How was an innovative overpressure solution that protects buildings against fire developed?
The study was conducted in four main stages:
1) Prepare study principles (scientific consultations).
2) Built a test site in the Treimorfa building in Krakow.
3) Conduct on-site tests on a real scale.
4) Conduct a result analysis and draw up a final report, including a qualifying rating.
STAGE 1 – Prepare project scenarios, principles and computer simulations
At the very first stage, we worked out theoretical research principles based on an analysis of physical phenomena responsible for the formation of pressure and airflow. We conducted a large number of computer simulations that would then be verified during actual testing. We also made a technical concept required in order to select a suitable testing facility. Its staircase had to be at least 55 m high.
We settled on a high-rise building located by Lubomirskiego street in Krakow, owned by Treimorfa Project. The building is 90 m high and has 23 floors. It was unfinished and turned out to be the perfect place for the tests. We invited academic researchers from the Warsaw University of Technology and the Tadeusz Kościuszko University of Technology to participate in the project. The project was partly financed by the European Union.
STAGE 2 – On-site preparation works
At the second stage, we built our test site. The works involved e.g. installing air delivery system components (a network of ducts with fire dampers, air dumpers, supply fans and electrical installations), encasing a staircase and installing automatic control components. We installed measuring sensors, as well as data collection and archiving systems. The site was built in accordance with the PN-EN 12101-6 standard.
Next, we conducted start-up tests in order to check the proper functioning of all system components and control quality. Upon completing tests, we performed additional steps and calibrated the site, i.e. adjusted individual system components to the desired performances, checked the staircase for leaks and reviewed the remote control and data archiving system.
Before conducting the tests Ph.D. Eng. Grzegorz Kubicki from the Warsaw University of Technology performed a review entitled Technical Assessment of the Test Site in Terms of Research Program Principles (pol. Ocena merytoryczna wykonanego stanowiska badawczego pod kątem spełnienia założeń programu badawczego). When we finished the detailed preparation works, we could finally move to the actual tests.
An excellent team of subject-matter experts and aficionados working at the time at SMAY was involved in the project. The team led by project initiator and manager Jarosław Wiche (technical director) included Robert Zapała, Grzegorz Sypek, Marek Prymon, Krzysztof Piorun and many other people working for SMAY.
STAGE 3 – Tests performed in real-life conditions – smoke tests
The tests were performed in five cycles. Every cycle was followed by a data review.
The first cycle involved testing air supply systems based on predefined scenarios with different air supply configurations (i.e. constant and concentrated air supply). The tests involved different fire scenarios (closed-off staircase and different open-door variants).
The second cycle involved tests with the use of heaters and additional supply fans. The tests were performed in order to check the system under non-isothermal supply conditions and the effect of supplying air at a high temperature gradient on the flow within the staircase capacity. Conducting tests in such cycles provided results under different weather conditions (different temperatures and atmospheric pressures).
The third cycle involved tests of air flowing through the staircase with open doors at highest and lowest floors. This test cycle’s aim was to confirm the observed changes in pressure distribution at a staircase level as a result of pumping large streams of air through the space. As a result of these tests, we equipped the site with additional extraction fans.
In the fourth cycle, the test site was upgraded with additional fans providing direct air supply and extraction through the staircase core. In this cycle, we used extraction fans with a fixed performance located at the lowest and highest floors. We tested a method that protected the core of the staircase by means of a supply and exhaust installation. The tests results allowed us to work out new flow system principles that would fully meet the requirements in terms of pressure difference control. The system is based on reversible fans and new control system components. It also has an upgraded control panel.
The last cycle (within the flow system) involved testing thermal flow control and checking system reaction times to different evacuation scenarios (open- and closed-door scenarios).
The results attested to the high effectiveness of the pressure control system within staircase’s core, regardless of external conditions. The tests showed that the system reaction times are in accordance with the PN-EN 12101-6-3 standard.
They were also reviewed by a subject-matter expert for viability and effectiveness. A review entitled Implementation and Effectiveness Assessment of Vertical Evacuation Route System (pol. Ocena możliwości wdrożenia i prognoza skuteczności działania systemu zabezpieczenia pionowych dróg ewakuacyjnych) was drafted by prof. Marian Hopkowicz, PhD, Eng. from the Tadeusz Kościuszko University of Technology.
STAGE 4 – Perform result analysis and create a final report, including a qualifying rating
At the very last stage, we created a numerical model that described physical phenomena observed in the staircase core. Based on that model, we were able to verify the obtained test results. We then created a final report that included a qualifying rating of the test result implementation.
The end of research project marks the beginning of educational efforts
The year-long study led to the creation of an innovative and smart system – Safety Way – that protects vertical and horizontal escape routes against smoke in case of a fire. Its main part consists of a set of devices referred to as iSWAY-FC®.
During the tests, we used cutting-edge measuring techniques that met the requirements of various European standards. The study allowed us to confirm system effectiveness and create a scheme for regulating the system based on current weather conditions.
MORE ON THE SYSTEM
The unique solution created by SMAY uses calculation algorithms and special fan parameters that allow the system to automatically adapt to different conditions subject to physical phenomena, i.e. the stack effect, convection, expansion, wind pressure and suction, air resistance within staircases and the impact of comfort ventilation and people activities (opening and closing doors, windows, etc.).
Following the study, SMAY launched a number of initiatives aimed at presenting the results and recommendations on the safest vertical evacuation route protection systems to the public. One of them was a meeting of the Technical Group of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN/TC191/SC1/WG6/TG1) held in the SMAY main office in Krakow. The Committee was then working on a new version of the EN 12101-6 standard. During the meeting that took place in June 2010 we presented both the system and test results obtained in the Treimorfa building.
Upon familiarizing themselves with the study and its results, the Committee members unanimously stated that the previous multi-point systems were unable to meet the functional requirements of the standards in all conditions and could only be deemed reliable in favourable environment conditions.
We also ran a series of free-of-charge training sessions as part of the Fire Ventilation Academy around Poland. They were available for everyone interested in fire safety. The sessions generated a lot of interest with several hundred participants within the first few months, and thousands of people watching educational films and reading materials distributed at various conferences and published in trade press. In 2012, we also set up the Fire Ventilation Lab at the Warsaw University of Technology. Its creation was a joint effort by SMAY, Plum Sp. z o.o. and Warsaw University of Technology’s Faculty of Environmental Engineering. The laboratory’s main goal is to educate students who major in technical fields.
In 2012, the laboratory of the I.F.I. Institute of Industrial Aerodynamics in Aachen conducted a series of additional studies on the aerodynamic properties and effectiveness of the iSway® set following the study procedure defined in the EN 12101-6 standard. The study showed that the device accurately controls the nominal value of differential pressure while also automatically adjusts to changes in the test procedure. The research reaffirmed iSway® set’s full adaptability within the tested airflow range.
The Safety Way solutions are registered in the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland and the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich (a European invention patent). The patent was granted for the following: “A means of pressure regulation in vertical escape routes” (certificate number: 218095) and “Overpressure vertical escape route protection system against smoke” (certificate number: 218694). It is the world’s first smart flow (overpressure) system.
It was first used in Poland in the state-of-the-art Vinci Office Center located at Opolska Street in Krakow.
In 2010, Safety Way was implemented as an escape route protection system in the tallest building in Poland – Sky Tower in Wroclaw. The iSway® sets are currently used in the most prestigious sites around Poland. These are Złota 44, Warsaw Spire, Mennica Legacy Tower, TAURON Arena and many others.
Safety Way: an innovative differential pressure system – escape routes free from smoke and fire – highest degree of protection.
The Safety Way differential pressure system is a solution designed for multi-storey buildings:
• iSWAY-FC® differential pressure product for smoke and heat control systems;
• Innovative predictive algorithm;
• Anti-Frost system that endures even the most extreme weather conditions;
• 24-hour automatic test of all the components;
• Automatic adaptation to changing service conditions;
• Communication between individual components of the set and continuous tracking of all components (regulators, remote pressure sensors, etc.);
• Continuous measurement of the set value of static differential pressure between the protected and reference zones by the P-MAC(F) sensor.
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