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New dawn for Apollo fire detection at Heathrow

A flagship luxury 605 room hotel at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 has been equipped with a sophisticated intelligent fire detection system based on Apollo technology.

New dawn for Apollo fire detection at Heathrow

Sofitel London Heathrow is one of the largest conference hotels in the UK, owned and operated by Arora International Hotels.

The hotel has been conceived as an oasis of luxury for discerning international business and leisure travellers passing through Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow airport.

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 Apollo intelligent fire detection technology and Advanced Electronics control equipment to meet the client’s exacting standards.

Heathrow’s only luxury hotel 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.

Fire detection requirements
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. Leader Systems chose Apollo’s Discovery range of intelligent fire detectors to meet these requirements.

Apollo’s Discovery fire detectors can operate in one of five response modes, any of which can be selected from the control panel. Each mode corresponds to a unique response behaviour, which can be broadly related to sensitivity to fire.

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. Apollo’s open digital protocol enabled us to link safety-critical systems together effectively and its Discovery range of intelligent fire detection devices offered the flexibility of programming and product choice necessary to meet all the environmental and operational requirements of this fascinating project."

The hotel’s fire detection system incorporates 5,500 Apollo Discovery devices and is controlled by a network of 21 Advanced Electronics control panels. The hotel opened in July 2008 – on time and within budget.

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