Increased Levels of Collaboration Now Possible Between Intelligent Buildings and Fire and Life Safety Systems

By Carlos Petty and Val Loh  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Advances in Communications Infrastructure Support a Range of Building-Based SystemsPt. 2: This Page

Fire-life safety, fire protection and smoke control represent a unique situation in an intelligent building. Fire alarm systems use an independent communications network and are not incorporated into the structure of an intelligent-building cable plant. Addressable remote data-gathering panels and amplifier panels are distributed throughout an intelligent building using an independent communications network that eliminates single points of failure, which existed with earlier fire alarm system designs. A distributed fire alarm system architecture reduces cable riser size and quantity, while providing a more flexible system. Although local life safety codes prohibit fire alarm systems from using the intelligent building network, the code does allow for a UL864 interface that provides exact point data to an external system such as a building automation system.

New fire alarm systems are capable of incorporating both one-way and two-way voice communications with multichannel capability. Intelligent building fire alarm systems also can in-corporate remote fire command stations and multiple remote annunciators to aid the local code authorities in response, control, evacuation and system survivability in the event of a disaster. New fire alarm systems incorporate graphic annunciation, which can provide exact point address annunciation on a graphic display, with site, building, floor, room/area and exact device designations using imported CAD drawings.

A text messaging pager interface is available for the exact point address of all fire alarm signals in an intelligent building, which can be displayed on personal pagers. This feature further assists the code authorities in responding quickly and provides maintenance personnel with real-time conditions.

Emergency voice/alarm communications systems of fire alarm systems can reproduce synthesized or live voice messages. Intelligent building design allows new fire alarm systems to be integrated with the building management system so that the fire alarm system can take control of the HVAC system for fan shut-down, smoke exhaust, purge and pressurization for smoke evacuation, and alarm reporting.

Savings and Comfort

Intelligent buildings take advantage of today's newest technologies, improving the performance of the building while lowering energy use and thereby reducing both costs and the emission of harmful pollutants, including carbon dioxide. Because of these systems, today's intelligent buildings achieve impressive energy conservation without sacrificing comfort.

The acceptance of intelligent building technologies has grown significantly in the last 30 years, bringing benefits to building owners and tenants by providing facilitywide optimization through integrated solutions, such as sharing a common communication backbone. Taking advantage of opportunities to integrate and consolidate different building system functions into fewer independent systems will help to reduce any building's overall carbon footprint.

Carlos Petty ( is vice president and Val Loh is associate partner in the New York City office of Syska Hennessy Group. Syska Hennessy Group is a member of CABA's Intelligent & Integrated Buildings Council.


Unsung Hero of Intelligent Buildings

Behind the development of intelligent buildings has been a story of steady progress in a not-very-glamorous area: cabling.

Thirty years ago, the building automation industry had just started to migrate away from pneumatic-based systems. These early automation systems were based on packaged 16-bit mini-computer systems. But those systems used proprietary dedicated communications cabling. No universal cabling standard existed for building automation systems.

Concurrently, as installers of voice and data demanded greater uniformity in cabling and cable termination connectors, standards were established by the American National Standards Institute, the Electronics Industries Association (EIA) and the Telecommunication Industries Association (TIA).

Those standards for cabling proved crucial for the development of intelligent buildings. By 1985, building automation system manufacturers were turning from mini-computers to the personal computer, or PC. The PC used cabling that was largely based on the emerging standards established by the EIA/TIA as well as others like the International Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Organization. In many ways, these intersecting events created the basis for today's intelligent buildings.

An intelligent building requires a universal approach to cabling. The overarching goal: a universal or structured cable plant that would serve control, voice and data applications in an independent manner. The rapid growth of technology required more processing speed and power to meet new control and data applications, including multimedia and video capture. The further maturity of the telecommunications industry simultaneously created communication networks that supported Internet Protocols (IP).

— Carlos Petty and Val Loh

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  posted on 1/7/2010   Article Use Policy

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