1,200-Device System Provides Life Safety for Conn. High-Rise

By Ashley Willis

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — When construction began on one of the largest residential developments here, Firetech Engineered Systems stepped in to design the fire/life-safety system. The locally-based company installed roughly 840 System Sensor speakers and speaker strobes, 370 intelligent smoke detectors and 15 duct smoke detectors.

Developed by Fairfield, Conn.-based Becker & Becker, the 32-story building comprises 500 apartments and is the second-tallest building in the city. Located near Yale University, the 700,000-square-foot structure has been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council in the Pilot Neighborhood Development Program for city planning and green design.

Founded in 1989, family-owned Firetech designs and engineers fire/life-safety systems for commercial, government and military clients throughout the Connecticut area. Advanced networking skills were a chief reason why the company landed the apartment project, company vice president of engineering Adam Querker tells SSI.

“We did a lot of business with the particular electrical contractor who worked on this project,” he says. “The company really liked our work, so they approached us.”

Firetech worked hand-in-hand with the electrical and building contractors, guiding the teams throughout the installation process. Coordination with the local authorities was also necessary to ensure the life safety solution was being installed per their requests, Querker says.

In addition to installing speaker strobes and smoke detectors, Firetech placed a fire panel with corresponding notification devices on each level of the building.

In a complex, multi-use building, any changes to the architectural design is a significant factor. Thus, despite having an idea of where devices should be placed, Querker realized the installed devices would have to be easily removed for possible troubleshooting.

“In the past, we’ve used other devices that have given us a headache,” says Querker. “That was the great thing about the System Sensor detectors. It allowed us to go from one position, tweak our design calculations and keep on track. It made the installation a lot easier.”

While a majority of the installation proceeded fairly easy, the building contractor had to ask for help from the integrator to troubleshoot circuits on the fifth floor parking garage. Because Firetech worked so closely with the engineering team, the problem was solved without a hitch.

In past projects, Querker says, building engineers often supply the basic design of the structure and then they are never to be seen again. Thus, the integrator often has to perform the engineering part of the job. This can be a setback because requests for information (RFI) are not answered, he says. However, during this project, the contractor followed it all the way through, which helped the process progress efficiently.

“This project is actually one of the smoothest jobs we’ve ever had,” says Querker. “Due to the nature of the project, it was very well managed. The general contractor that we dealt with on the low-voltage side was really knowledgeable.”

Since the project was completed in August 2010, there have been a few weather-related problems with the technology. The heavy snow Connecticut is currently experiencing has damaged the devices placed outside. As a result, Firetech has gone back to the site to address any problems to keep the devices operating effectively.

Querker adds that 70 percent of Firetech’s business is based on recurring service, which includes fire alarm inspection, testing, systems maintenance and monthly monitoring.

“Typically sales contracts don’t net much of an income on an initial project,” he explains. “When you’re providing a system on a project is when you need to get involved. Our maintenance agreements are settled before the job is even done. It is in the customers’ best interest to stay with you because you know the system and building. They’ll know you’ll respond.”

Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.


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