Fire Safety for a Downtown Kansas City Development

By Thomas J. Corso, Vice President of Operations, MC Lioness Realty Group, LLC, Kansas City, Mo. December 21, 2004

Conceived some five years ago, Cathedral Square is a handsome development on the west side of Kansas City, Mo.’s downtown. It brings together a premier office/commercial facility and a five-level, 1,400-car underground garage topped with a public plaza complete with extensive landscaping and five fountains—a place where people can work, conduct their personal business, shop and eat, keeping employees happy and employers loyal to the area.

Cathedral Square Block 105 houses the headquarters of Kansas City Southern (KCS), a transportation company that encompasses one of the last important independent railways in the nation. KCS wanted its new headquarters to be modern, but to reflect its distinguished 19th century railway heritage.

Cathedral Square’s fire protection was a negotiated design/build project with Siemens Building Technologies, Fire Safety Division, Florham Park, N.J.

The alarm scenario
In the nearly two years that Cathedral Square has been occupied, no false alarm has occurred. There have been a few unwanted alarms, usually set off by dust from contractors finishing up on final details. These conditions are usually harmless, but the alarms are perfectly valid: the detector is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Any alarm immediately dials an alarm monitoring company, which automatically notifies the fire department and the owner’s central dispatcher. The fire department responds to any alarm. Firefighters go into the lobby, where members of the building engineering staff are on hand to meet them and escort them to the fire panel. By the time the fire department arrives, the building crew, on duty 24/7, generally has a good feel for the situation. After a checkout, usually all that’s needed is the fire department’s permission to reset the system.

On the network
A network command center monitored around the clock connects Cathedral Square with nine other buildings managed by the same owner. In case of an alarm, the owner’s central dispatcher is notified automatically. In case of a trouble signal, the command center panel automatically shows the building and its location, the device, the address of the device and the nature of the problem.

If the problem requires a service call, Siemens is notified and service department personnel are dispatched to take care of it right away. Siemens supplied the equipment for all ten buildings, including the monitoring equipment. The Cathedral Square service contract was part of the original design/build negotiation. A separate service contract was negotiated for each of the other buildings.

Everyone on the staff of any building on the network is trained with a general knowledge of all ten buildings in case of need or emergency. Each building manager monitors vendors doing construction and calls Siemens if the fire safety system is impacted in any way.

Life safety and property protection for Cathedral Square and the other buildings on the network is provided by proprietary MXLV and MXL-IQ multiplexed, distributed-intelligence detection systems. The Cathedral Square MXLV includes voice-evacuation arrangements.

The systems are teamed with addressable pull stations, and intelligent fire detectors employ advanced software algorithms and a neural network to sense both smoke and heat. To reduce the chance of false alarms, detectors can be individually adjusted for optimum response in a variety of environments that may occur with different occupancies.

As the building was nearing completion, KCS requested FM-200 suppression arrangements for the computer room. To prevent accidental discharge of the gas canisters, the system employs a cross-zone arrangement triggered by two different types of smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionization.

Instead of putting in a new panel for the suppression system, Siemens modified the existing panel to include suppression. The FM 200 in the computer room works in conjunction with the MXLVs and releases from the MXLV panel, and the system is included under the overall service contract.

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