Fire safety at the Wilton Centre: when flexibility is more than just a ‘nice to have’

17th August 2011

For many installations, the word flexibility often appears on the shopping list of attributes for a new fire safety system. Yet scratch below the surface and the reality is that often this is little more than a tick-box request, indicating that something more than a standard off the shelf solution is required.

Wilton CentreHowever, when the Wilton Centre, a 75 acre business park based in Teesside, needed to replace their existing 15-year old system in their main building back in 2003, the need for a truly flexible fire safety solution sat firmly at the top of their list.

The resulting installation of a Morley-IAS fire system, installed by national implementation partner, Swift Fire & Security, phased over several years, to ensure a seamless transition and meeting the tight budgetary parameters set, has successfully met all the key criteria demanded by the Wilton Centre.

"The tough requirements imposed by the Wilton Centre presented its own unique set of challenges," confirms Keith Minster, Sales Manager UK and Ireland of Morley-IAS by Honeywell. "The ability of a replacement fire safety system to complement existing equipment in ensuring business as usual both during and after implementation remains a key objective for many organisations in selecting an appropriate system."

"Similarly, there is an increased focus on refurbishment and upgrades as capital expenditure on new building programmes is cut back in both the public and private sectors. As a result, the flexibility and inter-operability of Morley-IAS solutions enabling building operators to maximise their existing fire safety investment and do more with less is proving especially attractive."

Ongoing change of use

Formerly a central Research & Development Centre for Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), the site was sold in 2000 and now provides specialist rental accommodation, principally to process-centric businesses and their suppliers. This includes substantial office space and more than 90 laboratories, as well as pilot plant and technical development facilities. Shared central services also include reception, conference rooms, restaurant and post room.

"There are few facilities in the UK that can match our ability to support businesses in this way," believes Wilton Centre, Engineering Manager, Richard Short. "In providing ready-equipped laboratories including, where required, piped nitrogen, compressed air, electricity, demineralised water or specialist draining systems. Companies can be up and running effectively from day one of occupancy."

The Wilton Centre continues to work with companies of all sizes, from small start-ups requiring a single office or laboratory to a central research base for a global organisation employing nearly 100 staff.

The decision to implement a Morley-IAS ZX-based system was made as it was recognised as ideally-suited to provide the inherent agility required by the Wilton Centre. Short recalls, "We were impressed that both Morley-IAS and Swift Fire & Security, took the time to understand precisely the unusual demands of the site ... As a result, the proposed system, incorporating a central panel, supported by eight slave panels and more than 2,000 detectors was designed to provide the inter-operability and flexible configuration we needed."

Of equal importance, the Wilton Centre was keen to undertake a step-by-step-implementation programme over a five-year period, in order to both spread the cost and minimise disruption to the management of the site or its tenants. Short notes, "The selected Morley-IAS system enabled us to undertake this extended transition seamlessly and cost-effectively".

In stage one, Swift Fire & Security replaced the main panel, maintaining continuous protection across the site via a series of temporary interfaces. Over the next four years, each of the remaining legacy panels were replaced with a series of ZX panels and loops, with the temporary interfaces remaining in place until commissioning was complete in each case.

Addressability was another key factor in choosing the Morley-IAS solution. Keith Minster explains, "Previously, a mimic panel was only able to identify in which building and on which floor an alarm had been triggered ... Now it is possible to pinpoint precisely the office or laboratory under alarm and deal with the problem quickly and effectively, to the benefit of both the Wilton Centre and its tenants."

New tenants, new needs

Eight years on, the initial promise has been fulfilled. Installation is now complete, with the Morley-IAS solution providing trouble-free installation and ongoing performance. The ease of configuration has also enabled each tenant's requirements to be met quickly and simply, reinforcing the Wilton Centre's reputation as an adaptable and responsive landlord.

In one case, where a new tenant utilised processes involving significant levels of smoke and vapour, Swift Fire & Security installed heat rise detectors in order to minimise the incidence of false alarms. Similarly where another tenant required a large area comprising individual offices to be converted into a large open plan facility, the Morley system was quickly and effectively re-configured by Swift Fire & Security to accommodate this new requirement.

Richard Short, summarises the effectiveness and true flexibility of the solution provided, "Whenever the terms of a new tenancy have involved significant change of use, Morley-IAS and Swift Fire & Security have been able to adapt the fire protection system to meet the new requirements and within the deadlines set for the new occupancy" .

For the Wilton Centre therefore, as with Morley-IAS and Swift Fire & Security, flexibility is the watchword, not a buzzword.