WES+ to keep £2.4 million project at St John's Church, Edinburgh, safe

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St John’s Episcopal Church in the West end of Edinburgh is being protected around the clock during a major redevelopment by Ramtech Electronics’ WES+ wireless fire alarm system.
The investment programme at St Johns Church, built in 1818, includes a mezzanine floor to the church hall, addition of café and retail units on the terrace and other improvement works. John Dennis & Company (Scotland) Ltd is the main contractor on the £2.4m project and was looking for a fire alarm system that would protect this historic building and the many hundreds of people that use it on a weekly basis.
The challenge
The vaulted crypt with its confined spaces and restricted sightlines as well as the fact that the church is to remain fully functioning during the works are some of the reasons why the management team at John Dennis & Co required an advanced fire alarm system.
“We had specific concerns in the vaulted crypt because a fire may not have been immediately visible due to the low, arched ceilings and projecting internal buttresses,” said Stewart Carney, Managing Director at John Dennis (Scotland) Ltd. “Add to that the fact there are limited escape routes and you can see why we required to be 100% confident in any fire alarm system we specified.”
One of the factors that dissuaded the company from choosing a wired fire alarm system was the time it would have taken to reposition as building works progressed. “When we sat down with our surveyors and looked at the cumulative effect of moving the wired units, it added a number of days to the schedule,” added Stewart. “It would also require a qualified electrician who could be working on other elements of the project.”
The solution
The company decided to look for alternatives and found that a WES+ wireless fire alarm system overcame all these issues – the units can be repositioned in seconds without the need for a qualified electrician – and there are no trailing leads. The WES+ wireless fire alarm system has the added advantage that it is EN 54 compliant.
“A quick online search for a wireless fire alarm system soon picked up WES+ and highlighted the fact that whichever system we chose, it had to be EN 54 compliant,” said Stewart. “A subsequent meeting with Ramtech Electronics’ technical representative confirmed our initial findings that wireless was the way to go on this project.”
The company’s uncompromising approach to fire safety involved specification of WES+ automatic heat/smoke detectors. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly, they provide 24/7 fire alarm coverage, so even if the site is vacated at nights and weekends, nominated personnel still receive notification from the Base Station via SMS that the alarm has been activated. This allows them to alert fire and rescue services at the earliest opportunity, helping prevent the fire spreading to other parts of the building.
Secondly, automatic heat/smoke detectors would overcome the challenges of restricted sightlines in the crypt, ensuring that a fire was immediately detected, allowing speedy evacuation and alert of fire crews when personnel were present on site.
Automatic heat/smoke detection provide added protection for the church congregation, who will continue to attend regular services during the work, when site personnel are not present, such as Sunday evenings. Incorporating automatic heat/smoke detectors, along with manual call points, meant that the Fire Plan would be immediately actioned, whatever time of day or might.
The work being carried out at St John’s Church involves a complete refurbishment of the lower terrace and vaulted areas, which will provide space for a café, Cornerstone bookshop and retail units.
Work in the adjoining church hall involves adding a mezzanine floor to provide new desk space for hire by charitable organisations as well as improving church staff’s working conditions. A new central staircase and a lift will connect all parts of the building, making it fully disability friendly.

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