Wired or wireless fire protection?

23rd November 2009


Trinity and Notifier provide the best of both worlds at Saltram House

One of Britain's best-preserved private residences of the early Georgian era, Saltram House has been the property of the National Trust since 1957.

Located in Plympton, near Plymouth in Devon, the magnificent mansion, with Adam-designed interiors, retains the original décor, plasterwork and collections of period furniture, fine art and china. Saltram achieved further fame more recently when it was used in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

Providing comprehensive fire protection for such an historic building is particularly problematic, as parts of the building are impossible to reach. In working with Notifier and Engineered Systems Distributor (ESD) partner, Trinity Protection Systems, a highly-innovative solution was developed bringing together Notifier hard-wired and Hyfire radio systems. This has provided an integrated solution ensuring full protection during the critical installation and switchover period for this important heritage site.

Managed protocol solution

In looking to replace the existing fire safety system at Saltram, the National Trust wanted to move from a closed to a managed protocol system, in order to benefit from the greater flexibility of purchasing and maintaining the system from a wider range of suitably authorised and trained providers.

The decision of consultants, Building Mechanical Electrical Ltd (BME) to select Trinity to assist in the design, supply and commission the desired system was based on previous experience of working with the ESD on several similar projects involving listed buildings. "As a result, we were familiar with the highly sensitive nature of such projects and had proved our flexibility in working with the constraints of the project programmes, confirms Mark Bird, director, Trinity."

In particular, phasing the programme was a key part of the project developed by BME and here Trinity was able to demonstrate its ability to work closely with system installers, Drew & Co. and other approved suppliers in successfully delivering each phase of the project on schedule and on budget, at the same time delivering to the National Trust the powerful, cost-effective and flexible solution it required.

Poor access

In designing an appropriate solution, Trinity together with BME were faced with the problem that parts of the building were impossible to access. This was resolved with a highly innovative wireless solution which provided essential temporary cover to those parts of the house that had previously proven difficult to access during the installation of the wired detection system.

"Notifier is able to mix traditional, trusted cable systems with wireless in order to meet access challenges such as this," confirms Mark Bird, sales director, Trinity. "By adopting flexible wireless detection as part of an overall hybrid solution which ensured full protection for each area being worked on, the work could also be carried out quickly and without any disruption to the décor or fabric of the building,"

Similarly, the specification demanded that the fire panel be hidden from view, in order not to detract from the aesthetics of the building.

Trinity recommended a Notifier ID3000 panel, which included a loop with a number of translators for a radio interface. The system was installed one area at a time using portable radio devices and the hard-wired system then fitted wherever possible and the process repeated until installation was complete.

"In our experience, Notifier is the only product on the market with the wireless capability for this type of complex project," confirms Bird. "It offers an innovative and powerful response to the problems posed, with far greater capacity than other panels. In adopting this method, many more devices can be connected to the wireless interface covering much larger areas of the property."

Maintaining continuity

As a National Trust building, Saltram is a historically priceless and irreplaceable part of Britain's heritage, so maintaining fire cover during the installation was another critical requirement of the project.

"Central to the success of the installation was the need to retain the existing fire system throughout the changeover process while the new system was being installed," confirms Bird. "This is often very awkward to achieve, especially when hard-wiring new devices. In addressing this, the combination of the radio equipment and the ability to network the control panels has minimised disruption and any requirement for new cabling."

Product stability was also important as the panels had to be networked together. To meet this requirement, the LPCB-approved Notifier ID²net network is able to provide system response to a call point across the network within the 3 seconds required by BS5839-1:2002.

At the same time, Notifier's commitment to backward compatibility means that, looking ahead, it offers the ability to upgrade continually, without the need to remove or replace large parts of the system.

For Peter Horne, director of BME, "the relationship between consultant and installer is key in designing an appropriate fire safety system for such a sensitive and difficult project and we were happy to work with the Trinity team because of their expertise and flexible partnership approach.

"At the same time, radio fire detection has proved to be crucial in developing the right solution and Notifier's open-systems design has enabled us to incorporate this seamlessly within the broader fire safety solution. Uniquely, the ability of Notifier to add wireless devices and for them to behave exactly as the wired devices makes the system much easier to programme, extend and maintain.

"Thanks to Trinity and Notifier, Saltram and its priceless artefacts benefit from the very latest in fire safety design. And all this is provided completely out of sight of the visitor, with no visual distractions to spoil the beauty if this classic Georgian treasure."