Canadian Consulting Engineer

Sherbrook Exchange

When SMS Engineering became prime consultant of a program to upgrade the fire protection systems of the Sherbrook Exchange in Winnipeg, they faced the challenge of integrating new technologies into a historic structure. The building has portions d...

May 1, 2004  By SMS Engineering

When SMS Engineering became prime consultant of a program to upgrade the fire protection systems of the Sherbrook Exchange in Winnipeg, they faced the challenge of integrating new technologies into a historic structure. The building has portions dating from between 50 and 100 years old. The work had to be done without affecting — in any manner — the active operations of the telecommunications system within. Moreover, part-way through the work, the client, MTS Communications (MTS), decided to upgrade the building’s electrical infrastructure.

As society relies more and more upon telecommunications, the reliability of these systems is critical both for business and for maintaining emergency services like fire, police and ambulance. The system installed here is therefore a fully integrated automatic fire incident management system. The team also provided manuals with detailed circuit-by-circuit information on all (AC and DC) electrical power systems to help in emergency shutdowns. Coordinated training on the system was arranged with the Winnipeg Fire Department and MTS Property Operations and Network Services staff.

For telecom exchanges the biggest fire risk comes from the damage that smoke from electrical fires can wreak upon the digital electronics and fibre optic circuitry. In order to mitigate this risk, new fire-rated and smoke-sealed compartment walls were installed in the building to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Old, abandoned PVC-coated cabling was removed in many locations and firestopping was added in new and existing partitions. A smoke control system engineered through smoke migration computational fluid-dynamic (CFD) modelling was also installed throughout the facility.

The installation was complex, involving installing typically 24″ round ductwork throughout a building whose service areas were congested with cable and equipment. Fire smoke dampers and other control devices had to be coordinated with the compartment wall systems to ensure that the proper air flows and pressure differences were maintained for any anticipated fire scenario.

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To improve the fire response, a dry-pipe sprinkler system was installed throughout the building. The sprinklers, as well as the smoke control system, were interlocked with a “very-early-warning” fire detection (VEWFD) system. This system is controlled automatically and has a self-orienting graphical user interface that, upon detecting a fire, displays the incident information and location on a monitor screen and printed floor plan. The engineers coordinated the automatic fire alarm with the power shutdown documents so that staff are not only able to locate the fire, but also immediately shut down equipment or areas in order to minimize the damage.

The consultants had day-to-day coordination with the MTS Property Services and MTS Network Services staff to evaluate issues as they arose, and the work was completed in 16 months within 10% of the budget. Commissioning took place in April 2003.

Client: MTS Communications Inc.

Prime consultant and mechanical/ electrical: SMS Engineering (Russell Lavitt, P.Eng., Helmut Waedt, P.Eng., Brian Lesko, P.Eng., Garry Bolton, P.Eng.,) Architect: Number Ten Architectural Group (Doug Hanna)

Fire protection and code consultant: Arencon (Walter Miller, P.Eng.)

Structural: Crosier Kilgour & Partners (Tom Malkiewicz, P.Eng.)

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Engineering


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