therefore important to employ a solutions provider that has experience of the different fire safety challenges that these present, with a portfolio of products that allows the protection to be matched to the specific requirements.
Siemens has both the experience and the comprehensive product range to provide an intelligent approach to fire safety in historic buildings: to protect the people, the unique structures, the irreplaceable values and, ultimately, the heritage that they represent.
For further information, go to www.siemens.com