The O2 Arena in London has recently been complemented by a state-of-the-art development that includes a hotel complex with conference centre facilities and the largest pillar-free ballroom in Europe, as well as a number of prestige apartments. To keep residents, guests and other visitors safe, life safety technology from Gent by Honeywell has been specified throughout.
Looking at it today, it is difficult to appreciate that London’s Greenwich Peninsula has something of a chequered history. The area remained largely undeveloped until the nineteenth century, at which point industrial development and good access to the River Thames encouraged businesses such as soap, linoleum and rope makers, as well as gas companies, to locate there.
Vast industrial complexes soon dominated the area and largest of these was the East Greenwich Gas Works, which was built in the 1880s by the South Metropolitan Gas Company. As the manufacturing industries declined after World War II, the number of residents dwindled until virtually all of the housing became empty and was demolished. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the area’s potential was once again recognised and the Millennium Dome was constructed on the site of the old gas works.
Now called The O2 Arena, it spearheaded an ongoing regeneration project that has seen the completion of a £121m building programme. This included the construction of a new hotel named InterContinental – The O2, conference centre facilities and 100 serviced residential apartments named The Arora Tower, which offer glorious views across Canary Wharf.
The hotel has been designed to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standards and comprises 453 guest rooms, five food and beverage outlets, 19 meeting rooms, as well as a spa, pool and gym. Perhaps the most breathtaking part of the development is The Arora Ballroom, which can accommodate 3,000 people at any one time. Measuring 80x39m, it’s not much smaller than a football pitch and has been flexibility designed in order to facilitate multiple uses.
Liverpool based HESIS was invited to tender for the life safety element of the project across the entire site. After its proposal was accepted it began working closely with building services specialist, HE Simm, during the early stages of the development. Barry Juggins, Managing Director of HESIS takes up the story and says, ‘One of the reasons we were successful in our bid was our ability to offer a proactive approach, which was seen as a huge positive, particularly in a scheme of this size. Just as importantly, as a Gent Technology Centre we knew that we could supply, design, install and commission the very best in class fire detection and alarm technology in the new buildings.’
The fully integrated HESIS solution incorporates four fully networked Vigilon panels alongside Gent’s innovative S-Quad devices. Martyn Keenan, Business Manager (North West & North Wales), at Gent, explains, ‘S-Quad was the first intelligent loop powered multifunctional device to include a sensor, sounder, speech and EN54-23 certified visual alarm, and it has developed an enviable reputation for its ability to prevent unwanted alarms. Incorporating four separate sensing elements – heat, carbon monoxide, and dual angle optical forward and backward scatter, S-Quad combines local processing in the sensor and the panel to achieve an immediate response to genuine fires.’
The BS 5389 compliant category L1 solution is designed for the protection of life and deploys automatic detectors throughout all areas of the building – including roof spaces and voids – with the aim of providing the earliest possible warning.
The devices have been configured so that a visual alarm and a recorded voice message give occupants fast and unambiguous warnings in an emergency. Barry Juggins comments, ‘S-Quad devices with speech have been installed throughout the hotel and apartments, with a Comprio D1 public address and voice alarm (PA/VA) solution, which combines advanced audio management with a flexible architecture in a compact design. In addition, we opted for dual optical and heat detection in the bedrooms to avoid unnecessary unwanted alarms, due to the particular environmental conditions.’
With a combination of high ceilings and the need to ensure minimum disruption during any periods of maintenance, the conference centre and ballroom utilise a FAAST aspirating smoke detection solution. In these surroundings point detectors were not viable, while beam detectors, which can be installed at heights of up to 25m, were not considered practical. Aspirating smoke detection’s resilience, stability and high degree of sensitivity combines to reduce unwanted alarms. Furthermore, it offers a low total cost of ownership compared to traditional detection methods, which are more costly due to access equipment requirements, cleaning, replacement of devices and the labour required to carry out these tasks.
Thanks to the skill of the HESIS personnel and the cutting edge design of the Gent devices, the installation was relatively straightforward. Barry Juggins says, ‘The main challenge was the fact that the construction of the hotel, conference centre and apartments all ran concurrently and had to be completed at the same time. We ended up installing around 2,500 Gent devices across the three buildings, which met the customer’s exacting brief.’
Now fully open for business, these cutting edge buildings represent the latest part of London’s evolution, making one of the capital’s most thriving and exciting areas. Hasham Soliman, General Manager at InterContinental London – The O2, concludes, ‘We now have a truly magnificent place for visitors to stay, for companies to host events and for residents to live. Part of this experience involves ensuring that people, property and assets are protected by the very best life safety technology, and thanks to HESIS and Gent by Honeywell, that’s exactly what we have.’