This article was written by Allan Meek for the Smoke Control Association and published on page 17 of  the July 2023 edition of the CIBSE Journal.

A British Standard for smoke control projects aims to eliminate confusion about the way smoke control systems are installed and maintained. SCA member Allan Meek explains:

Over the past few years, there have been several, reasonably high-profile examples of failures of smoke control systems in occupied buildings. In addition, details published in the Cross Safety Report suggest that 60-80% of buildings have failed cause-and-effect testing. These failures have been attributed to flaws, such as vents opening in the wrong direction, design-critical vents not opening at all, or systems not ‘locking out’, allowing the operation of vent doors beyond the fire floor.

Many of these issues can be put down to unfamiliarity on the part of specifiers and the authority having jurisdiction, who may not deal with complex smoke control systems on a regular basis and, consequently, have no system in place to monitor effective implementation. The prevalence of fire-engineered solutions being employed instead of Approved Document B-compliant provision exacerbates the issue, as there is no handbook to refer to for a definitive answer.

There is, however, a relatively simple way to avoid common problems and guarantee a positive outcome – by managing design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance in a systematic way, as detailed in BS 7346-8:2013 Components for smoke control systems. This standard provides a route-map for the successful delivery of a smoke control solution, from design through to handover and maintenance, and can be applied to all system types. It covers: identifying system requirements; planning and design; installation; commissioning and verifcation of correct operation; and maintenance and servicing.

The code defines key processes to be managed and identifies roles and responsibilities for these, with clear guidance on performance requirements and the documentation to be provided. Evidence of compliance is required throughout the lifetime of a project and there are useful templates for areas such as handover and performance testing. Employing this standard at the outset of projects would eliminate a high number of the faults that we have seen recently.

The standard highlights certification and verification by authorised bodies, and provides the platform for the Smoke Control Association (SCA) to introduce its IFC SDI 19 third-party certification scheme, to which SCA members must sign up. This means every SCA member installing smoke control systems is suitably skilled and experienced in fire strategy verification, system design, installation, and commissioning, with highly trained staff that adhere to best practice.

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