Victoria Square Opens for Business with Notifier

1st May 2009

Opened in March 2008, the £400million Victoria Square development in Belfast is one of Europe's largest urban regeneration projects and a milestone in the revitalisation of the city centre.

At more than 800,000 sq ft and over four floors, the retail, residential and leisure complex is the largest ever property development in Northern Ireland and is expected to attract more than 17 million visitors annually. At its heart is a 45 metre high glass dome, with a viewing gallery offering spectacular views across the city and beyond.
As part of this development, leading Notifier Engineered Systems Distributor, Crane Communications Ltd was appointed to provide full fire protection for the huge new complex. The resulting installation includes five networked Notifier ID3000 fire alarm control panels and over 1,800 detectors, together with Notifier's ONYXWorks integration software linking the fire alarm system with other key security and access information throughout the multi-storey site.

"The Notifier solution has replaced a vast array of disparate systems managed by individual retailers and other buildings operators," says Crane's systems manager, Ken Burns. "The result is that today visitors, workers and residents benefit from a state-of-the-art fire detection solution which provides the robustness and flexibility essential in such a large and diverse public facility.

Faster response

Crane began initial discussions with principal electrical contractor, JBE Building Services back in 2002, at the start of the development. "We already had positive previous experience of working with Crane and Notifier," recalls JBE estimating director, Alan Wright, "and were impressed with both the suitability and durability of the Notifier equipment supported by the high quality of consultancy and service support Crane provides."
The new fire safety system had to meet the stringent guidelines laid down by electrical consulting engineers, BDP and at the same time be approved by both JBE and joint venture contractors Farransand Gilbert Ashe, who have overseen the Victoria Square development.

At the same time, the solution had to be capable of providing full protection for a highly complex site, which included almost 100 retail units, as well as bars, restaurants and a multiplex cinema, 106 prestige residential apartments and underground car parks and services.
"In recommending an ID3000-based solution, a key objective was to cut response times in reacting to any incident," says Burns. "As a result, we needed point-to-point identification of any device throughout the whole multi-storey complex."

Centralised control

Individual areas within the Square required specific fire safety solutions. The huge central dome, together with the three local switch rooms for the power network, are protected by Notifier aspirating systems. Similarly, linked smoke beacons have been used throughout the underground service corridors. And the viewing platform within the dome -a series of three large ‘lily pads' - traditional white detectors have been replaced with more aesthetically pleasing black detectors.
More broadly however, two elements in particular have been central to the success of the Notifier implementation. "Particularly appealing to the client was the ability to programme integration on site in Belfast rather than remotely so enhancing the design and build programme thanks to ONYXWorks," confirms John Simpson, sales manager, UK and Ireland, Notifier by Honeywell.
"A PC based graphical workstation, ONYXWorks - Notifier's next generation of integration technology, is ideally suited to complex sites such as the Victoria Centre, as it links fire alarm, security, card access, CCTV and other key information across the facility via a single point of control."

As part of its open systems approach, the central workstation displays and controls diverse systems from different manufacturers on an intuitive graphic user interface. It presents graphic floor plans for fire and non fire reporting, as well as a history manager that tracks, stores and filters events for viewing. "As a result," says Simpson, "from a single PC, the facility manager can view and manage all systems over a proprietary network."
Another important element in the proposed solution was the inclusion of the Notifier PAVA system, which includes voice as an integrated part of the broader alarm system.
This enables music and general announcements to be broadcast over the Centre's public address system: it also incorporates pre-recorded emergency messages as well as the ability to take control and manage the system -and the response -in a live manner, so ensuring a rapid yet phased and controlled evacuation in the event of an incident.

Flexible implementation

Implementation, which began in 2006 was completed, on time and on budget, providing full protection when the new Victoria Square was officially opened in Spring 2008. The inherent flexibility of the Notifier system, together with Crane's installation and commissioning experience, was essential in meeting the needs of the phased building programme, ensuring that full protection was maintained as each of the five zones of the development was completed.
Crane is also responsible for the maintenance contract and confirms that the fire alarm system has remained trouble-free since the Centre opened in March.
"We have been delighted with the outstanding contribution of the two companies to the success of the new Victoria Square," says JBE's Wright. "Notifier has been able to satisfy all our fire safety requirements, with leading-edge yet proven solutions. Equally, throughout the specification, implementation and on-going maintenance process, the project has benefited greatly from Crane's on-going proactive and flexible support.
"With the Victoria Square, Belfast now boasts one of the best shopping experiences in Europe," he concludes. "And, thanks to Notifier and Crane, we have provided shoppers and other users with a fire alarm and detection system to match."