Let's get physical

Growing concern about building safety is driving demand for more physical testing of fire and smoke systems. Our Research & Development (R&D) Academy in Whitstable, Kent is becoming more popular with consulting engineers, contractors and building clients, as specifiers look for greater reassurance about system performance for life safety, comfort and energy efficiency reasons.

Physical testing still critical

Steve Gore* reported that despite the increasing sophistication of simulated testing via computer models, there is still a demand for using physical test facilities.

Sometimes good ‘old fashioned’ ways are the best.
— Steve Gore, Engineering Manager

“Computer modelling certainly has its place, but there can be a significant amount of inconsistency between different models even using the same input data,” he said. “It can all depend on how complex the scenario is and the beauty of a physical test is that you can recreate actual conditions and then show the engineer or client just how their equipment will respond in reality.

Site open days

Steve and the engineering team host invitation days at the Academy where visitors witness product demonstrations, including best practice fire and smoke damper installations, and take part in product installation and training. These events conclude with a technical debate where issues around safety and energy efficiency are discussed and knowledge exchanged.

Benefits of demonstrations

The R&D Academy opened in 2014 and was commissioned by BSRIA, who audit the calibration and operating procedures. The facility includes a fully equipped demonstration area where tests can be witnessed by contractors, consultants and end clients; and now also boasts a fully-fledged conference room.  

“Both engineers and consultants, in particular, could benefit from more exposure to physical demonstration of their designs,” said Mr Gore. “The way our industry’s supply chain works means that they are often kept remote from the real-life performance of the systems they specify. By witnessing a physical test and influencing how the bespoke conditions are adjusted, they can be as close as possible to seeing their ideas in action.”

Aerodynamic testing of dampers, including blade and casing leakage to BS EN 1751:1999, is also available and technicians at the academy will also carry out thermal transmittance testing to BS EN 1751:1999 and thermal release testing in general accordance with BS ISO 10294-4:2001.


UK Business Development and Product Manager for Actionair

Andrew has more than 11 years' experience in the construction industry. The majority of this time he has spent working with consultant engineers and contractors to develop solutions for controlling smoke within buildings, such as hospitals, large mixed-use offices and tower blocks.

See more from Andrew Collard