Smoke Control – get it RIGHT FIRST TIME

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Smoke Control – get it RIGHT FIRST TIME


How it shouldn't be done!


As a rule, a smoke control system will be in excellent working order on the day of its commissioning into a new building

Alas, in the real world, that’s often where the TLC stops. As the UK’s leading provider of whole life service and maintenance to smoke control systems, we have the pleasure of working on some incredible buildings with excellent life safety systems.

Unfortunately, we also run into quite a lot of issues that have arisen at some point since the system was originally installed years ago. This, generally speaking, often boils down to building owners or facilities managers appointing the wrong people to the job of maintaining the smoke control system.

It’s not that there’s anyone truly to blame – these systems are certainly ‘niche’ when it comes to installing or understanding their operation, and while we’re working hard to inform the community of how such systems save lives, they’re yet to be as well understood by the public at large as something like a fire alarm or sprinkler system.

However, that doesn’t really forgive some of the truly terrible botch jobs we’ve seen in our time. Situations where – rather than seeking help – an engineer as just ‘had a go’ at maintaining smoke control kit and, as a result, made matters worse. It’s not something you can even chuckle or shrug at either; these systems exist solely to minimise the harm caused by a fire, so their proper continued operation can literally be a matter of life and death.

“Get it right first time – that’s our simple advice,” comments Brakel Airvent director Charles Hurdman. “You can’t mess around with smoke control and unfortunately that’s what some engineers do: they mess around. We’ve seen systems that have seemingly slight problems which can in fact have drastic knock-on effects, and we’ve seen other systems with obvious faults that are hard to believe without seeing them.

“If you’re searching for a service partner to manage your smoke control maintenance, you need to be sure they’re properly qualified and that they’re going to get it right first time.”

Below are a few examples of times when Brakel Airvent’s national network of service engineers has been called upon to swoop in and save the day. To our mind, they all represent one key principal – if you’re going to get your smoke control system serviced, get it RIGHT FIRST TIME by appointing an expert. Preferably one accredited to ISO standards, with FIRAS and SCA membership and a real understanding of how the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to buildings and the legal position of their owners/FMs.

High School, Glasgow

This Scottish high school suffered from non-operational head of stair roof vents, meaning if a fire were to break out smoke would be allowed to spread freely through the building – Brakel Airvent surveyed the site and discovered that the roof vents had been installed in such a way as to catch the strong local winds when open, causing severe damage and destroying the efficacy of the system.

Residential Building, Wimbledon

A failing smoke control system at this block of flats meant Brakel Airvent was appointed to get things up and running. We made the shocking discovery pictured here that shows a terrifyingly botched attempt at smoke control panel maintenance. We immediately took steps to render the panel safe before updating the system and ensuring proper ongoing maintenance.

College Campus, Kent

This brand new student accommodation building was just outside of its warranty period (1 year) before Brakel Airvent was called upon as service partner. What we found was shocking – roof vents twisted and buckled due to inappropriate selection of vent (dome rather than louvre) and incorrect positioning into the direction of the wind. When opened during testing, the vents were damaged in the wind, rendering the brand new smoke control system inoperable.

Care Home, London

A non-FIRAS-approved supplier was clearly not working to the relevant legislation or British Standards at this retirement/sheltered care home in London. We received reports of inoperable AOV (automatic opening vent) windows at the site and non-responsive controls. Upon surveying we discovered that several of the Velux vents’ proper actuators had been replaced with inappropriate chain actuators – effectively rendering the vents useless – and the control panels missing power entirely.

Please remember – we offer a free survey and asset review. For a face to face meeting with the people who know, please call 02920 776160

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