One of the UK’s newest indoor sporting facilities, built with 2012 firmly in mind, has installed fully automatic self testing emergency lighting. Alan Daniels, Business Development Director at P4 Limited considers the importance of self testing to this building and in a more general context.
The showpiece Lee Valley Athletics Centre (LVAC) in North-East London was officially opened on Tuesday 16 January 2007 by Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP, then Culture Minister.
The indoor centre comprises the only indoor 200 metre track in the region, 60 metre and 130 metre sprint straights, permanent seating for 500 spectators and full indoor jumps and throws facilities. There is also a 400m floodlit outdoor track.
LVAC is the premier elite athletics training centre in the South East of England and is owned and operated by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA). It is a key facility for British athletes aiming to compete in the 2012 Olympics. Three of the four British track and field medallists at Beijing – Olympic gold medal winner Christine Ohuruogu, Phillips Idowu, who gained a Silver, and Bronze medal winner Natasha Danvers – are based there.
It also hosts many community athletics events, runs athletics development programmes for newcomers to the sport and is the home of Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club.The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority organises many events to enable youngsters to try both track and field events and activities to discover new sporting talent. .
Success has also been achieved in the architectural and building services arenas. The David Morley Architects’ designed building recently gained the highest Display Energy Certificate rating (A) demonstrating a very low annual CO2 emission and energy consumption. In January 2008, only a year after opening, LVAC was awarded the leisure industry’s highly sought-after Quest accreditation for quality.
In addition to the top environmental certification, LVAC has also come out as one of the top performing leisure facilities for customer service in a recent inspection by independent leisure industry auditors Right Directions. It was also a finalist in the London Planning Awards (best building category).
The facility has now been equipped with a state of the art self testing emergency lighting system to provide the most accurate and convenient remote monitoring procedure through its Local Area Network.
Shaun Dawson, LVRPA Chief Executive, commenting on the progressive nature of the building’s services observes: “These developments are testament to the excellent work which goes on every day across the 26 mile long, 10,000 acre Regional Park. The performance of our buildings is as important to the environment as our biodiversity and conservation work. ”
The main athletics hall is well lit during the day using north light ridges at each truss position and clerestories at each end of the hall to provide very uniform lighting of the space. The sprint track has a roof light running its entire length and also uses borrowed light from the main hall. Most of the ancillary spaces have high performance solar control glazing at high level, which ensures optimal daylight levels without high solar gains.
The daylight strategy allows the artificial lighting to be dimmed or switched off when daylight levels are sufficient.
Wherever possible light fittings with high-efficiency lamps, such as compact fluorescent or discharge lamps, have been used. The normal lighting in the main athletics hall for everyday operations uses fluorescent lights.
Lighting is automatically controlled by sensing ambient light level and presence detectors to switch lighting off when not required, and to dim it down or turn it off when supplemented by natural light. Lighting in the main athletics hall is zoned to allow switching off of zones when not in use.
LVAC chose the FASTELink M-Web monitoring system from P4 Limited as the most proven, reliable, cost effective and flexible self test computer addressable solution for a large indoor and outdoor athletics centre. It suited its overall objective of quality and reliability.
The low maintenance regime was an important consideration. LVAC do not have resident maintenance staff and have to rely on the services of an M&E contractor. P4’s FASTELink M-Web, which can monitor up to 15,625 emergency lighting units to any local area network, requires minimal maintenance and provides exceptional reliability.
Originally installed with a dedicated PC monitoring the system, M-Web was offered to Lee Valley RAC after M&E contractor Haden Young had completed their works and left site. The Centre could see the advantage of being able to access the FASTELink emergency lighting system via their installed LAN, and hence from any PC installed on the LAN.
It has given the centre the ability to utilise the printers in their main offices to print off reports of the emergency lighting system status and for faults to be communicated by e-mail to duty personnel when they occur. The system monitors 250 emergency lighting fittings through 3 collector boxes.
The benefits of fully automatic self testing
The specification by LVAC of a fully automatic emergency lighting system has to be seen in the context of legally binding specification, convenience and reliability. If the “fit and forget” principle is applied to emergency lighting, sooner or later either a lamp or battery will fail and it will no longer provide the required light output in an emergency. Without regular testing the management and occupants of the building in which it is installed may never be aware of the problem and believe that they will have emergency light to help them escape if an emergency situation should occur.
Under the latest addition to the key BS 5266 emergency lighting code of practice series – BS5266: Part 10 which came into force in October 2008 – some of this confusion is dispelled. Under Section 7 Testing, maintenance and record keeping, the onus is laid squarely on the shoulders of the “responsible” person:
As part of the fire risk assessment the responsible person should ensure that any safety-related equipment and devices are subjected to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in efficient working order.
An emergency lighting system is a safety related product and consequently the responsible person should ensure the emergency escape route lighting systems within a building are performing correctly and undergo periodic inspection, maintenance and testing.
Unlike many occupants, landlords or tenants of public and commercial premises, LVAC recognised the importance of installing a proven reliable emergency lighting system in order to satisfy their legal obligations. When the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order that came into force in October 2006, it put emergency lighting on the radar screen of occupants of premises, as well as contractors, surveyors and consulting engineers as a crucial part of fire risk assessment.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order makes clear that regular testing and maintenance of emergency lighting is as much a mandatory requirement as having emergency lighting installed. Evidence that regular testing and maintenance is being undertaken must be available to inspections by any authority. It is a key issue when demonstrating compliance through a risk assessment for premises.
Given then that the vast majority of owners and occupants of public and commercial buildings are responsible enough to accept the basic principle of testing, how can one be sure that it is carried out properly, regularly, supported by accurate records and importantly for those owners and occupiers such as LVAC cost effectively?
A regime of monthly and annual testing of every luminaire in the emergency lighting system is required, with accurate records kept of each inspection and test. Maintained luminaires and exit signs must be checked daily, all self contained emergency lighting must be functionally tested typically for 5 -10 minutes at least every month, and tested for full rated duration of typically 3 hours at least every year.
There is a variety of testing regimes available, but in broad terms they comprise either manual or automatic testing. To carry out the tests manually often requires several reliable and experienced technicians or trained staff. In larger buildings, such as LVAC, this becomes a “Painting the Forth Bridge” task. This labour intensive method can be expensive, difficult to manage and very disruptive to the normal functioning of the building. There is also the element of human error, irrespective of how systematic the process might be.
Automatic testing provides a reliable method of regularly checking that the battery is connected and receiving charge, that the lamp will strike correctly when required and that the battery capacity is sufficient to run the lamp for the rated duration period.
As well as providing confidence that emergency lighting is adequately tested to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order , automatic testing of emergency lighting can also easily be proved to be more cost effective than manual testing. The investment in the equipment is greater, but it is offset by the reduction of installation of testing devices and the labour to carry out the manual testing.
The simplest form of automatic testing emergency lighting is the “stand-alone”system, not connected to any other device. Here the results of automatic tests are typically indicated through a single bi-colour LED on luminaires but such systems still require technicians to manually record test results by regularly checking the status of the LED indicators.
To avoid manual recording of test results, automatic testing emergency lighting systems interconnect to a central controller where the results are collected. The interconnection may be through data cabling, a local area network, as is the case at LVAC, or could be by radio link.
The P4 M-WEB based system allow the programming of tests from the M-WEB controller accessed via a PC, on which visual representation of the installation is displayed including representation of connected luminaires in test and any exhibiting faults.
Such systems may be invaluable to maintenance engineers who are provided with information about which specific luminaires are faulty and also about the nature of the faults, so that they can respond effectively armed with any replacement components required. Layout plans of premises can be brought up to pin point graphically where luminaires are located.
Although manufacturers provide a variety of automatic testing systems, the savings that can be demonstrated through the installation of even the most complex systems often show a payback period of between 2-4 years. Beyond the payback period very substantial savings for facilities managers can be shown, even taking account of the routine replacement of lamps and batteries.
The case for using automatic testing has been strengthened, as mentioned earlier in the article, by the recent BS5266-Part 10:2008. It promotes the use of automatic testing systems to BS EN 62034, which specifies the basic performance and safety requirements for individual products and components that are incorporated into automatic testing systems for use with emergency lighting systems.
Regular servicing and testing is to be carried out in accordance with BS EN 50172/BS 5266-8. This should be conducted at a safe time and without putting people in the premises at risk if a mains failure occurs following a test.
It can be difficult to ensure that manual testing will be performed consistently, efficiently and the correct records maintained. Therefore consideration should be given to installing an automatic emergency lighting testing system conforming to BS EN 62034.
In a note to Section 7 of BS5266-Part 10:2008, the value of automatic testing is stated as follows:
An automated test process can help ensure that test systems for emergency escape lighting are scheduled and carried out in a timely fashion, without disrupting any other electrical services. These automatic test systems provide information to assist the responsible person in managing risk on their premises and provide timely notification of failures or degradation of performance of emergency lighting.
The manager of LVAC, Mick Bond, places a very high value on the convenience and reliability. He explains: “The Centre has one of the busiest programmes of any sports facility in the UK, and is used the year round. The safety of athletes, their coaches, staff and spectators is therefore of paramount importance, and our team looked very carefully at emergency lighting systems from an early stage of the development.
“We were seeking a system with a unique addressable location, which would identify a faulty fitting immediately without having to sift through all the drawings and send technicians all over the Centre to locate it”.
“P4’s reputation and their ability to install emergency conversions into luminaires from many manufacturers under the accreditation of ICEL 1004 gives us a ‘one stop’ for all of the emergency lighting. P4’s unique 6-year battery warranty was another deciding factor.”
He observes: “FASTELink has simplified faultfinding, and, because the test procedures, such as the weekly function tests and the deep discharge battery test, are fully automatic, we can run the maintenance operation very efficiently. Furthermore, with FASTELink M-Web software, we receive an individual report on the performance of each fitting, and when it last did a self-test and a current status report.”
Client: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Consulting Engineer: Max Fordham & Partners
M&E Contractor: Haden Young
Quantity Surveyor: E C Harris
Main Contractor: Shepherd Construction