Fire protection system is first line of defense for Canadian office tower
The TD Centre Halifax office tower in Nova Scotia, Canada, is a landmark of the city’s downtown and one of the larger buildings in the region.
Recently, the building’s owner, TBD Halifax Holdings, guided by the goals of HRMbyDesign (Halifax’s plan for the downtown area), decided to expand, renovate and remodel the building. These enhancements added capacity, vibrancy and beauty to the building, streetscape and community, while contributing to a more sustainable future for the downtown.
In addition to upgrading the existing building for LEED Gold certification with a refreshed exterior façade and new high-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems, the office tower expanded to provide larger floor plates and three new stories to the top of the tower. The renovation project began in 2013 and was completed in the spring of 2015, doubling its size to more than 200,000 sq. ft.
The right choice
With a fast-track project timeline in place, the key to this renovation and expansion was choosing the right fire protection system. Because the building was about 50% occupied, it was paramount the installation worked around moving tenants (which typically lengthens project time), and also stayed on track so the new space could be ready and leased as soon as possible to future tenants. In order to meet the specific needs of this renovation, the contractor, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based Life Safety Systems, needed to find a system that was not only fast but also easy to install and fell in-line under the specifications of Halifax-based M&R Engineering, the project’s engineer consultant.
“Making the right decision regarding a fire protection system was crucial to keeping this project on schedule, so we knew we needed something unique and different,” says Peter Vincent, Life Safety Systems’ vice president of construction.
The system needed for TD Centre Halifax would not only be installed within the new expansion but also would replace the existing 40-year-old wet sprinkler system that existed throughout the building. Due to the nature of the construction, each floor had to be capped off, replaced with new piping and then tied back into the new risers. Thus, it was critical the product installed was flexible enough to meet those requirements.
Victaulic’s VicFlex flexible sprinkler fitting systemultimately was chosen for the job after working early on with Dan MacDonald, head engineer for M&R Engineering.
Clearing the deck
LSS chose to use VicFlex style AB1 brackets, eliminating the need for sprinkler installers to handle ceiling tiles, cut holes in ceiling tiles and coordinate with the ceiling trade on the jobsite. In addition, LSS installed the VicFlex series AH2 braided hoses — 100% resistant with a tight bend radius. The 200 psi working pressure allows it to be used in higher-pressure high-rise applications such as the TD Centre Halifax office tower.
The preassembled system saved a large percentage of time and reduced the risk of leaks during the installation process, MacDonald notes. He adds the system is cost effective for both maintenance and retrofit applications, making it the right option for the TD Centre Halifax expansion and renovation. LSS was able to specify ahead of time flexible hose length, branch line fittings, style of reducers and sprinklers.
“One of the things I liked about the preassembled system with regards to the TD Centre Halifax was the idea we could easily place the flex drops on a cart and send them up the elevator to whatever floor the fitter was working on,” MacDonald says. “With hard pipe you have to lift the pipe up to the floor from outside the building on a scheduled time, running the risk of dangerous weather conditions which could ultimately delay the project’s schedule.”
MacDonald goes on to explain that when contractors use hard pipe they also use a threading machine, which can leak oil on the floor. Typically set in one spot, contractors put down three or four layers of cardboard, thread all the drops and so on, creating a localized place that requires cleaning and could be considered environmentally contaminated depending on the location the contractor chooses. In addition, there can be an increase in the amount of work the farther away from the machine you get, creating a lot of moving around and more opportunity to make measurement mistakes.
The rough-in stuff
At TD Centre Halifax, more than 1,200 sprinkler drops were installed with no extra steps, Vincent notes, due to the performance of the VicFlex technology. As tenants could determine their ceiling heights when occupying their space, the solution enabled the contractor to better manage its schedule. They were able to get in early and complete the job without the worry of potential time-consuming head placement changes later, which would have occurred had they used hard pipe for each drop.
When using hard pipe, a contractor typically comes in, does the rough-in work, then goes away for however long and returns once the ceiling bridge is in place so they can cut the drops. They measure the height and the distance and then wait again for the ceiling to be put in its place, which is typically the last thing before the drop is installed.
In this case, LSS was able to install the product at the rough-in stage. The flexible hoses with preassembled heads and protective covers could first be installed to the branch lines and then the entire system was tested for leaks. There was no need to wait on other parties installing ceiling tiles.
“This system moved a large percentage of the labor to the front of the project vs. the end, which was important, especially for this renovation project, or any renovation project for that matter,” Vincent notes.
Also, because this was a renovation project, there were many moving floors. Finished work went in and then the person renting the space moved in. Vincent explains that being able to install early on made it easier to coordinate around the current tenants and their business needs. Plus, he adds, when they ran the tests and there was a leak, they avoided incurring the costs of potential water damage, new drywall, carpet, etc., because floors still were concrete (rough-in stage).
“When each floor was finished, we were able to test. This got us way ahead,” Vincent says. “The sooner you can test, the better, so if repairs do need to be done you can handle them and there is less chance of delaying the schedule.”
Another key advantage on this job was Victaulic’s willingness and availability to train onsite prior to the installation.
“It was really important. In most cases guys on the field crew will read the first page of the literature, run away with it, then learn the hard way and blame the product,” Vincent says. “Training works well — it gets them onboard and then the install is done right the first time with no issues.”
Overall, Vincent states the Victaulic VicFlex system was a perfect fit for the TD Centre Halifax renovation and expansion project. LSS was pleased with the technology’s dependable, consistent and ease of installation that helped the project stay on schedule, the pre-assembled advantage regarding material handling and jobsite cleanup, the overall labor savings, the product’s flexibility and last but not least, Victaulic’s commitment to on-site training and support.
“We have some seasoned crew members who don’t like new, which is what this was,” Vincent says. “We had to get them onboard and because we were paying more for the product, we had to prove there would be a savings on labor.”
This article was originally titled “Protecting a landmark” in the May 2016 Fire Protection and Design section of PM Engineer.