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University College Hospital, London had a 12-storey building requiring a new smoke control system to bring it up to date with safety regulations. Some of the lower floors had motorised smoke dampers and control systems installed but there were problems. The old control system was not reliable. Faults with control communications resulted in dampers loudly slamming shut for no reason causing a nuisance to hospital occupants. A newer system from the same manufacturer on the third floor also had issues and the hospital had lost confidence that either system would operate correctly in a fire.

The existing motorised smoke dampers were serviceable but the manufacturer claimed that they could not be reused with their updated control system. Hence a completely new set of motorised dampers and control system was necessary, a very expensive exercise. Unconvinced, the hospital sought specialist advice from Blue River Controls to propose a more flexible, cost effective solution.

Blue River Controls proposed a solution with new control system panels in each floor’s stairwell lobby and new communications cabling to the existing motorised dampers retrofitted with new control modules. The solution also had to conform to the hospital’s fire alarm (BS5839) standards and safety regulations.

The hospital trust adopted a phased approach and initially trialled Blue River Systems in a new area of the hospital to prove system reliability and build confidence. Blue River partnered with the hospital and trained their engineers to install and commission each damper control unit to reduce costs. Blue River engineers were only required to download the software to each panel’s Programmable Logic Controller and commission them with a rigorous test sequence.

On the fascia of each control panel there is a display where tri-colour indicators show the status of individual dampers allowing hospital engineers to monitor the system at a glance. The panels are also provided with fireman’s override switches and a keyboard display for maintenance.

The initial trial was followed by the very successful upgrade of the lower floors and Blue River were given the go ahead to install systems in the rest of the hospital.

A professional handover with hospital engineers enabled them to fully maintain the system without further assistance. Additionally, use of a Mitsubishi Programmable Logic Controller in each control panel ensures flexibility and software maintainability should change be required in the future.