Apollo protects new £35m college from fire

Apollo fire detectors have been chosen to protect a new £35 million college campus redevelopment at Cosham, near Portsmouth. The contract to supply and install the fire system for Highbury College was awarded to CHC Systems Limited, based in Ruislip, Middlesex.

The site

Highbury College Portsmouth is one of the most dynamic educational establishments in the South East and has undergone extensive redevelopment across its main sites to provide some of the most modern learning facilities in Europe. The college offers collegiate, corporate and community courses for 14-19-year olds and adults, and attracts some 12,000 students locally, nationally and internationally.

The £35 million development at Cosham provides a vocational training-focused campus. The new building is four storeys high and features a glazed ‘street’ with views into a number of departments. Training facilities include specialist computer rooms, a fully-equipped library and the latest e-enabled classrooms. Other features include an internet café and a full-size sports hall and fitness centre.

In addition to state-of-the-art training facilities, the new building also features the latest ‘green’ technology, including one of the largest heat pump installations of its kind in the UK. This will help to reduce the college’s carbon footprint by more than 25%. The building is also equipped with solar panels on the roof, which will produce 13,600kW of electricity per year.

Other environmental features include high-tech blinds on the windows to reduce solar glare, auto shutdown on all the computers when they are not in use and PIR movement sensors in the classrooms that automatically turn lights on and off.

Fire system requirements

The specification for the fire detection system was equally high. In addition to providing 24-hour protection for the new building, its occupants and its contents, the fire system needed to meet a number of ‘cause and effect’ scenarios.

Denis Foley, Managing Director of CHC Systems, comments:

“Initially, we used the client’s fire strategy to determine the cause and effects required for the new fire system. With a building of this sophistication this does not just involve raising an alarm in the event of fire: we also needed to interface with numerous building management system functions. These included activating air dampers and returning lifts safely to the ground floor in the event of an emergency. There was also a requirement to interface the new fire system with existing fire systems in other buildings on the site.

“The sheer diversity involved led us to recommend Apollo fire detection technology. Apollo products are compatible between different ranges, which allowed us to choose exactly the right detector or device for the local situation, whether a classroom or an open communal area. The wide selection of audible and visual devices in the Apollo range was also invaluable in this regard, enabling us to select sounder bases, beacon bases and open area sounders as the situation demanded.”

System specification

The new fire detection system is based around two Morley ZX control panels, with a ten-loop panel controlling the main building and a two-loop panel in the sports building. In total, CHC Systems installed more than 1,350 Apollo XP95 and Discovery intelligent devices, including around 600 bases, base sounders and sounder beacon bases. Intrinsically safe (IS) Apollo fire detectors have been fitted in the building’s oil delivery area and paint stores.

The ability to mix and match across different intelligent Apollo ranges is due to the use of an open digital protocol which has remained consistent over time. As all Apollo products effectively speak the same language, the fire system will also be future-proofed, making maintenance and system extension or modification at a later date much easier.

Although the cause and effect sequences between the fire system and the building management functions are quite complex, the evacuation procedures are simple. If a manual call point is activated, the system allows a four-minute window in which the reason for the alarm can be investigated. If the system is not reset within that period, then a full alarm will be raised and the building will be evacuated.

If an individual smoke or heat detector registers a change from the normal state, the four-minute investigation delay also applies. If more than one detector raises an alert, the fire system goes into alarm immediately and the building is again evacuated on a ‘one out, all out’ basis.

The fire system also interfaces with the building management system to release controlled doors and send all lifts to the ground floor, deactivating them until the alarm is over. It also shuts down the ventilation system and other plant, as well as turning on the emergency lighting.

Up and running

It was critical for the client that the new Highbury Campus was up and running in time for the start of term on 7th September 2009. Despite some delays in the construction phase, which reduced the amount of time that CHC Systems had to fit the fire system, the project was completed on time.

Denis Foley concludes:

“A modern learning facility like Highbury College represents a whole series of challenges from a fire protection perspective, ranging from wide open spaces like the ‘street’, to high risk confined areas like the paint stores. Apollo’s fire detection technology was equal to every task and it enabled us to supply the customer with a reliable, flexible fire system that will protect the College’s new asset and the people who use it for many years to come.”

Highbury College was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne on 22 October 2009.