Sofitel London Heathrow has been equipped with a sophisticated intelligent fire detection system based on Advanced MxPro, multiprotocol fire panels.

The hotel's fire detection system is controlled by a network of 21 Advanced Electronics control panels and incorporates 5,500 Apollo Discovery devices.

Leader Systems, based in Rugby, was appointed by the main mechanical and electrical contractor Crown House Engineering to design, supply, install and maintain a comprehensive fire detection system. Leader had no hesitation in specifying Advanced’s MxPro panels and Apollo detection to meet the client's exacting standards.

Sofitel London Heathrow comprises three below-ground levels housing car parking and extensive conference facilities, including a lecture theatre with widescreen cinema and 45 meeting rooms. The hotel boasts five atria with various public areas such as a tea salon and a Zen garden; the main reception; and the "Avenue Sofitel", the central boulevard of the hotel where retail outlets can be found.

Above the ground floor are six four-storey blocks comprising 605 bedrooms and suites. Among the many unique features of the hotel is a link bridge that enables guests to walk directly from hotel to airport terminal in under five minutes.

At any one time, the hotel could be host to several thousand guests, with its conference and meeting facilities alone capable of accommodating more than 3,000 delegates at any one time. In addition to residents and non-residents, the hotel employs several hundred staff. A comprehensive automatic fire detection system that would provide reliable and accurate information in the event of an incident was therefore essential to ensure the safety of guests and employees alike.

Leader Systems became involved on the project early in the process. As well as taking responsibility for the automatic fire detection, the company supplied related services such as the smoke control system, emergency refuges, nurse call facility and PA systems.

In addition to the main point fire detection, a fire assessment identified the need for an aspirating system in the two metre void above the lecture theatre, which houses the sound and audio equipment. The lecture theatre's high ceiling means that maintenance could be an issue, while the five atria presented another challenge as they are wide open spaces. Beam detection, in places on different levels, was specified for these areas.

Phased evacuation sequences were also closely evaluated at an early stage, in conjunction with local fire officers and the district surveyor. Requirements included stopping the hotel's 20 lifts safely, shutting off escalators, isolating the link bridge to the airport and activating air conditioning, smoke dampers and door closers as appropriate.

Due to the complexity of the fire system requirements, Mike Simmons, Leader Systems contracts manager, was permanently based at the hotel development site for 14 months to ensure success. He says:

"The cause and effect sequences for the fire detection system and related safety and evacuation equipment were extremely complex. For example, to achieve the interface between the fire system and the sprinkler system involved the installation of sixty separate flow switches. We then had to develop a bespoke mimic panel to enable the emergency services to interpret the sequences correctly so that resources could be deployed effectively in the event of an emergency."

The layout of the hotel and the variety of activities it contains - such as eating, cooking and sleeping - meant that a range of environmental conditions needed to be taken into account to ensure that nuisance alarm incidents were minimised.

Says Mike Simmons: "When you are faced with the type of complexity we encountered at Sofitel London Heathrow, being able to use fire detection technology that is proven to be reliable and accurate in the field is very reassuring."

Sofitel London Heathrow

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