Newcastle University’s innovative and multi-award winning Urban Sciences Building (USB) is using a combined smoke control and environmental ventilation solution that incorporates a SHEVTEC control system, which was engineered by SE Controls to meet the unique requirements of the project.

Designed by architects, Hawkins Brown, the 12,800m2 USB is the first structure to be completed on the 24 acre Newcastle Helix development and is home to the university’s world leading School of Computing, as well as providing extensive teaching and research facilities focused on digitally enabled urban sustainability.

The building incorporates a diverse range of innovative technologies, sustainable design features and fresh thinking, which includes a PV-T array, rainwater harvesting and a 560m2 wild flower green roof, as well as a bio-dome, which uses waste CO2 heat and water from the building to grow food for the university’s restaurant. Also, 4,000 digital sensors and embedded computing technology make it one of the UK’s most monitored high performance buildings.

As energy efficiency and sustainability are key aspects of the building design, these principles were also carried through to the glazed façades, curtain walling, environmental ventilation and smoke control systems.

Cladding and glazing systems specialist, Dane Architectural Systems, were involved from the early stages of the project and used Schueco FW 60 + SG, with AWS 114 ventilators including TipTronic concealed actuators.

To ensure they could meet the demanding design intent of the system, which required these vents to be linked to the BMS for managed day-to-day ventilation, Dane Architectural turned to SE Controls a specialist contractor capable of providing a fully compliant solution.

As the Automatic Opening Vents (AOV) have specific zone requirements and operate in banks of 3 for normal ventilation needs, SE Controls designed the operation of the smoke control system to maintain the functionality and flexibility of the TipTronic control, while integrating with the system and providing effective smoke ventilation to the building in the event of a fire.

To achieve this, SE Controls worked in close collaboration with Dane Architectural and developed the new OS2 TipTronic SHEVTEC Controller, which is dedicated to Shueco’s TipTronic actuator system, enabling it to provide effective smoke and heat exhaust ventilation (SHEV) to the building.

Following the production of a detailed design, which included integration matrices, schematic drawings, operational documentation and installation details, SE Controls installed more than 40 of the new OS2 TipTronic controllers at the USB.

Andrea Hayward, SE Controls Senior Key Account Manager on the project, explained:“ The Urban Sciences Building is a technological and sustainability ‘tour de force’ which reflects the advanced research activities undertaken at the university and we are delighted to have our own innovative technology incorporated within its design.”

Further information on SE Controls products, solutions and projects can be obtained by visiting, emailing or calling +44 (0) 1543 443060.

Life safety provision within buildings has rightfully been under severe scrutiny in recent months, as it is vital to ensure a building provides a safe environment for its residents. Smoke control systems are a vital and integral part of a building’s life safety system and regulations already exist that place a legal responsibility upon a building’s owners to ensure the systems are regularly maintained to a specified standard.

Every smoke control system contains products that are subject to mandated quality standards to ensure that in the case of an emergency, they operate correctly and enable common escape routes to be kept free of smoke, aiding safe escape. In addition they also allow safe entry for fire services to tackle the fire.

In July 2013, the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) mandated the CE marking of all products used within the construction industry that are covered by a harmonised European standard (hEN). For smoke ventilation systems, the suite of product standards used in the UK and Europe is the EN12101 family.

There are a number of applicable standards within this family including EN12101-2, which covers ‘smoke and heat exhaust ventilators (SHEVs), prEN12101-9 for ’control systems’ and EN12101-10 that covers ’power supplies’. This simply means that for these products to be CE marked, they must comply with the relevant EN12101 standard.

Looking specifically at EN12101-2 2003, SHEV’s, both vertical and inclined vents, utilised for life safety smoke ventilation systems, automatically fall within scope of the CPR. This adds stricter testing criteria to ensure product performance meets the required standards and are compliant.

A key element of this standard dictates that the vent and actuator must be tested together, as a system, to all specifications within the annexes of the standard. Additionally, the tests must be conducted at an accredited facility.

The results of all tests are then declared via the certification process proving compliance to the CPR. The certification process also covers the fabrication quality of the vent, as a SHEV carries a higher level of manufacture classification, ‘System 1’, compared to a ‘standard’ window, which is ‘System 3’. If the actuator is fitted on site it must also be delivered under an audited process to ensure the solution is identical to how it was tested.

Products from most leading façade system providers are now tested with SE Controls actuators to this standard, utilising the company’s extensive range of uniquely UK manufactured products.

Merely fitting an actuator to a vent or window, unless they have been tested together, does not provide a compliant solution and compromises the effectiveness of the life safety system.

Non-compliance is policed in the main by Approved Inspectors and Building Control Officers who now look for proof of certification under the directions of BS7346-8 – 2013 ‘Components for smoke control systems Code of Practice for planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance’ throughout the construction process.

Complacency and lack of understanding is the issue at hand

It is a common misunderstanding that the Approved Inspector takes responsibility for certification via inspection, however this is not the case, as the responsibility lies with the person placing the product onto the market. Yes, inspectors and clients should and will pick up non-compliance, but they are not fully accountable.

Unfortunately, if proof of compliance cannot be provided, it is too late to sign-off the building, resulting in delays and compensation claims under damage clauses. However, should a non-compliant smoke vent fail during a fire incident, the consequences are far more severe not only to the occupants, but also to the company whose products failed to meet the standard.

Alongside a range of actuators, SE Controls also offers the OSLoop, OS2 and PSU Smoke Control Systems, all of which are compliant to EN12101-10.

From a building design perspective, many SE Controls actuators and control systems are now available as BIM objects, which include extensive product information and COBie data. Whilst this is a complex set of regulations, compliance and a certified solution is verified by a Declaration of Performance (DoP), combined with their delivery qualifications, both on and off-site.

The DoP contains reference to the Notified Approved Body that underwrites the process and the test references. It also contains the performance criteria against the test annexes in the form of declared essential characteristics and is signed by a Director of the company placing the SHEV onto the market.

Whether installation is carried out by SE Controls or an approved SE Controls Installation Partner, a Notified Approved Body will have already underwritten the process.

The entire industry is responsible for ensuring the highest possible standards are met and maintained for life safety systems, however for building owners and product manufacturers, when it comes to smoke ventilations systems, if a DoP cannot be produced, the system is not compliant.

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Window security is a key design requirement with all market leading systems tested to the PAS 24 standard to meet the demands of the Secure By Design (SBD) initiative and Building Regulations Approved Document Q (ADQ).

Automated windows that are utilised for ventilation strategies will also need to comply to the standard, which requires the actuators to resist 3000N of negative force when the window is closed. This is becoming commonplace in applications such as school refurbishment where façade automation remains a popular and cost effective solution of providing improved ventilation performance over manually operated windows.

The SECO N 24 25 twin actuator from SE Controls has successfully passed the PAS 24 test and in addition to presenting physical resistance to intruders, it also provides a signal to the controller, should the window fail to close fully, to maintain the integrity of the security system, as requested by the SBD schools standard. Two locking points in one neat enclosure with programmable gasket relief optimise weather performance and security to meet BS 6375 parts 1,2 and 3 in addition to the PAS 24 test.

Bespoke fixing brackets and reinforcement to the window is often required to provide sufficient strength for the fixing, which is usually the weakest point of resistance, as the actuator provides 2 x 4000N of resistance to forced opening.

The ability to manufacture bespoke body lengths allows SE Controls to locate the locking points on different size windows exactly as tested, relative to the corners, to maintain consistency of performance and compliance. Test conducted with an actuator located at the centre of a vent will either not pass the test or can only be utilised for different widths.

Martin Oates

Similar to EN12101-2, the fabrication and installation solution requires a process that is audited by an independent notified body and must be re-tested annually.

If you have requirements for SBD or ADQ certified automated windows, please contact the SE Controls team or visit

Written by Martin Oates – Commercial Director with SE Controls

Ongoing budgetary pressures and a lack of familiarity by local authorities and housing associations about the strict regulations that govern the maintenance of smoke ventilation systems, has given rise to a worrying trend that will leave them exposed to prosecution for non-compliance unless it is addressed.

In an effort to integrate fire systems maintenance and save money in the process, many HAs and LAs are ‘bundling’ smoke ventilation maintenance into a multi-disciplined ‘fire service’ contract, where the contractor is responsible for all fire and smoke system maintenance, often across several locations and building types.

However, under the scope of various British Standards, including BS9991, BS9999 and BS7346 Part 8, together with Building Regulations ADB; the European EN12101 standard and best practice guidance documents from the Smoke Control Association, there are specific maintenance requirements and procedures that must be followed.

The real ‘teeth’ behind this complex and vital legislative framework is the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO). This gives fire service officers an extensive range of enforcement powers in situations where smoke control systems have been inadequately maintained under the demands of the various pieces of legislation.

The penalties for non-compliance can be significant, including the prosecution of companies, building owners, landlords and individuals responsible for building maintenance, resulting in punitive fines as well as custodial sentences.

At SE Controls, we have already been directly involved in a significant number of projects to correct problems caused where general fire contractors have found themselves out of their depth and unable to maintain the smoke control system within the demands of the regulations.

In one instance the maintenance company had failed to notice a smoke vent that had been ‘nailed shut’ rendering it in operable and dangerous, while another recent case or poor maintenance from an inexperienced contractor resulted in an automatic smoke vent falling out of the building. A major internal review followed, together with the involvement of the HSE and prosecutions are now being considered.

On a number of other remedial projects, fire officers or building control have already imposed close notices on the buildings, resulting in disruption, the removal of tenants and large unbudgeted costs for the housing association. Clearly, these could have been avoided if the specialised smoke ventilation maintenance contract was kept separate and handled by a specialist company, such as SE Controls.

By Simon North – Service and Maintenance Division Manager with SE Controls 

Simon North-Media-300dpi

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The legislative environment governing the smoke control and fire safety industry is, unsurprisingly, complex, far-reaching and absolutely vital to ensure that these systems not only operate faultlessly when they’re needed, but also provide effective safety protection and allow people to escape.

Even so, you would probably be surprised by the number of construction companies that contact us after they have completed a block of apartments and find that Building Control has rejected the structure due to the omission of a smoke ventilation system, which is required by law for any residential building of 3 storeys and above.

Clearly, there’s no suggestion that designers, specifiers and building companies are brazenly flouting the regulations, but it is apparent that the main issue is ignorance of the complex and essential regulatory framework that governs this sector. But, as is often quoted, “Ignorance is no defence.”

Navigating the maze

Building Regulations Approved Document B, The Machinery Directive and The Construction Product Regulations, via the various parts of the European EN12101 standard, provide a tight and far-reaching regulatory framework. Yet, this is only part of the story.

The Smoke Control Association’s (SCA) ‘Guidance on Smoke Control to common escape routes in apartment buildings’ quickly became the default reference document for many designers, installers and approving authorities throughout the UK, when first published in 2012 and has since been updated with even more key information.

Alongside this, BS 9991:2015, which covers ‘Fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings – code of practice’ is also a vital reference when addressing fire safety specification and requirements.

However, if your seeking a signpost to provide an effective route to achieving compliance, then, arguably, the best start point is the BS7346 – Part 8 Code of Practice. Prior to this, no single document existed that provided guidance for the industry from initial design, through installation to maintenance.

The core benefit of BS7346-8 is that by adhering to its guidelines; designers, installers, commissioning engineers and maintenance teams can create, install and operate a fully compliant smoke control system.

Clearly, providing any definitive guidance in the space available is impossible, but as the penalties for non-compliance are punitive and can involve imprisonment, it is always advisable to seek professional specialised input from organisations such as SE Controls, that work with the regulations on a daily basis.

The main things to remember is that you have obligations for safety, design and construction, which cannot be avoided.

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Netball Central, Sydney Olympic Park’s state of the art netball complex, is using a natural ventilation solution from SE Controls’ Australian systems partner, Unique Window Services (UWS), to deliver precise, energy efficient control over indoor air quality and temperature at the centre.

The natural ventilation system uses four compact SE Controls NVLogiQ zone controllers, which constantly monitor a range of indoor air quality parameters, including carbon dioxide (CO2), temperature and humidity to maintain a comfortable environment for teams and spectators.

Air quality in each of four zones in the centre’s upper and lower levels are monitored by the NVLogiQ units and if it exceeds any of the pre-defined environment set-point limits the controllers trigger the automatic opening of high and low level louvres to provide ventilation or cooling.

In normal operation, the principle of thermal stacking is used with warm stale air being vented through the high level vents, which has the effect of drawing cooler and fresher replacement air into the building via the low level louvres.

In addition to the NVLogiQ controllers, 10 dedicated SE Controls PSUs were also installed as part of the system, which ensure each louvre responds precisely to the signals received from the controller and provides the correct level of ventilation.

The system is also configured to provide night purge cooling at the end of each day, which not only helps reduce the internal temperature, but by fully opening the vents it also ensures that stratified air is removed along with any airborne pollutants that have built up during the day.

Shane Grice, UWS Managing Director, explained: “As an SE Controls technology partner, we have access to their advanced monitoring and control systems, which allow us to design and install highly effective and efficient ventilation solutions, which have proven to be of significant benefit on this an a number of other key projects.”

He added: “The demand for highly energy efficient building is an essential part of managing the global environment, and for prestige buildings, such as Netball Central, it’s important that they set the standard for low energy cooling and building management solutions.”

Further information on SE Controls’ products, solutions and projects can be obtained by visiting or calling +44 (0) 1543 443060.

Dr Chris Iddon, Design Manager with SE Controls, explores the growing issue of corridor overheating and studies into real buildings are enabling effective solutions to be applied to the problem.

In some ways it is ironic that the issue of building overheating can be partly accredited to the increased drive towards improving energy efficiency. This fact has been recognised by the Zero Carbon Hub in its recent report into overheating in homes, as well as CIBSE’s latest revision to its ‘Guide A: Environmental Design’ (8th edition 2015), which specifically identifies the potential causes and consequences of corridor overheating.

It wasn’t that long ago that, if a building’s occupants got too hot, they opened a window or turned up the air conditioning to return the internal temperature to within more comfortable parameters, although there are clearly some significant issues with this simplistic approach to temperature management. However, during the past 25 years or so, concerns over climate change, dwindling fuel resources and increasing energy costs, has resulted a much stricter legislative and regulatory environment governing building design and energy management.

Within this framework, retaining heat within a building is usually a key design goal, as it reduces energy demand for heating and the cost of maintaining a comfortable internal environment, the application of these various energy reduction techniques can have some surprising and unintended consequences.

Multi storey residential blocks, for example, are subject to the specifications for ‘leakage’, ‘infiltration’ and energy performance, yet as Building Regulations deals only with the dwellings themselves a building’s circulation spaces are excluded.

As innovative building designs seek to legitimately maximise rentable space, this often creates ‘landlocked’ spaces that have no ventilation. Given that corridors are often sealed by fire doors and the practice of routing heating pipework through ceiling voids is a common solution, it’s unsurprising that communal corridor temperatures can readily exceed 35 degrees Celsius.

Understanding the dynamics of overheating

For a number of years, SE Controls has been directly involved with various consultants; developers and contractors to not only address the issue by providing specific solutions to improve ventilation and cooling, but also to obtain a more detailed understanding of the dynamics involved in the overheating of corridors and circulation spaces.

By undertaking detailed studies of real buildings and combining them with theoretical computer thermal modelling, it has not only been possible to refine the modelling algorithms and make them even more accurate, but also design effective solutions that can address the problem using a building’s existing smoke control system.

As smoke control ventilation systems are a legal requirements in buildings over three storeys high, it makes financial and practical sense to adapt the existing system, enabling it to undertake the additional role of day to day environmental ventilation and cooling of circulation spaces.

Among the various corridor-overheating projects undertaken, one of the most interesting was a study we undertook that evaluated a London building with circulation space ventilation incorporated within the design from the outset and compared it to one in Kent where no similar ventilation solution had been installed. As overheating issues typically become more intense during summer months, the study was conducted between 19th June and 29th December 2014, which also provided data during autumn and early winter for comparative purposes.

Temperature measurement and adaptive comfort

Hourly temperatures in the first floor lobby of both buildings were monitored to obtain a clearer picture of the internal thermal profile, while corresponding hourly external weather information from RAF Northolt provided relevant ‘ambient’ temperature data for the same period. During the study, a MET Office Level 2 heatwave warning (max temperature of 30 degrees Celsius) was issued for 18th to 20th July.

Results analysis – the heat is on

Over the duration of the study, the external temperature ranged from a minimum of – 6°C during December to a maximum of 30°C in July, giving and average of 12°C throughout the period.

In comparison, the London building, which utilised its smoke ventilation system to provide supplementary environmental ventilation, the average temperature was 18.6°C with corresponding minimum and maximum figures of 10.3°C and 27.3°C respectively.

However, in stark contrast, the Kent building with unventilated corridors recorded some disturbing results with temperatures ranging from 22.3°C up to an extremely uncomfortable high of 33.8°C with an average 28.5°C.

Even more concerning is the fact that for 64% of the total monitoring period, the Kent property’s temperature exceeded 28°C, which is significantly above current CIBSE guidance on overheating thresholds where 28°C should be exceeded for less than 1% of the time.

The comparative temperature distribution analysis for both buildings also showed a significant difference with the most frequent internal temperature for Kent being 28-29°C, while in London, the figures were 8 degrees cooler at 20-21°C.

Although this study was focused specifically on temperature parameters within the two buildings, it must be remembered that where no ventilation is present in sealed or ‘landlocked’ spaces, the air will usually be stagnant and of poor quality, often containing pathogens along with other contaminants, which cannot be readily ‘flushed’ or vented from the building.

By utilising existing smoke ventilation systems and adapting their operation, without compromising their life critical primary operation characteristics, a simple and cost effective solution is already available that mitigates overheating, improves air quality and helps buildings comply with relevant adaptive comfort guidelines.

The only question that remains, is how many other buildings suffer from the same extreme overheating and air quality issues as those measured in Kent, which are likely to be caused unintentionally, purely by complying with Building Regulations? From the results of SE Controls’ own numerous research studies, the answer is …“probably more than we think.”

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