Apollo is centre-stage at Broadway Plaza

Complex fire detection requirements at Broadway Plaza, Birmingham, UK, have been resolved using an Apollo-based intelligent fire detection system. Leader Systems took up the fire detection challenge at the £80 million retail, leisure and residential development. The project included the installation of approximately 1,000 Apollo XP95 devices across three main fire detection systems and the development of some bespoke interface units to enable the integration of tenant fire detection systems.

Broadway highlights

Broadway Plaza, Birmingham, covers a five acre site in the town centre formerly occupied by the city’s Children’s Hospital. The complex is arranged over six levels, three of which are used for underground car parking. The remaining three levels contain around 30 retail/leisure units, 150 luxury apartments located in four different areas around the complex and a 12-screen AMC cinema. Tenants include an Esporta Health and Fitness Club, a 20-lane Bowlplex and a number of restaurants such as Frankie and Benny’s, Subway and Outback Steakhouse.

Diverse tenant activities in turn mean that the fire detection requirements vary enormously, as Tony Weaver of Leader Systems explained. “It was apparent from the outset that Broadway Plaza would need a multi-stage evacuation strategy,” he said. “We worked closely with the landlord, client end-user, consultant, local Fire Officer, principal building contractor and mechanical and electrical contractor EIC Ltd to formulate an appropriate fire strategy for the development.” Leader Systems and EIC Ltd took specific responsibility for the technical issues involved.

The end-user and consultant placed a high degree of importance on the Landlord system being reliable, easy to use, easy to maintain and flexible. Leader Systems recommended the use of an open protocol system based on Apollo’s proven XP95 technology to meet these requirements. Another key consideration was the provision of accurate information about system activations to an attending fire crew prior to them entering the complex. Points of entry were agreed with the Fire Officer and fully functional repeater panels with weatherproof enclosures were fitted at each designated entrance.

Zoning of the car parking levels within the fire alarm system was a critical issue. The sprinkler system and the air handling systems were also divided into zones, so it was important to set some common boundaries within which all three systems would function harmoniously, providing the end-user with something close to a common zoning plan that was easy to interpret.

Fire system specification

Broadway Plaza was equipped with three distinct fire detection systems: one system to protect the cinema, a second system to govern the residential areas and the master Plaza Landlord fire detection system. The cinema has a six-loop system with a special LED mimic assembly and a multi-zone voice alarm facility. It incorporates over 350 Apollo XP95 devices, including sixteen smoke detectors fitted to duct probes. The fire detection system for the residential areas comprises four Advanced Electronics MX4202 analogue addressable control panels with pulse input monitoring and over 200 XP95 devices.

The main Plaza Landlord system is centred around a six-loop Multifax analogue addressable control panel that governs approximately 150 Apollo XP95 intelligent fire detectors and fifty manual call points. The Landlord system also includes over 150 interface units that enable it to communicate with a number of third party services, such as heating and ventilating equipment, building management systems, sprinklers and various zone-based air handling control systems.

Special relationships

Designed in accordance with BS5839, the Landlord fire detection system was required to send and receive Alter (stage1) and Evacuate (stage 2) signals from each tenant and from adjoining units. It was imperative that the client should be able to take full control of any evacuation, wherever it may occur in the complex. The evacuation process was therefore split into six timed phases with the client being able to stop progression from one phase to the next at any time.

It was decided that any tenant or unit receiving an Alert signal from the Landlord should pulse their bells or sounders, or broadcast the relevant voice alarm message. This posed a potential problem because no-one could predict at the specification stage who would occupy each unit or what type of fire alarm system they would install.

Where a tenant indicated that they would use an analogue addressable fire alarm system with voice alarm, Leader Systems was able to simply use Apollo XP95 Input/Output units to relay the signals. However, the fire system specification had to allow for the fact that some, if not all, of the smaller retail units were likely to go down the conventional fire alarm route and some of the larger units would be likely to use analogue addressable systems with loop-powered or conventional sounders.

Leader Systems was able to meet these complex requirements thanks to the specification of an open protocol fire detection system. The open protocol enabled Leader Systems to work with the panel manufacturer, Advanced Electronics, to find appropriate technical solutions.

Apollo’s digital protocol has been available for over 20 years, since the company introduced its first range of intelligent fire detectors. The protocol has been extended – once for the XP95 range and once for Discovery – but never modified. This not only ensures forwards and backwards compatibility between products, it also encourages the development of synergistic products by other manufacturers. At Broadway Plaza, the open protocol enabled Leader Systems to work with the panel manufacturer Advanced Electronics to develop products that would resolve the technical demands of the fire detection system.

With full access to the Apollo protocol, Leader Systems was able to develop an appropriate solution to the need for a continuous and/or pulsing output that could be accepted by a conventional fire control panel as a Class Change input or similar. For the analogue addressable systems using loop-powered or conventional sounders, Leader Systems turned to Advanced Electronics. The company was already working on ideas for their MX range of panels and accepted the challenge raised by Broadway Plaza.

The application required an input that was capable of accepting a pulsing or continuous signal and interpreting it as such to activate any sounders in the same pattern. Within weeks, Advanced Electronics had engineered a solution that could be added to any MX panel with the appropriate software to provide the required results.

The Apollo-based open protocol system at Broadway Plaza has fulfilled all the requirements demanded of it. Proven in the marketplace for over 20 years, Apollo’s open digital protocol is extremely reliable. A large number of compatible products continue to be developed, which gives end-users and specifiers flexibility of choice. Forwards and backwards compatibility across all products using Apollo protocol means that upgrading or extending the system is simple. Using an open protocol fire detection system also ensured that a collaborative and rapid response was possible in the development of bespoke solutions to the technical complexities of the Broadway Plaza site.