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23 April 2013
With a history dating back over 1,350 years Peterborough Cathedral is one of the UK’s top landmarks and one of the finest Norman buildings in Europe today. The cathedral is an amalgam of archaeological, architectural, cultural, musical and artistic treasures that visitors from all over the world come to discover and enjoy.
Within its rich and varied history fire has, unfortunately, been a recurring theme, dating back to 1116 when an accidental blaze destroyed large parts of the building and its contents. It was rebuilt in its present form between 1118 and 1238 and became the Cathedral of the new Diocese of Peterborough in 1541. More recently, in 2001 it experienced another fire – believed to have been started deliberately – in plastic chairs stored in the North Choir Aisle. It was spotted by one of the vergers, which led to a swift response by emergency services, however, the oily smoke given off was particularly damaging, coating much of the building with a sticky black layer.
Not surprisingly, due to a combination of precious artefacts and the high numbers of worshippers and other visitors that use the building on a daily basis, a fire detection system is a key part of its infrastructure. It means that in the event of another fire people and property will be kept as safe as possible thanks to an early warning.
In late 2011 Peterborough Cathedral recognised that its fire detection system was coming towards the end of its life and an increasing number of highly disruptive unwanted alarms made the installation of a new one an urgent requirement. Having had its services recommended by one of the other companies working at the Cathedral, Walsall based fire and security solutions specialist, Lyrico Systems, were invited to visit and outline their recommendations as part of a competitive tender.
Lyrico Systems has developed an enviable reputation for its expertise and the quality of its work; Mike Palmer, the company’s managing director, explains “It was clear that the previous system needed replacing and given the size and scale of the area that needed to be covered, we knew that only state-of-the-art technology could ensure the requisite level of protection. As a result, our proposal centred on the installation of a Hochiki Europe addressable fire detection system which would offer Peterborough Cathedral excellent reliability and performance.”
Lyrico Systems was awarded the contract in early 2012 and began work in the April. The fire detection system is based around the innovative Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP); Jayne Dunn, Hochiki Europe’s regional sales manager, said “ESP is a total communications solution for intelligent fire detection and fully integrated systems. It has a multi-purpose structure that provides the flexibility and expansion to accommodate simple addressable systems through to building management and other safety systems. It is also highly robust and therefore perfectly suited for Peterborough Cathedral, as maximum reliability and minimum disruption from unwanted alarms are essential.”
The system comprises a wide variety of Hochiki Europe devices, including the YBO-R/3 sounder mounting base, which is coloured red for easy identification and designed specifically for use with the company’s range of wall sounders – such as the CHQ-WS2 wall sounder and the CHQ-WSB wall sounder beacon – which were used extensively throughout.
These were complemented by the use of ALG-EN optical smoke sensors that feature High Performance Chamber Technology. This minimises the differences in sensitivity experienced in flaming and smouldering fires and the result is a high performance device that is incredibly responsive and helps to reduce the possibility of unwanted alarms. In addition, Lyrico Systems specified a number of CHQ-POM powered-output modules and CHQ-AB loop powered addressable beacons.
Although there were some problems accessing and utilising the existing cabling, the ease of installation and flexibility offered by Hochiki Europe’s products helped ensure that the project was completed on time. Mike Palmer comments, “The ability to use a standard YBN-R/3 base unit offered us significant time and cost savings. However, while fast installation is obviously a good thing, with Hochiki Europe it’s also backed up with excellent levels of reliability.”
Work was completed in June 2012 and the system has since lived up to all expectations, with no unwanted alarms reported. Richard Cattle, assistant to the dean and head of fundraising for Peterborough Cathedral concludes, “Its somewhat troubled history is part of what gives our Cathedral such a rich and wonderful heritage, as well as its blend of diverse and interesting architecture. We obviously want to protect it so that many more people can experience this fantastic building and I’m confident that our new Hochiki fire detection system will ensure they remain safe while they do so.”