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  • Writer's pictureKCS Projects

Case Study: Bedford Girls’ School

The Client:

KCS Projects were awarded the contract to design and install an L2 fire alarm system at Bedford Girls’ School.

The Bedford Girls' School is a private day school for girls aged 7-18, which opened in 2010 after a merger between the Bedford High School and the Dame Alice Harpur School.

Currently, the school has approximately 980 students enrolled and prides itself on its forward-thinking and holistic approach to education, offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, as well as GCSEs and A-Levels.

The school is comprised of 6 different school buildings across a large, spaced-out site. The Junior and Senior schools are on opposite sides of the major road into Bedford town centre. Three of the school buildings are Grade II listed - Trinity House, Wing House, and Kiplin House.

The Brief:

KCS Projects was awarded the contract to design and install an L2 fire alarm system at Bedford Girls’ School, Bedford, in Spring 2023, with works commencing on Monday 17th July.

During the tender stage, we attended site visits to get an understanding of the current system and learn more about the requirements of the school.

Given the age of the buildings - and due to the Grade II listed status of some of them - we were required to adapt our approach towards the installation of the fire alarm system, so that we could meet the needs of each individual building. We also had to consider the structure of the school, which was based on both sides of the main road.

All staff were required to have Enhanced DBS Checks, and the works had to conform to BS 5839 standards.

Our Work:

Work started at the beginning of the summer holidays, when the site was still in use by the Barracudas Holiday Camps. As such, we treated it as a fully operational live site.

When the school was open, we carried out our work overnight, starting at 4PM when there were still several staff and students on site attending after-school clubs. We liaised with the school to be aware of where they would be, and worked around them accordingly.

To ensure the works were completed on time - and to prevent disruption to the school - our Project Manager liaised with the School Site Manager, School Office Staff, and Holiday Camp providers to understand where the holiday clubs would be - and when - so that a programme of work could be planned accordingly.

The works began with the fitting of new cables, devices, and call point bases/backboxes, to ensure that our installation of the L2 fire alarm system would meet the specifications of the project outline we submitted.

Full cable containment, tray, trunking, or plastic conduit was mechanically fixed to the fabric of the buildings using metal clips, in line with current fire regulations. These fixtures were selected and designed to be appropriate to the building which the cables were fitted in.

During the installation of the new system, the old system remained in full working order to ensure the school was still protected against fire risks. When the new components were installed, we began joining the new system and detectors into the existing system.

In order to meet the brief, our new system was designed with multiple panels. This included 6 main fire alarm panels that were networked together at various locations throughout the school.

Because the school is split over a main road, we included wireless links to ensure that the fire alarm was fully responsive over the entire school site. This approach also ensured that the alarm could be seen from any of the panels around the site – an important consideration given the large area that the school grounds covered.

The system was designed with a fault-tolerant network; this made sure that if damage occurred to any of the cabling around the site, the network would run in the opposite direction. This would enable the system to continue to work even if damaged, and the fault would show on the panels.

The setup is monitored through a BT Redcare System. In the event of an alarm, the monitoring system will call 4 designated phone numbers in a sequence. The designated individuals must confirm their identity with a password, and if no one answers, the monitoring system will call the local fire station.

We have installed 4 Redcare monitoring points in different locations around the school grounds, so that if the wireless link goes down between them, and there were to be an alarm, the monitoring points will still be active even without the wireless link across the site.

When the works were complete, we led a full handover and training session with the Site Manager and his team of caretakers. The training was a half day to ensure that they understood all aspects of the system, and when finished, we left our contact details to allow them to contact us should there be any issues or questions once we had left the site.

The training covered all aspects of the panel and system, including how to turn it on for weekly testing. This included showing the school’s team how to use the cause-and-effect function on the main fire alarm panel to prevent gas from being turned off during the weekly tests, as this would disrupt the kitchens and other areas of the school.

The Outcome:

We were able to successfully design and install an L2 fire alarm system at Bedford Girls' School, Bedford, in Spring 2023. We carried out our work with minimal disruption to the school, using our Programme of Works to operate around the movement of students and staff on site.

We overcame two significant challenges during our work.

Firstly, the school was based on opposite sides of the main road, which caused a challenge in creating a comprehensive alarm system. To overcome this, we used wireless links to ensure that the system was fully responsive across both sides of the site.

Secondly, we were using parts of the existing system, which meant carrying out tracing and testing at the start to ensure that it was fit for purpose. In some cases, it was not, so we then worked with the client to offer solutions and keep the project on track.

As a result, we were able to overcome these challenges and successfully design and install a fully comprehensive L2 fire alarm system.

The works were carried out by our Project Manager, Rob Suckling, who attended the site at least 3 times a week, Commissioning Engineer Asa Horsman, Junior Commissioning Engineer Jack Tyrrell, working Site Foreman Thomas Hayward - who oversaw the works and the health and safety of the site - and eight operatives, who installed the wires and cables. In addition, John Robinson, our Managing Director, attended the site at least once a week.

All the staff who worked on this project had Enhanced DBS checks.

We had our own site compound on the school grounds, which was surrounded by Heras fencing and access control systems to prevent any pupils or unauthorised personnel from gaining entry. Our compound included skips and a storage container, and we used allocated areas of the school for our welfare facilities.

All works carried out conform to BS 5839 standards.

Added Value:

We were able to offer a major source of added value during our works.

To complement the L2 fire alarm system, we installed several interface connections across the site. This included the access control door release, gas shutdown, and fire door magnetic hold-off release.

This would ensure that the fire doors closed in the event of a fire breaking out, forming a barrier to stop fire and smoke spreading across the school site. As a consequence, this would help to guarantee the safety of pupils and staff while minimising damage to school property.


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