Fire protection systems are a life-saving but often invisible part of any construction project. Though specific guidelines and standards may vary, the European fire protection industry is united in believing buildings must have properly installed fire protection systems that will protect people, equipment and the actual building from harm, should a fire start.
The sector is currently re-examining the application of fire protection systems in buildings with high occupancy, such as schools, care homes and high-rise buildings.
Fire safety professionals find themselves having to re-evaluate traditional methods due in part to a simple need for the industry to modernise, but primarily because of a number of challenges they increasingly face. For contractors, projects are impacted as they simultaneously come under pressure to achieve high standards, whilst being restricted by limited budgets, tight deadlines and uncertainties around availability and quality of labour.
I believe the industry’s answer will be through focusing on high-quality products which allow for speed and ease of installation, without compromising on cost and reliability.
Certainty in Installation
A key challenge faced by the fire protection industry is installations which do not comply with locally applicable codes and standards. If products are installed incorrectly, it not only serves to run the risk of systems not providing adequate protection in case of fire but can even exacerbate the threat of danger. Problems can arise from sprinklers being installed too close to the ceiling or incorrectly spaced, impacting how comprehensively an area is covered. Alternatively, the wrong sprinkler is used for a specific risk – not an uncommon sight for fire protection systems unfortunately – which can lead to a misaligned system which may not function as required in case of an emergency.
Using products which have been specifically designed to allow for easy installation helps to avoid several of these issues. Our V9 suite of storage sprinklers, for example, have deliberately been given features which allow them to be quickly and easily installed –giving contractors the confidence and comfort in the knowledge that systems will be installed correctly the first time.
Last year, we announced the fire industry’s first Installation-Ready™ sprinkler, part of our V9 suite of storage sprinklers. The design of this sprinkler’s coupling was specifically created so it could be installed with more speed and certainty of a proper installation than a threaded sprinkler, while also avoiding the mess and consumables, like thread sealant and PTFE tape, of threading. This in turn helps contractors to better control their labour and optimise the number of workers on the ground.
Innovation helping reduce risk
The age-old question set to contractors has revolved around how quickly can a project be done to the highest standard at a reasonable cost? The contractor will receive the question and speedily go to its supply partners to produce the best framework for the project. Backed by its team of specialists, the contractor will return to the client with a solution which hopefully fits the bill.
Regarding fire protection projects, contractors are on the lookout for new products; a new option to increase efficiency whilst maintaining high quality. While traditional methods, like threaded sprinklers, have worked in systems for over 100 years, occasional leaks can’t be avoided and often result in additional man-hours and costs to resolve the issue. Recently, new alternatives have entered the scene, incorporating innovative product design to raise the bar for reliability and speed of installation.
For instance, new products have been able to eliminate oil drippings and shavings typically produced during the threading process. Furthermore, modern methods have looked to improve the problem of reduced pipe thickness suffering from corrosion at the point of threading while also enabling contractors to use lighter, smaller piping in the first place – in turn resulting in an installation that provides consistent quality over the life of the system for a potentially reduced cost.
Our answer has been the Firelock IGS line, which enables contractors to use mechanical pipe joining on 25mm pipe, avoiding the need for threading and the mess and risk of pipe corrosion that comes with it. We’ve also looked to answer clients’ questions over reliability by incorporating our visual confirmation of pad-to-pad installation to ensure leak-free joints.
Avoiding Unexpected Costs
Inherently linked to system installation, contractors are often subjected to costing and cash flow fears throughout a project. We advocate for products that are simple enough to use, and also encourage the application of prefabrication and modularity.
Well-established in the HVAC sectors, Building Information Modelling (BIM)-enabled software has also seen rapid recent growth in popularity in the fire protection sector across Europe, particularly in the UK, The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. The increasing use of BIM-enabled software, such as Revizto, allows for models of fire protection systems to be visualised, shared and amended in real time. By introducing this technology into the pre-site process, contractors and engineers can be confident that the materials which arrive on site meet their requirements and avoid potential surprises on site, which result in increased man-hours and impacts the total cost of installation.
In addition, the application of BIM-enabled products means that potential system threats can be simulated and mitigated earlier on in the project. Not only does this change in behaviour allow for an efficient approach to developing projects, particularly in the fire protection sector, it also means budget costs can be considered earlier in the process. Contractors are also confident that the materials are prepared to correct specifications and thus are ready to be installed, without the need for amendments down the line. As time has already been taken to pre-plan and pre-fabricate the system, the project can therefore save labour costs normally present at installation.
Getting fire safety right
It’s not easy getting fire safety right, but we all know why it’s so important it’s delivered to a high standard. New products, providing reliability, ease of installation, and ultimately confidence to clients – alongside pre-worksite preparation – come together to provide an industry landscape where contractors can take the project from start to finish with the assurance that they’re getting it right.
For more information, go to www.victaulic.com