Change happens. This is most certainly true about our buildings. Changes in the workforce, changes in technology and sometimes even changes in opinion can drive us to remodel our facilities. Usually the benefits of the change and practical realities of construction are what garner most of our attention. When present, fire protection and suppression systems should also get our attention when planning the changes to the building. Ignoring those systems can sometimes have unintended consequences – negatively impacting both performance and safety.
Recently we examined an inert gas fire suppression system for a data center space that was getting smaller. The needs of this business had changed and due to changes in technology suddenly they found themselves with a much more efficient data center space. Don’t assume that “more agent is better” when it comes to protecting a room with a clean agent fire suppression system.
In this case, reducing the room size without adjusting the quantity of inert gas would result in an agent concentration three times higher than the upper limit permitted by the applicable NFPA standard. In the event of a discharge, the room oxygen content would have been too low for human respiration. The good news is the owner of the data center recognized the potential problem and approached us to recalculate the agent concentrations, piping and nozzles. Ultimately this led us to remove some of the inert gas cylinders and to revise the distribution nozzles. The resultant change allowed the space to remain safe for human occupancy in the event of a clean agent discharge.
Is your building changing? Don’t forget to consider how these changes might impact any of your fire protection systems! Always involve your fire protection partner in the planning process. We are here to help.