When it comes to smoke control, it’s self-evident that design-stage prevention is better than failure. Effective Smoke Control Testing and Commissioning is the cornerstone of life safety in construction, equipping M&E Engineers, Contractors, Smoke Control Installation firms and Property Management companies with the insight, evidence and analysis they need to maintain safe and compliant buildings.
Building critical smoke control considerations in to the end-to-end construction lifecycle
Smoke ventilation systems are literally a matter of life and death. This means that from design stage onwards, this critical component of construction is considered. Designers, specifiers and building owners need to consider the impact and effectiveness of smoke ventilation systems as early as possible in the construction process.
However, considering smoke ventilation at design stage may often be challenging, as despite due consideration to airflow on paper, the actual process of smoke shaft or pressurisation construction may compromise initial considerations of the design and require partial – or total – redesign to ensure that the final structure is safe.
Avoiding costly and dangerous oversights
Many project leaders working in construction may be under immense pressure to complete the commissioned structure within the time and budget specified by the client. As a result, there can be a number of final checks running concurrently, which may potentially compromise the safety of the smoke controls in place.
This is why the process of smoke control and commissioning needs to be an element of the construction process which runs alongside each stage of the construction process, to ensure that it is not undermined by compromised timescales prior to completion.
Acknowledging the time-critical nature of smoke control testing and commissioning
For example, smoke shaft systems require pressure testing on builders’ work prior to the shaft being installed, and ventilation equipment being commissioned. As a rule of thumb, maximum acceptable leakage is 3.8m3/h/m2 at 50Pa. This criteria ensures that the rate of extraction can be attained without fan oversizing. If this is conducted at the correct stage of the construction process, it allows significant contingency to amend issues with leakage and implement cost-effective and timely adjustment.
Similarly, pressurisation systems may only be pressure tested post-installation, following core completion. This means that it is only at the commissioning stage that issues may be identified in terms of unacceptable leakage.
Optimising the process through quality controls
However, there are some quality control measures that can alleviate some of the margin for non-compliant testing. Monitoring build quality (such as eliminating gaps in mortar joints, ensuring continuous sealing and fully sealed penetrations) can significantly improve testing outcomes. Equally, enabling comprehensive commissioning at the conclusion of the project will enable contractors to test following adjustments to finishes and implementation of final fixtures, to ensure a compliant and accurate result.
Essentially, effective smoke control testing and commissioning can be achieved through positive project principles applied to each phase of construction – maximising safety, quality and compliance for every building.
If you would like additional guidance or tailored advice on how to streamline the process, we can help. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services.