Ageing infrastructure in local healthcare facilities and hospitals, resulting in the cumulative obsoleteness of older fire-protection systems, has prompted several healthcare companies to request new or upgraded fire-protection systems, says Chimera Fire Protection Consultants director Leon Durand.
“While fire-protection systems projects are always under way, the demand for these systems has been skyrocketing since 2009,” he says, highlighting a continued yearly growth of about 20% in this sector.
Healthcare facilities and hospital projects currently constitute about 25% to 30% of Chimera Fire Protection Consultants’ projects. The company’s other project work focuses on industrial premises and warehouses, electronic data-processing facilities and commercial centres.
Moreover, demand for fire- protection systems was boosted following the promulgation of the South African National Standards building regulations for fire protection in 2011, which contributed to a significant increase in requests for fire consultants and fire engineers to be actively involved in new projects.
Durand adds that, while the bulk of the company’s healthcare-sector work is complete – with projects that covered more than 30 hospitals – the company is involved in projects for eight new hospitals spread across the country.
“Of the new build hospitals, two will undergo integrated commissioning and will be handed over to the client in September and October, while another will undergo integrated commissioning in October 2016,” says Durand.
Chimera Fire is also working on a hospital fire safety project for a private healthcare provider, which spans across South Africa and started in 2011.
Additionally, the consultancy is involved in several refurbishment operations for other existing facilities.
Services for these projects include, but are not limited to, surveying all fire systems in the hospitals; single-point-of-failure analysis for all fire-protection systems; supervision on remedial work; rational fire design, and specifying fire equipment, smoke-detection systems, a fire water reticulation system and statutory signage.
Durand notes that one of the key requirements of a hospital is fire compartmentalisation because, in several instances, the compartmentalisation of fire barriers, which were supposed to be provided under the previous building code, have not been provided.
“Consequently, several hospital groups realised a need to upgrade the hospitals in terms of fire safety,” says Durand.
Durand highlights the need – first and foremost – for compartmentalisation in buildings, which enables the fire department to react and extinguish the fire before it has the potential to spread to other compartments.
He also highlights the importance of smoke ventilation, which eliminates hot and toxic gas to reduce the danger of asphyxiation.
“Other key system specifications include early detection features and warnings to enable building inhabitants to prepare for possible evacuation requirements, while having the required firefighting equipment also plays a crucial role,” says Durand.
As part of its service offering, Chimera Fire is also specifying primary water tanks to assist responding fire departments to combat fires at some of the existing hospital facilities. “This need stems from the ageing water infrastructure – compounded by possible deterioration and lack of maintenance – of some municipalities which, in turn, has resulted in the insufficient supply of water flow and pressure during fire emergencies,” adds Durand.
He further points out that a healthcare facility or hospital, on average, requires about 150 000 ℓ of water for fire backup, which should be considered separate from the required domestic water supply in the building’s storage facility.
Chimera Fire also assists healthcare facilities and clients with updates on the latest rules and regulations pertaining to the National Building Regulations, South African National Standards, European Standards and National Fire Protection Association, as well as occupational health and safety legislation and regulations for upgraded fire-protection systems.