Integration: Building automation and fire alarms


How to know whether to integrate

Figure 2: In this integrated building management system display, various aspects of the facility can be reviewed in one screen. Courtesy: SiemensThere are advantages and disadvantages to consider when determining whether to integrate a BAS and a fire alarm system. The most common consideration is when the building has a complex smoke control system. An integrated system is also seen in facilities involved in process control that may be affected by a fire alarm event. For the purpose of this article, when used primarily in controlling the spread of smoke, integration of the various systems that normally have independent connections helps to facilitate improved communication, redundancy, and cost savings. Additionally, the building engineer will have the ability to determine from a single source what is causing the mechanical equipment to operate, shut down, open, or close.

Take a case of a building with separate building automation and fire alarm systems: When the building engineer receives a call from an occupant complaining about increased temperature or whistling air within the ductwork and finds that the fan is shut down or a damper is closed, the building engineer is more apt to call a controls contractor to investigate the problem before he calls their fire alarm service provider. Should the problem be related to an override of controls by the fire alarm systems, not only does the building engineer have to wait for the controls contractor to diagnose the problem, he also has to call the fire alarm contractor to come out and fix the problem. This process can take time to correct; meanwhile, building occupants are uncomfortable and inconvenienced. 

Sometimes this can even lead to finger-pointing between the two service providers as to whose problem it really is. In this scenario, the fire alarm control of a fan or a damper is required to be ahead of the hand-off-auto switch for the power to the equipment so the inadvertent shutdown of the equipment does not inhibit the operation of the fire alarm feature. A failure of the fire alarm system control relay could shut down the fan or close the damper without an alarm being present on the fire alarm system or fault condition occurring on the fire alarm control unit. 

With an integrated building automation and fire alarm system, this scenario plays out in a different manner. The BAS, when listed accordingly to UL Standard 864 UUKL listing, to provide code required smoke control functions, can rely on a digital alarm signal from the fire alarm system, passed through a gateway, as the only means outside the BAS to influence control over the building mechanical systems. The responsibility for fan and damper control is solely with the BAS and thus simplifies the troubleshooting process. 

Because many components that affect air and smoke movement within a building are shared between HVAC and fire alarm systems, let's take a step backward in the evolution of the building process. When building systems are being commissioned for proper operation by either an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) or an independent third-party group, coordination must occur between multiple trades. At this point in the construction process, each trade is independently looking to complete its own scope of work and more often than not is under pressure to finish the specific scope in a designated timeframe. Sometimes this leaves a disconnect between the fire alarm and mechanical trades that results in disruption during start-up and commissioning. 

The integrated system approach allows for those individuals responsible for controlling air movement to be focused on proofing and balancing the mechanical system, while the fire alarm contractors focus on the detection and annunciation of the alarm events. Much in the same manner as referenced in the previous example, the problems can get resolved more expeditiously and the systems can be brought on-line. 

If we focus on the installation of a building management system (BMS) and a fire alarm system, we see many similarities. Each of these control systems is classified as low-voltage systems that communicate to their respected devices through an analog or digital signal. Their wiring methods and materials are similar, and often their respective equipment is located in the same general area and is performing the same basic functions with one significant difference: the fire alarm system uses individual point addressable monitor and control modules while the BAS uses digital input/output driver assemblies that communicate with different protocols. 

Why is this important? Because the BAS still requires individual pairs of conductors to each point being controlled or monitored by the digital input/output module, resulting in more wire being needed and longer installation time.

Anonymous , 09/13/13 09:35 AM:

Putting a conventional addressable fire alarm system online in a highrise is an extremely involved procedure. There is no way adding several more levels of system control into the FACP will make system programming and acceptance testing go faster. The hackers out there can already get into your BAS. This way you give them access to your life safety systems also.
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2015 Top Plant: Phoenix Contact, Middletown, Pa.; 2015 Best Practices: Automation, Electrical Safety, Electrical Systems, Pneumatics, Material Handling, Mechanical Systems
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Migrating industrial networks; Tracking HMI advances; Making the right automation changes
Understanding transfer switch operation; Coordinating protective devices; Analyzing NEC 2014 changes; Cooling data centers
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.