Integrated Systems Testing, Planning Ahead

Author: Dana Honsberger, P. Eng. LRI Engineering

It’s 3:30 pm on a Friday afternoon and you have just learned that the fire alarm system and the elevators are not providing the correct sequence of operation when the smoke detector on the 21st-floor elevator lobby is activated.

The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is going to be at the site on Monday morning to test the building fire protection and life safety systems. You’re concerned there might be other systems that might not be working together as designed. Does this sound familiar?

The building code for your project states that the commissioning for all of these integrated systems must be performed as a whole to ensure the proper operation and interrelationship between systems, but no one seems to have documentation that this commissioning has been done.

You ask yourself whether you should have all of the fire protection and life safety systems teams work throughout the weekend testing all interconnections between systems, or whether you fix the problem on the 21st floor and hope for the best come Monday when the AHJ arrives?

Thankfully, CAN/ULC-S1001 has been developed to assist in the planning, testing and reporting of these integrated systems so you are never left in this type of situation again.

Since the publication of the 2015 National Building and Fire Codes of Canada, the CAN/ULC-S1001-11, Standard for Integrated Systems Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, has been referenced. The standard prescribes the methodology for verifying and documenting that all interconnects between systems provided for fire protection and life safety functions are installed and operate in conformance with their design criteria. Some of these systems include fire alarms, fire pumps, automatic sprinklers, elevator recall and alternate recall sequences, automated and/or manual smoke controls, etc.

For provinces that do not use the National Building and Fire codes, their codes may have similar references to the commissioning of life safety and fire protection systems. Where it is not already provided in provincial codes, specific reference to the CAN/ ULC-S1001 standard is anticipated in upcoming amendments and publications of these codes.

The CAN/ULC-S1001 Standard was developed to satisfy the requirement for the commissioning of life safety and fire protection systems referenced in the 2010 National Building Code of Canada (NBC) and the National Fire Code of Canada (NFC) which stated “Where life safety and fire protection systems are installed to comply with the provisions of this Code or the NBC/NFC, the commissioning of these integrated systems must be performed as a whole to ensure the proper operation and interrelationship between systems.”

In the past, individual fire protection and life safety systems were installed and tested in accordance with their design criteria and referenced standards. However, these systems were commonly verified in isolation. CAN/ULC-S1001 validates the correct integration between systems.

The following summarizes steps to take into consideration when planning for integrated systems testing, whether in new construction or an existing building.

New Construction

During construction, planning for integrated systems testing is vital. An integrated testing coordinator will need to be designated to work with the design professional(s) to obtain documentation detailing each interconnection between the fire protection and life safety systems.

The integrated testing coordinator has to be knowledgeable and experienced in the design, installation, and operation of fire protection and life safety systems. The information obtained from the design professional(s), installing contractor(s) and verifying party(s) includes, but is not limited to, fire protection and life safety systems sequence of operations during normal and emergency conditions, written confirmation of acceptance testing, confirmation that the systems have been installed in accordance with the design and are ready for the integrated systems testing, and confirmation of measures for ensuring occupant safety throughout the testing.

Historically, in the absence of integrated testing requirements, typical construction schedules did not provide time for integrated systems testing and reporting. Now, the integrated testing coordinator needs to be involved in the early stages of project construction to assist with planning the schedule to complete integrated systems testing and reporting near the end of construction and prior to occupancy.

Even though each system is expected to be individually tested by their respective design professionals, installing contractors, and verifying parties before the integrated systems testing, it should not be assumed the systems are functioning in accordance with the design. Where it is determined that a sequence of operation does not function as designed, or equipment requires adjustment/modifications, sufficient time is needed to make corrections to the systems and to allow for additional time to retest and complete the final report.

Where a building is occupied in phases, an integrated systems testing plan is to be developed for the entire building, also considering that integrated systems tests will be required for each occupancy. When integrated systems testing has been completed in occupied phases, the system integrations are not required to be retested provided ongoing construction does not impact previously tested system integrations.

The integrated systems testing requires the coordination of multiple participants to be present. This can include, but is not limited to, the integrated testing coordinator, design professionals, installing contractors, and verifying parties. Where required, the integrated testing coordinator is to provide sufficient notice to the AHJ of the testing plan to allow them to witness the integrated systems testing.

Existing Buildings

Retro-Integrated Systems Testing for existing buildings provides requirements for the testing of existing fire protection and life safety systems which did not undergo integrated system testing during the initial installation. While new construction allows access to design professionals, installing contractors, and verifying parties, existing building owners and operators are frequently faced with the challenge of uncovering historical documentation to provide valuable information.

Another problem is determining how fire protection and life safety systems are integrated and intended to perform. Often, the original design and operation parameters of systems are no longer available, and current operators are unable to confirm the current sequence. Modifications to systems over time can also make it difficult to determine the changes that might have occurred to the sequence of operations and testing parameters. Testing in existing buildings also requires a procedure for notifying occupants about the tests and how it could impact them.

Tests in the evenings typically work in commercial and office buildings, but in residential buildings daytime hours are usually less invasive. Mixeduse buildings pose the biggest timing challenge. Also, the participants required to attend the testing need a detailed plan to keep things on track.

When integrated systems have not been tested recently, equipment that might have functioned correctly during the previous test might be inoperative at the time of testing. Part of the planning phase needs to include time for equipment repairs and to allow additional time to reschedule the completion of testing.

Final Report

CAN/ULC-S1001 requires that the integrated systems testing plan and the testing results be documented into an integrated system testing report. The report must include, but is not limited to, the integrated systems testing plan, initial and re-tested integrated systems testing forms, and system documentation collected from the design professionals, installing contractors and verifying parties during the implementation phase.

The report is intended to be used, maintained and updated over the life cycle of the fire protection and life safety systems. The integrated systems testing plan will be used both as the benchmark for ongoing testing and as a reference of system interconnections.

Periodic Integrated systems testing

Where mandated by the local governing Building and Fire Codes, or other legislation or contract requirements, integrated systems testing shall be performed one year after the completion of the initial testing. Subsequent tests are to be conducted at intervals not exceeding five years.

Moving Forward

The CAN/ULC-S1001 standard provides the guideline on how to plan, conduct and document integrated systems tests.

Now is the time to consider the implications that integrated systems testing will have on the completion of a project, identify the integrated testing coordinator and start the planning process. For complex buildings, the development of the plan, preparing the testing documents, providing the documents to the various parties for both the pretesting and final testing requirements, together with preparation of the final report and acceptance by the authorities will take time, but it will save time in the future.

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