Fanning the flames

Is it a fight to clear the air between ventilation and fire suppression system manufacturers?

The subject of how well commercial kitchen fire suppression systems are integrated with the ventilation canopies they are usually sited within has been under much scrutiny lately. Therefore, Catering Insight asked both types of manufacturer to detail how well they are working together, as well as engaging with dealers on the issue.

On the fire suppression systems side of things, Nobel Fire Systems reports that its K-Systems integrate with all ventilation hoods and ventilated ceilings.

MD Ian Bartle revealed: “The whole K-Series design concept is with integration and seamless functionality at its core.

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“We work with all design houses and contractors and are able to provide a system to suit any canopy design. But we do have many manufacturers that request our systems due to the flexibility and aesthetic integration into the higher end market requirements.

“In those instances, our preference is to work closely at the concept of a kitchen design with the responsible company to ensure they get the best of designs with complete functionality and integration.”

He added: “Our pipework and nozzle arrangements are unimposing and can be almost completely hidden from view. There are no unsightly pipe drops over cooking appliances so that the kitchen design is not compromised or spoiled by obtrusive and unsightly pipework installations. Being a highly competitive package financially, the choice tends not to impact in terms of price and efficiency.”

Bartle believes that there are no real design challenges for Nobel to deliver an aesthetic and functional installation, as integration was taken into account from the start of the K-Series’ product development. “Being completely electrical it is simple to install things like manual release points in safe locations away from the fire risk and all critical functions are condition monitored so any compromised system will communicate directly with the owner to enable immediate and safe actions to be taken,” he underlined.

Nobel Fire Systems has its fire suppression system installed within Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

In terms of dealer awareness, he reported: “It used to be that kitchen fire suppression systems were a begrudged installation and a tick box on the options list. However with the increase emphasis on health and safety and business continuity, end users are now being made aware of their health and safety responsibilities.

“This, coupled with a stronger insurance market demanding that assets are protected, has raised the tick box choice to a more considered business safety requirement.”

On the other side of the equation, ventilation equipment manufacturer Halton says it often finds fire suppression systems installed on site by other contractors reflect the ‘commercial pressures’ put on them. “This results from winning business by being the cheapest,” believes UK MD Steve Mason.

“Stainless steel canopies, especially front of house for theatre/show cooking areas, are required nowadays to look aesthetically pleasing, and an abundance of surface-mounted pipework does nothing to enhance this appearance.”

He detailed: “As a ventilation system manufacturer, we can incorporate any system into the canopies or ventilated ceilings. We know that the key fire suppression system manufacturers work closely with most of the foodservice consultants, kitchen design houses, larger dealers and even the end clients’ insurance companies to ensure that their systems are specified from the outset.”

Mason underlined that Halton has found over the years that it is vital for it to work closely with the provider/installer of the fire suppression system in order to ensure the satisfactory coordination of both disciplines.

However, he feels that while on the whole, kitchen design houses and dealers nowadays are well aware of the principles and what is required: “Unfortunately, in the current climate it is often a struggle to find the right balance between buying a fire suppression system solely on price and one that does not detract from the final appearance and functionality of the canopy and cooking range it is covering.”

As part of this year’s new edition of the BESA Specification DW/172:2018 for Commercial Kitchen Ventilation, the fire suppression section encourages overlapping appliance nozzle design. Mason feels this point is important, as: “Historically, fire suppression systems have been designed such that the appliance nozzles are equipment-specific. This means that the nozzles are sized and positioned specifically to suit the layout of the cooking equipment at the time.

“The problem is that when you later return to site, three nozzles are protecting an empty worktop and there are no nozzles over the gas chargrill. All because, probably for the right reasons, the newly-employed chef decided to move the equipment around.”

He advised: “The solution here is to design the system to have overlapping nozzles which means that, with few exceptions, the new chef can move equipment around and the system will still maintain effective fire coverage. The drawback is that an overlapping nozzle system is more expensive than an appliance-specific system, so it needs to be specified from the outset otherwise it won’t happen.”

Competitor HVAC Kitchen Ventilation too highlighted the importance of adhering to the latest DW172. General manager Ian Levin analysed: “The section on fire suppression has been revised not only to tighten up on the quality of installation but also to highlight that clients have an obligation under law to assess fire risk and then act accordingly. This should result in many more fire suppression systems being installed than there are currently.

“On its own, DW172 cannot solve the problem, but it does demand better communication and understanding between the parties to comply, and this can probably only happen efficiently if the fire suppression contractor works for the kitchen ventilation manufacturer.”

He believes that fire suppression systems should be integrated with kitchen ventilation products through a process of both parties conferring over design for every project, but he cautioned: “Unfortunately this is not a free service and as such there is a small premium to be paid in order to achieve this. It cannot be achieved if the fire suppression contractor does not talk with the ventilation manufacturer and this won’t happen if there is no financial incentive.

“In most cases these days, the kitchen ventilation manufacturer does not know if fire suppression is going to be installed within their canopy at some later date and very often finds out when returning to a site after completion for commissioning or maintenance.”

Levin feels that over the last 5 to 10 years, the fire suppression industry has moved away from working directly for kitchen ventilation manufacturers by targeting kitchen ventilation clients directly and with the same pricing strategy.

He analysed: “This means that kitchen vent clients can buy a suppression system directly from the suppression contractor for less than a kitchen vent specialist can offer it. Subsequently, a disconnect between the suppression contractors and kitchen vent manufacturers has developed and the kitchen vent contractors no longer have the ability or resource to work hand-in-hand with the suppression contractors to facilitate hidden pipework runs, pre-installed pipework, agree suitable fixings/fittings, avoid clashes with access points and so on.”

Levin says that: “In many cases, the fire suppression contractors do not fully understand the functional/structural design and complexity of some of the latest canopy, ceiling and filtration designs, such that we kitchen vent manufacturers regularly experience distribution pipework and detection systems installed across access panels, UV frames and grease separators in such a way as to prevent access or removal for future maintenance.”

While he detailed that as a general rule, the top few manufacturers of high-end kitchen ventilation canopies and ventilated ceilings work long and hard on designing their products to have smooth, snag-free and easily cleaned surfaces: “There is a strong input to finding an overall pleasing aesthetic to the finished canopy or ventilated ceiling,” he commented.

“In too many cases, the fire suppression contractor attends site after the completed canopy installation (usually working for another party in the contractual chain and with no communication with the ventilation manufacturer) and continues to bolt surface-mounted pipework all over the canopy/vent ceiling surfaces which then destroys the efforts of the canopy manufacturer to provide the best catering solution.

“This sort of occurrence is becoming more frequent due to lack of understanding, communication and coordination between fire suppression contractors and kitchen ventilation manufacturers.”

Corsair states that its Vortex ventilation canopies can complement any fire suppression system.

However, over at Corsair, it emphasises that its Vortex engineers will work with any fire suppression manufacturer throughout each stage of the process, including quotation, design and installation.

According to project engineer Dave Wilde: “In particular, the product and service provided by Flame Fast is always very good – we always endeavour to utilise their impressive offering.”

Regarding distributor relationships, he emphasised: “With a wide spectrum of connections within the industry, we find that many of the UK dealers that we work with are aware of fire suppression requirements, and in these ever competing times, these dealers employ fire suppression manufacturers directly.”

Designed and manufactured by the Vortex team at Corsair, Vortex canopies are said to be built to suitably complement any fire suppression system.

Wilde detailed: “Our Vortex engineers ensure that our ventilation hoods boast easy access within the extract filter housing, and also produce removable light units to ensure that there is plenty of access for the fire suppression engineers during installation.”

On design challenges relating to integrating fire suppression systems within canopies, he concluded: “Form always follows function, however, where possible, Vortex prefers to fix the fire suppression in our factory first, with the nozzles through the canopy ceiling being fitted on site. This delivers a fully compliant, yet aesthetically pleasing final product, as opposed to fitting the main pipework below the canopy ceiling on site.

“Space can also be an issue within a kitchen, but Vortex can offer enclosures and cabinets for the fire suppression tanks and actuators. These can be integrated into our service spine risers or supplies as stainless steel enclosure with removable doors, bolted to the end of our canopies.”

Integration guidelines

Dealer association CEDA recently revealed its latest catering equipment industry technical document, ‘Interface between fire-fighting systems and other systems in commercial kitchens’, jointly published by the Fire Industry Association (FIA).

According to Peter Kay, CEDA technical support advisor: “Since Grenfell there has obviously been a greater awareness of fire risks and the need to enforce the requirement for businesses to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment. It is almost inevitable that a part of that risk assessment in a kitchen will focus on the potential risk from fryers, and the solution to reduce/eliminate this is to install a fire suppression system.

“We surveyed members last year to establish whether they proactively offered fire suppression systems or simply quoted for them when asked. A majority of members said that they recommended them and pointed out to the client that their landlord or insurer would probably insist on one being fitted.”

CEDA members use various different specialist companies as subcontractors.

Kay added: “We recognised that there was a significant problem in many installations due to the fact that whilst the fire suppression system had connections provided to link with other systems such as gas interlocks and fire alarm systems, these were not being used as no one was willing to take responsibility for making the final connections.

“This was for a number of reasons but mainly as the supplier of the fire alarm or gas interlock system did not want to work in another contractor’s control box. To try to overcome this problem, CEDA approached the Fire Industry Association with a proposal to produce a standard document which laid out the responsibilities of the various parties. This was published earlier this year.

“We also recognise that many members know very little about the different types of fire suppression system so we have included a presentation about this as part of the programme for our technical conference in October.”

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