Quill Essential Newsletter - July 2022
The team at Quill Essential has been very busy dealing with lots of new business including health, strata and commercial buildings. Tony Power the technical director at Quill Essential has noted that some of our new customers are actually air conditioning service companies that are FPAS licenced but don’t really understand the requirements or are understaffed.
Pressurisation Systems - still a fail
We are continuing to attend to sites where stairwell pressure systems are completely inadequate for the job, even though they have been continually signed off over the last 20 years. It is amazing how little understanding there has been by HVAC contractors in the past about the performance requirements of AS 1668.1.
Relief air fans are commonly undersized, which can mean expensive upgrade costs. It is appalling to find installations where these critical systems are just inoperative or never maintained.
Fire isolated stairwells that require pressurisation are a critical lifesaving measure second only to sprinkler systems
Highly Trained Team
Our team is highly trained in the performance requirements of pressurising systems and correct testing methods. Our Engineers have successfully designed multiple upgrades and new pressuring systems for reasonable cost.
We have recently avoided major upgrades in two large strata building car park pressurisation systems at Surry Hills and Crows Nest in Sydney. Instead of upgrading major fans at these locations, minor mechanical changes were made, and the systems were passed as compliant. This delivered a big cost saving to the owners.
Our trainee engineer Stephanie gained valuable experience on these jobs.
Highlighting Fire and Safety Issues seen in the field
We have undertaken many inspections and significant building upgrades during the past six months – here are some highlights:
Faulty Smoke Dampers
It is a significant concern to us the number of instances we are encountering where complex zone pressuring systems are incorrectly implemented or have never worked in the first place. The number of motorised smoke dampers that have been signed off and have snapped linkages and faulty actuators or very serious corrosion is startling and very scary.
Recently we were called in to check a large site and found that the existing pressurisation system had not worked for years. There were smoke dampers, but these had never been serviced and were completely seized.
We are big believers in AS 1851 for maintenance of mechanical smoke control systems and believe this should be mandated in NSW. A regular maintenance regime and reporting is key to reliability and safety.
Ductwork Smoke Detection – Never Tested
We have noted more that 30% of duct probes we’ve tested on new sites simply don’t shut down fans. Fresh air fans and pressurisation fans must shut down on detection of smoke and restart when smoke clears.
A large hospitality site we inspected had fifteen inoperative duct probes and this was a site that had been tested and passed each year for 15 years. These probes had never been programmed at FIP! We see the same statistics for stairwell pressurisation systems.
Annual Performance Testing
Our inspectors and engineers are highly mindful of their responsibility to occupant safety and always test systems for both functionality and performance.
All of our sites are inspected by an accredited practitioner who personally witnesses testing and checks firsthand any data provided by testing companies prior to endorsing any essential measures. Unfortunately, we are still hearing reports of practitioners who are not visiting sites but simply signing off the report from the HVAC contractor.
We were recently called to a site to inspect fire dampers, which were good. The HVAC contractor advised that mechanical air handling was good, and no testing was required. Our FSA chose to do a brief inspection of mechanical and found multiple failures including undersized pressurisation fans never capable of reaching performance and duct probe inoperative. Fans are now being upgraded. This building was only three years old.
It will take some time for 100% of buildings both new and old to be made safe but we are all witnessing a good start with FPAS Scheme.
FPAS System is Making a Change for the Good
We have been surprised by comments regarding the FPAS scheme, particularly from new clients where they have been let down by their HVAC contractors who are no longer willing or capable of testing smoke control system.
Our customer survey has shown that building owners and managers are fully onboard with the FPAS scheme. They are of course disappointed that faults are now being revealed that should have been flagged a lot earlier, in some cases over ten years ago.
The FPAA licensing scheme has been very important and is a welcome move towards a much safer built environment.
It is clear that many HVAC specialists have abandoned testing of smoke control systems because of risk and more importantly a proper understanding of testing process and reporting requirements – we understand the processes involved, the reporting and the importance of getting it right.
Fire and Smoke Control Specialists
49 Frenchs Forest Road
Frenchs Forest NSW 2086
Phone: 1300 782 761