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Sprinkler systems vs smoke control: the EN 12101-5 approach

The ways smoke ventilation systems and fire suppression systems (such as sprinklers) interact with each other are numerous. The complexity of this interaction is such that no piece of research we’re aware of has conclusively described their behaviour. Hence we will continue to recommend the adoption of a fire-engineered approach that determines what’s appropriate on a site-by-site, situation-by-situation basis.

What are the standards?
EN 12101-5 has a section specifically regarding the interaction between sprinklers and SHEVS (smoke and heat ventilation systems):

“In practice, many fires are controlled by sprinklers, but are extinguished by the fire brigade and sprinklers acting together. SHEVS can be of tremendous benefit to the fire services.”

We’ve highlighted this particular passage as it seems to get to the route of the issue – the fact is that fire sprinklers and smoke control systems ostensibly fulfil very different roles during a fire.

Working in harmony
To clarify EN 12101-5’s points regarding the difference between the two systems: “a SHEVS is often used to protect the means of escape, regardless of the expected time of arrival of the fire services.” 

When it comes to combining systems, it appears a belt-and-braces approach with redundancies is the best way forward. To quote the standard one last time: “The sprinkler spray on nearby natural ventilators can reduce the efficiency of those ventilators. Since it is usually unlikely in a successful design that more than one natural ventilator will be affected, it is possible to adopt the guideline of discounting one ventilator. It is necessary to always fit at least one more ventilator than is recommended by design calculations that ignore local SHEV/sprinkler interactions.”

It seems a combined approach is possible, viable and may offer the best long-term solution, so we’re calling for better co-ordination between industries and trades, and a greater focus on specialist maintenance provision to each system to ensure they’re fit for purpose.

For more information visit www.airvent.co.uk, email customer.services@airvent.co.uk or call 02920 776160.

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About Sarah OBeirne

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