A second chance for first-class fire protection

Maitland Green I, an office building in Orlando, Fla ., boasts a strong occupancy of 100%, with a stable tenancy that includes a number of high-profile, industry-leading companies. When it came time to replace the building’s original fire-protection system, second-best would not do.

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 6, 2007

Maitland Green I, in Orlando, Fla., is a 110,959-sq.-ft office office building completed in 1986. The property boasts a strong occupancy of 100%, with a stable tenancy that includes a number of high-profile, industry-leading companies. When it came time to replace the building’s original fire-protection system, second-best would not do.
Of course, while choosing a new system would ultimately be in the hands of Maitland Green management, the decision to actually replace the system was made for them. It was mandated by the fire marshall following a site inspection during which he concluded that the 14-year-old, conventional-type fire system—which had no way to discern the exact location of a fire event—had outserved its usefulness and required immediate updating to a more functional alternative.
The project itself would not be overly complex, as it simply involved switching out the existing fire panel for a newer one; all ancillary devices would ultimately remain the same. Still, unless it was done soon—and done correctly—Maitland Green’s fire-protection capabilities would fall far short of the functionality one would expect in such premier office space.
“I wanted a non-proprietary system—that was a critical consideration,” said Karen Padgett, property manager at the time. “Having a non-proprietary system meant that we wouldn’t be restricted in terms of who we decided to use for service, monitoring, or upgrades.”
Following a careful evaluation of the submitted bids, Padgett chose Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc., a fire protection company headquartered in Orlando, Fla., to upgrade Maitland Green’s alarm system to current standards.
The importance of providing just the right panel could not be overstated; Padgett put a premium not only on the non-proprietary aspect but on a system that was cost-efficient and could be installed relatively quickly in order to minimize tenant disruption as well as system downtime.
Wayne recommended an addressable fire alarm control panel (FACP) designed for small and mid-size institutions as well as commercial sites. The model not only met all of Padgett’s criteria, it was an ideal option for a retrofit installation.
“Certainly, the non-proprietary profile of the system was attractive to our client,” said Danny Harrod, Wayne’s alarm operations manager for Wayne Automatic and a 23-year veteran of the fire-protection industry. “We’re finding in this area that a lot of building managers and property owners have had disastrous experiences with alarm companies putting in proprietary equipment, then essentially holding the customer hostage when it comes to service, inspections, and monitoring.
“Silent Knight addressable panels also work well in retrofit situations because they can make use of standard, existing wiring; no shielded or twisted pair wiring is required,” he said. “Since wiring represents a substantial portion of the cost of an alarm system, the elimination of new wiring offered the customer significant savings.
“Florida is the lightning capital of the world, and it wreaks havoc with other fire panels,” Harrod said. “The… equipment is far more resistant to transient power surges and electrical interference, which helps reduce the rate of nuisance alarms.”
Besides the non-proprietary properties of the FACP, as well as its ability to use existing wiring, the model contains a warning detector to alert users when dirt and dust particles are forming, thus reducing the incidence of nuisance alarms. It features a built-in dual-line fire communicator that allows for reporting of all system activity to a remote monitoring location. The control panel has one built-in signalling line circuit (SLC) which supports 127 devices; three additional loops can be added using SLC expanders to increase overall capacity to 508 devices.
The panel, located on the building’s first floor near one of the rear entrances, was installed in October 2006 in a little more than two weeks. The new panel was mounted directly beside the older panel, with each existing zone connected incrementally to the new panel with an interfacing addressable module. By performing the installation in this fashion, the building was not left at any time without fire protection.
“Because of its ability to use the existing wiring, the Silent Knight panels are the only ones that can be installed without a lapse in coverage,” said Shannon. “Needless to say, that’s a huge selling point.”
The only thing left was to ensure that all existing auxiliary devices were functioning properly through the new panel, including all the smoke detectors, one located right above the panel and the rest outside the elevator lobbies to control elevator recall (because Maitland Green was a fully sprinklered building, smoke detection was not required in the tenant spaces or common areas). Pull stations (located at all exits on every floor), duct detectors, relays, strobes, and the existing Silent Knight power supplies were synchronized as well. Because the vast majority of the work was performed exclusively in common areas, tenant disruption was virtually non-existent.
For more about Model 5820XL from Silent Knight, click here .