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A building automation system can control all aspects of a building or campus, including the fire alarm system. This summarises the best practices for integrating a fire alarm into a BAS.
There is also a somewhat traditional mindset in the design and engineering community that building automation and fire alarm systems should provide a significant level of separation with minimal connectivity or interaction. Much of this belief stems from fear of the unknown and a desire to minimise risk and the adage “That’s the way we’ve always done it”. In reality, the integration of building automation and fire alarm systems can result in an overall reduction in equipment, installation and maintenance costs, while maintaining the level of security required for these systems to operate.
With the advent of smart building technology, heating, cooling, electrical, lighting, security and other systems need monitoring and communication for optimised efficiency and operation. With sophistication, a building automation system (BAS) is needed to allow these various interrelated equipment to operate almost seamlessly.
Like BAS, fire protection and alarm systems have evolved into complex computer-based systems that integrate fire detection and emergency communication systems as part of overall building operations during an emergency event.
Often fire protection and alarm systems must interact with other building systems to provide an appropriate level of protection. Whilst the fire alarm system is fully capable of performing and initiating the actions required to realise the fire alarm and building systems responses, efficiencies can be achieved by integrating with BAS. These efficiencies include minimising additional equipment, speeding up system acceptance testing, reducing installation costs and sharing and consolidating information in a central location where all building systems can be fully monitored during emergencies.
Smoke Control Systems
Smoke control systems are a good example of the marriage of building mechanical systems with fire protection/fire alarm systems. Fans may be running or stopping, dampers opening or closing, and doors closing or unlocking as lifts are recalled. Although both BAS and fire alarm systems have specific tasks to perform, there is a certain level of priority and sequencing that must be followed. Failure to follow the appropriate priority or sequence is not only coded non-compliant but can also lead to equipment damage or risk to human life. For example, if a smoke control fan operates before the dampers open, ducting may be damaged or door opening forces may exceed acceptable levels for egress.
When the fire alarm system takes control of equipment that is not a listed component of the fire alarm control unit, the fire alarm system must override the natural mode of operation of the building equipment or delegate this command via a simple switch or data communication to the building mechanical systems. Similarly, each manufacturer’s BAS has its protocol for monitoring conditions and communicating operational commands to maintain a proper building environment and efficiency. There are also standard open communication protocols such as LonTalk and BACnet, which can be used to communicate with a large number of equipment from various manufacturers to achieve an integrated building system.
After all the work is done by engineers, contractors, inspectors and AHJ, the integrated system work is approved and the owner receives the total cost of ownership and finally the final certificate of occupancy. But the project is not finished. The owner needs to obtain and carefully store all registration documents related to the integrated system. As a building age, things change and systems are replaced. When changes occur, the contractors making the changes can use the documentation to maintain the interoperability of the integrated system and also revise the drawings to reflect the changes made. In addition, modified systems should be retested to verify their revised performance. Documentation of the test should be incorporated into the existing registration documents.
Integrating fire protection and fire alarm systems with BAS can be cost-effective and provide more efficient operation. The design and installation must be well planned and coordinated and properly maintained throughout the life of the system.
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