AES Engineering is excited to announce Trina Larsen, P.Eng., M.Sc., LEED AP BD+C, as the Managing Associate in charge of our new Edmonton office. Trina is a professional engineer who has been involved with the sustainable electrical design of new buildings, renovations and project planning for over 20 years. She has contributed to the building construction industry in Edmonton on projects such as the Royal Alberta Museum, Kaye Edmonton Clinic and Sigmar Centre for Learning at NorQuest College.
With the adoption of energy code NECB 2011 in the Alberta Building Code 2014, the Province of Alberta has taken a big step forward in reducing energy consumption and the carbon footprint of the building construction industry. With offices in Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria, AES has been actively working with industry stakeholders and sharing strategies for implementing new energy codes ASHRAE 90.1 and NECB 2011 into practice. We are looking forward to continuing this work in Edmonton with the experience and leadership of Trina.
Our new office will officially open on March 21st at Scotia Place 1 in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown. We will also be speaking at BUILDEX Edmonton on March 21 and 22 on the topics of NECB 2011 implementation and lighting trends.
We are excited to announce that AES Engineering has been honoured by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) for the UBC Student Union Building (SUB) project with the 2016 IES Edwin F. Guth Memorial Award for Interior Lighting Design! Now in their 43rd year, the IES awards command a high level of respect in the global lighting community. They allow for a unique opportunity for recognition in lighting design. The UBC SUB AES team consisting of President and CEO, Sunny Ghataurah, Project Manager Eke Roosioks, and Electrical Designer Andy Su, collected the prestigious award at a grand award gala in Orlando, Florida on October 23rd, which was part of the IES’s 2016 Annual Conference.
Founded in New York City, The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America is a non-profit society. Their main goal is to “communicate information on all aspects of good lighting practice to its members, to the lighting community, and to consumers, through a variety of programs, publications, and services”. Respect has been gained for the 8,000 IES members, through their cutting edge knowledge of the lighting industry. With over 100 credited publications and approximately 100 local sections, IES continues to grow respect and knowledge within the industry.
AES collaborated with Architects DIALOG + B+H to provide a wide range of electrical design services, including power distribution systems, indoor and outdoor lighting and control systems, life safety systems, and infrastructure for telecommunications, security and audio visual systems.
In order to ensure the lighting became part of the architectural features and did not overpower or detract from them, we, AES, worked closely with DIALOG + B+H to ensure luminaires fit seamlessly in to the architecture and provide the desired effects.
Lighting the spaces in this manner also allowed AES to meet energy requirements, while taking into consideration the accessibility of luminaires for future maintenance.
Because of the massive amount of space, spatial definition was an important aesthetic and technical element had to be paid special attention. The architectural configurations needed to be enhanced to define boundaries and provide circulation. Devices like dividers and objects were used to identify activity zones. Lighted architectural planes had to be used to enliven and define the large mass of space. They had to serve as reflectors to distribute light, as well.
Pleasantness was an important element in the lighting design. People have more satisfactory experiences in spaces when the lighting is pleasant, and tend to spend longer amounts of time in them. The line of sight to horizon was considered in order to create visual order. Luminaries had to address the task and focal locations, along with being arranged in an attractive manner, all the while being energy efficient. The wood centerpiece that hangs in the agora serves as a focal point and backdrop for the space. So it had to be made prominent with the use of strategic light.
AES would like to thank UBC for allowing us the pleasure of taking on this project. None of this would have been possible without the continued support of DIALOG + B+H. We can’t wait to work with everyone in the future!
We are humbled and honored to have worked on the project recently named the greenest post-secondary building in all of Canada, the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence HDR | CEI Architecture Associates! The Centre of Excellence, located in Penticton, BC, earned Gold in the college and university buildings category of the Green Buildings Review released by Corporate Knights magazine. AES’ slogan, “Designing A Better Tomorrow”, is a reminder to put suitability at the top of our values list. Every day AES reaches a better tomorrow by keeping sustainability and the environment in our minds while creating designs for our clients.
In order to meet the client’s requirements for sustainability, AES sought out a number of cutting-edge innovations that are not typically seen in traditional building design. Working with the architect and other team members, AES was able to provide systems that take advantage of natural lighting, lessening the lighting load and energy generation on site. AES installed two different systems that are designed to capture natural lighting and divert it to provide natural light to interior spaces. The school’s Audio/Visual workshop features two completely glass walls, which posed a challenge for electrical controls. The AES team decided on self-powered, wireless switches for lighting control, which convert kinetic energy from each button press into electricity to power the wireless signal. Light fixtures in common areas, as well as open and enclosed spaces, have built-in occupancy and daylight sensors. These sensors will automatically turn off lights if there is no one in the room, and will dim lighting if there is enough natural light available to illuminate the space.
AES is excited to have Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence be a part of the 2030 Challenge. The 2030 challenge is an initiative by Edward Mazria and Architecture 2030 asking the construction and architecture community to reduce greenhouse gases in renovated and new buildings. AES fully supports the 2030 challenge and can’t wait to contribute to even more qualifying buildings.
AES would like to thank Corporate Knight’s for the honorable award, as well as the whole team that contributed to this innovative project.
We are excited to announce that Mr. Victor Quezada has joined AES Engineering.
Victor brings to the Firm over 13 years of experience in high profile lighting projects from around the world. We are excited to join forces with his expertise which spans areas as varied as lighting design, graphic design, business development, as well as visual and conceptual art. With Victor’s unique blend of functional lighting design and artistically motivated solutions, AES will be able to elevate existing lighting design services to brand new heights. Together we will continue to offer world-class electrical engineering and lighting design services, with full commitment to our clients.
Victor acquired a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Texas in 1996, after which he pursued a Masters of Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Prestigious internships at Die Lichtplaner and Zumtobel Staff Gmbh & Co. took him to Germany where he received training in the art of lighting design from one of the world’s best lighting design teams. Victor went on to establish Render Light & Planning in 2008 with fellow visual artist Sean Casey. The duo pushed boundaries in lighting design for seven years, with cutting-edge projects such as The Exchange, a 31-storey LEED Platinum commercial tower heritage and restoration; Kettner & Ash, a 36 storey mixed-use tower and public plaza in San Diego, California; The Adler University Vancouver campus; The Temple of Light in Kooteney Bay, BC and The Polygon Gallery. Victor is passionate about infusing architecture with beauty and sustainability. His work has been featured in LD+A, the magazine of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, and Design Quarterly 2016 has honoured him in the Lighting, Best Practices category of their Winter issue. Victor’s design on The Exchange won him the 2014 IES Illumination Award of Merit, and his 1114 Hillside project earned him a 2014 IESBC Vision Award. Victor was also the recipient of 2016 IES Awards of Merit, for CBRE’s Vancouver Head Office and L’Occitane en Provence’s Vancouver Flagship. For the L’Occitane Flagship, Victor also won the 2016 BC Hydro Lighting Redesign Award.
AES’ in-depth knowledge of lighting design, energy codes for buildings, as well as strong relationships with Western Canada’s Architectural and Interior Design teams, will be invaluable resources for Victor to create more groundbreaking work. AES’ existing lighting design team has been producing lighting design projects that are changing the landscape of lighting in Vancouver. Projects such as the UBC Student Union Building, Guildford Aquatic Centre, and Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre have received recognition from IESBC, ACEC, darc, just to name a few. AES looks forward to supporting our clients bring their adventurous visions to life with a lighting design team that is stronger with the addition of Victor’s mastery.
Sunny Ghataurah, P.Eng., P.E., CTS, LEED AP BD+C President & CEO
AWARD Magazine has published an in-depth feature on the UBC Campus Energy System Conversion project in their August issue! AWARD magazine journalist, Natalie Bruckner-Menchelli, spoke with AES Lighting Designer, Doug McMillan, and Electrical Designer, Hira Boparai, about the lighting, power and general electrical elements at play in this innovative project. Please visit AWARD Magazine’s website to read the magazine in its entirety. And without further ado, here is that excellent article on one of our most fascinating projects!
The University of British Columbia has just undergone what could arguably be described as one of its biggest projects to date. While on the surface it may seem like the new $24-million Campus Energy Centre (CEC) is one single project, what new visitors to the campus may not know is that the CEC is the visual heart of a new Academic District Energy System (ADES) that saw the replacement of almost all of UBC’s entire aging steam heating infrastructure with a more efficient hot water heating system.This five-year, $88-million project involved not just the construction of the CEC, but also the installation of over 100 Energy Transfer Stations (ETS) across the campus and more than 12 kilometres (km) of an insulated District Piping System (DPS).
This project goes back to 2007,” explains David Woodson, managing director, UBC Energy and Water Services. “At that time we had an aging steam system and a capital project to replace one of the boilers in the powerhouse. Around the same time the University was assessing its overall carbon footprint. What stood out was that 90 per cent or more of the carbon emissions was coming from natural gas that was being burned to create the steam and heat the buildings.”
It turned out that over the previous 12 years, UBC had consumed over a million gigajoules of gas a year at the powerhouse. With the volatility of natural gas prices and talk of a B.C. carbon tax, the University decided to look at other options as part of its Alternative Energy Sources Program (AESP) feasibility report by Stantec. A few innovative (and perhaps rather unrealistic) ideas were considered, but regardless of the source of heat, all of the options required a hot water grid that could support any future innovative transition.
During an initial hot water feasibility study carried out by FVB, UBC discovered that one of its administrative support buildings on the western side of the campus had building hot water heat exchangers that were four times oversized. decided to use those heat exchangers to heat the hot water during the first phase. This allowed us to test whether our cost savings and pricing assumptions were accurate –our business case for the hot water conversion was based on the assumption that the hot water District Energy System would be 24 per cent more efficient than the steam system,” says Woodson.
The project ended up consisting of 10 phases, according to Woodson, but it was the first phase that was the most significant as it enabled UBC to test the business case assumptions without fully switching from steam to hot water. As UBC wanted the project to be constructed sequentially, contractor Ledcor was tasked with ensuring the building was completed with as little disruption as possible. “We were responsible for not only building the CEC but connecting into the piping system on the west side of the building, where there are two incoming and two outgoing pipes for the two separate loops on campus,” explains Matt Artis, project manager at Ledcor, who worked closely on the project with his colleague and site superintendent Jack Stam.
Kerr Wood Leidal (KWL) had the task of designing the 12 km of DPS, with Division 15, the mechanical contractor responsible for laying the DPS. discovered that by including shallow cover pipes, UBC could save substantial costs. It made sense because the area has a mild climate.We also found that by installing floating manhole covers it would save costs,” explains Ayman Fahmy, team lead, district energy at KWL.
KWL also designed the piping connection to the new LEED Gold CEC, which houses three new 15 megawatt (MW), natural gas fired, high-efficiency hot water boilers, with space for one more as the campus expands. Architects Dialog were tasked with designing the signature two-storey CEC building and came onboard back in 2012. Having Martin Nielson on staff, a former mechanical engineer, allowed for a neatly crafted interface between the building functionality and the process requirements of the plant.
Dialog worked closely with FVB to understand the process requirements. The boilers were placed on the northwest corner, on the public side, and a double-height glass picture window was placed in front to allow public viewing of the four boiler bays.
On the exterior a perforated zinc panel system wraps around the building which allows for ventilation, and at the base a white brick complements the surrounding materials. “The design is mute and yet exemplary and has a strong presence. It’s like a breathing living organism. The exterior skin is a metre away from the building structure where all the intake and exhaust points are. We designed the zinc much like a cloud pattern to reference the old steam plant,” says Nielson. The zinc was a perfect location to hide a cove luminaire that was directed onto the brick facade. “This helped provide separation from the metal skin and the building, continuing to provide hierarchy of the architecture over the spider web of piping on the interior,” explains Doug McMillan, light designer at AES. A dramatic sloping roof reduces the scale of the building toward the plaza and the pharmacy building behind. To the left of the glass window, on the north side, is the entrance that takes you into the lobby. From here you enter into the boiler room and have access to a shower room, the maintenance room and the electrical rooms. The extensive use of CLT on the walls and roof provide a warm ambience and captures the light that penetrates into the building. A steel stair takes you from the ground floor to offices and a a control room on the second level.
AES Electrical designed the electrical service. Included in their scope of work was a high voltage service that was fed to a 2000/2660kVA pad mount transformer (PMT) that then fed the building with a 600VAC, a three-phase secondary service, a 1000kW generator that was provided for backup, a combination of energy efficient fluorescent and LED lighting, security cameras, a card access door control system and TV screens (digital signage) in the main entry way and kitchen areas to display user information and for UBC Alerts. Due to the urban nature of the building, the electrical distribution equipment was located further away from the building for esthetics and future expansion, and the power service had to be run into the building in underground ducts. “Customised feeders had to be specified for this service,”explains Hira Boparai, electrical designer at AES Engineering. “Installing the quantity and size of these feeders into the transformer was challenging as pulling and bending this size cable was extremely difficult for the contractor and space was an issue within the transformer. We ended up building a pull box attachment to the transformer to allow for space to bend and terminate the feeders.”
An alcove was designed into the building to locate the 1000kW exterior generator, which allowed for better sound attenuation. AES worked closely with the mechanical consultant and Ledcor to properly duct the exhaust and radiator air flow out of the alcove to allow for proper operation.
AES also worked as the electrical engineers on the Energy Transfer Stations (ETS), providing power to new mechanical motors and in conjunction with Siemens for the control systems and UBC IT services throughout most of the UBC buildings. “In all buildings, the power distribution systems had to be assessed to see if they could accommodate the new mechanical equipment. We had to co-ordinate with AME to ensure that the correct voltage was being specified for the equipment in each building. Where there was limited electrical capacity for the mechanical equipment, distribution upgrades had to be undertaken,” says Boparai.
For higher precision of data and calculations, AME provided 3D scanning services for the mechanical rooms. The scan data was then converted to point clouds as a representation of existing conditions for use within design work. “UBC District Energy System point clouds were used to design and pre-fabricate the new mechanical systems that were installed on-site,” explains Ahmet Ozata from AME.
Speaking with everyone involved there is a great deal of pride in this project, which has far exceeded expectations. “You go from the early days of just having an idea, and then turning the idea into a business case, and finally all the trials and tribulations of project delivery and execution. The last 12 months of the project have been the most rewarding,” enthuses UBC Energy and Water Services’ Woodson. “We underestimated the benefits and the efficiency of the new hot water system, and that has more than offset the impact of new buildings being added to the campus since 2007. The size of the new hot water system is ideal.”
Since its completion, a number of agencies with aging steam systems have contacted UBC to seek advice on converting to hot water, proof of a project well done. “This is a huge win for UBC as they are significantly reducing their carbon footprint,” says Nielsen. The ADES will enable UBC to achieve its ambitious target of reducing campus- wide greenhouse gas emissions. With the ADES project partly complete in 2015, UBC reduced its GHG emissions by 30 per cent, compared to 2007 levels, despite a 16 per cent growth in campus buildings since 2007. The hot water District Energy System will provide the transformational platform to achieve UBC’s long-term targets of eliminating the use of fossil fuels on the campus by 2050, and advancing clean energy research. A win win all round ♦
Lighting design is experiencing an evolution with the introduction of the new energy codes, ASHRAE 90.1 – 2010 and NECB 2011 and with the constant influx of newer, brighter, higher quality LEDs, and control systems.
There are many benefits to using LEDs over traditional lighting sources. Their versatility provides lighting designers the freedom to explore design options not previously available to them. However, because of the increased initial cost of LED compared to the traditional sources, new and exciting designs often never see the light of day because they lose out to cost savings.
With the arrival of new energy codes and the requirements of luminaires to provide multilevel illuminance, which LED naturally provides at no additional cost, LEDs have proved once again to be more advantageous than traditional lamp sources. As a result, designers can now use the latest, exciting luminaires to execute designs without fear of cost cuts, while owners and building managers can benefit from low maintenance costs until the end of the LED system life.
Originally, LED lamps were added into existing luminaires without taking into consideration the glare and efficiencies they had once marketed. Today, manufacturers design LED luminaires from scratch, resulting in smaller, more efficient optics which seem to defy the laws of physics. These new optic systems either control each LED separately or as a whole. With manufacturers designing around the LED, they are looking at illuminating for all possible applications and to overcome the shortfalls of the LED source. This allows the designer to achieve the desired look, without compromise. The controls systems that are emerging for these new LED luminaires are simpler than ever. Luminaires can be complete with on-board modules that provide the head-end of the system with an IP address to allow for easy relocation of the luminaire should a room change or be relocated. While there were systems that provided similar functions for traditional luminaires, their cost did not allow for the frequency of use that these new systems allow. New sensors can be easily connected and removed from the luminaire without requiring electricians.
At the same time, manufacturers are realizing they should not be stopping with just on-board controls. They have started adding small microchips and processors on the LED boards to replace remote drivers, act as speakers, and even allow for Li-Fi technology that uses light to deliver wireless internet faster than existing 4G and Wi-Fi systems.
The design of the new luminaires around the high quality LED source and optics, along with the ever advancing controls, has allowed lighting designers to refine their designs. Using today’s technologies, we can now surpass a design completed just five years ago, almost completely. These technologies allow designers to fulfill many architects’ aspirations of intricate and complex lighting effects without seeing the luminaires. Designers can use thin or small luminaires that still have usable amounts of light in them, whether they are flush or recessed into the ceiling. They can be in plain view without creating glare. They can be adjusted on the fly without an occupant being in the building or standing next to a large bank of switches. They can light our path when we arrive to work after hours by just clicking one control point. The general rules for lighting are now irrelevant and the design possibilities seem endless.
Doug McMillan, Associate IALD, is a lighting designer at AES Engineering with over 15 years of experience in the lighting design field. AES Engineering provides solutions that enhance architectural details, create the desired mood, and enhance functional aspects. Doug could be reached at Doug.McMillan@aesengr.com.
Energy Standards in North America have been around for a very long time. In the US, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90.1 has been a standard referenced for energy efficiency in buildings. The document was created in 1975 has been revised many times since. In some states, local building codes and bylaws have referenced ASHRAE 90.1, making it mandatory for compliance and as such, are now enforceable by law. The state of California has this, Title 24, and new The California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP) requirements that contain similar provisions.
In Canada, energy standards have not been as advanced. The subject was first addressed in 1997, when a group of industry stakeholders, government and National Research Council Canada (NRCC) got together and developed the first Model National Energy Code for Buildings (MNECB) which provided a standard for building energy performance. This model code was revised and reintroduced as the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) 2011.
What is Applicable, Where And When?
In British Columbia, the BC Building Code (BCBC) has always referenced the ASHRAE 90.1 energy standard within table 220.127.116.11 of Division B. By referring to the standard within the code, the province of BC has made it a legal requirement, and consequently, made it legally enforceable. In March 2013, the province issued an order by revising this standard to ASHRAE 90.1 – 2010. A second compliance option, the NECB 2011, was added, with an enforceable date of December 20, 2013. The City of Vancouver, having its own by-law -Vancouver Building By-Law (VBBL), adopted both of these documents within VBBL effective January 20, 2014, overriding previously referenced standards. Industry stakeholders are currently working through the logistics of bringing something similar to CALCTP to BC and / or provide local training around design, installation and commissioning. Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is also taking a leadership role on this and should be releasing details shortly.
Other provinces have also followed suit in adopting more stringent energy requirements. Ontario adopted and introduced NECB 2011 in November 2012, with an enforceable date of January 2014. Other provinces like Manitoba and Nova Scotia, adopted it in December 2013 with an enforceable date of January 2014.
In Alberta, the Alberta Building Code (ABC) 2014 was adopted on May 1, 2015 and will be legally enforced on November 1, 2015. For the first time, the ABC will reference NECB 2011 as the new energy code in the province of Alberta, and the energy code will be officially adopted on November 1, 2015 and legally enforced on November 1, 2016. While B.C. has always had energy codes and standards, this change is completely new to Alberta and other provinces. Energy efficiency requirements typically have not been applied to buildings unless they pursued registration with rating systems, such as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).
Who is Responsible?
B.C. has always had energy requirements within the code but other provinces have not. In addition to now introducing new requirements, these provinces have also adopted more recent versions of the standards making it difficult for an industry that normally didn’t have to comply with such requirements. Not only does this affect the design professionals involved, it also affects the construction industry, including contractors, suppliers and manufacturers.
The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) in each jurisdiction also has a key role to play here. Typically, electrical inspectors review electrical items and building inspectors review building items, as it pertains to installation on a construction site. These very inspectors now have to be trained around energy requirements which is not possible in many AHJ, due to shortage of staff or lack of training around the subject matter.
Items such as lighting in egress paths are verified by the electrical inspector for compliance with the electrical code’s installation standards, and by the building inspector for compliance with illumination level standards. With energy, however, who is responsible? Good energy design, in addition to the requirements of the energy code, requires that all lighting to be turned off when unoccupied. Such installed lighting must also turn on when required by the building code. It may require fail-safe mechanisms to demonstrate compliance with building codes and other standards, such as UL 924 or CSA 141. So, should inspectors be knowledgeable about this or leave it to the Professional Engineer performing the design or to the contractor carrying out the installation?
As per legally adopted law in Canada, inspectors have to know about energy codes and are required to enforce them.
Implementation And Application
In summary, the energy standards, referenced by provincial codes and municipal by-laws, have been around for a long time, yet only over the past two years has there been an uproar in the construction industry in B.C. around compliance. Why? Well, because in the past two decades, Building Codes have required tighter envelope, vestibules or better insulation, more efficient HVAC, and domestic water systems, which we are accustomed to. Now, we actually have to do something with the lighting and the uncontrolled loads, such as receptacles and elevators. And yes, we have to turn them off when they are not being used. This is a basic (and logical) concept of conservation. Yet the industry is up in arms because compliance is now mandatory, and it is not just for designers venturing into the LEED Platinum or Living Building world anymore.
So why is turning the unused loads off such a big deal? It was always included in design for lighting systems but would get “value engineered” to afford other systems. Although this “value engineering” is a great concept, it may not always provide value in the entire life cycle of a building, and as such, it can no longer be done. Furthermore, in addition to having automatic controls and daylight harvesting requirements for lighting, we now have to do something about those “pesky” receptacle loads.
Now it appears that the biggest controversy is around switched receptacle control. Many are of the opinion that their computers will turn off. That may be the case but if done properly, it can be designed such that computers are on and all other loads are controlled via the switched receptacle. Other loads are monitors, task lights, all the chargers for all our smart devices, etc. If a person is out of the office for a few hours in the middle of the day, there is no reason for any power to be consumed within the office- including lighting, receptacles and HVAC. The only exception being the computer as we may be working remotely via cloud or other network solutions. The cost of such design is no more than the cost of traditional systems. We designed our office space in 2012 with the installation of this system occurring early 2013.
The Bottom Line
The savings are very easy to notice. Our metering system with a real-time energy tracking dashboard displays the energy consumption of AES’ Head Office. This data is available for anyone to view via the energy icon, at the top right corner of our website, www.AESengr.com. On a sunny or bright overcast day in Vancouver, around 1 or 2 pm onwards, our daylight sensors activate and the energy consumption for lighting drops to under 10% for the entire office, as compared to maximum allowed by ASHRAE 90.1 – 2010. It is the same for HVAC and receptacles that all operate around vacancy. We see the reduction on our utility bills every month.
Leading by example through initiatives like our energy metering system described above, we showcase how we walk the walk, and how we take pride in talking the talk and educating the industry on the complexities of Building Code. We have presented at BUILDEX 2015 in Vancouver with the presentation: Designing for Compliance with the New Energy Codes in BC – ASHRAE 90.1-2010 / NECB 2011, answering the fundamental questions “What, Why and How” with respect to the application on projects.
We have presented at BUILDEX 2015 in Calgary and BUILDEX 2016 in Edmonton with the presentation: Implementing Energy Standard NECB 2011 in the ABC 2015: Design and Building Permit Application Requirements answering similar questions. A follow up presentation will be happening in November 2016 and March 2017 for Calgary and Edmonton. Further presentations and training has been done for Electrical Inspectors Association of BC (EIABC), Electrical Contractors Association of BC (ECABC), BC Safety Authority (BCSA), and Alberta Safety Codes Council (ABSCC).
In summary, practical benefits of energy efficient designs are undeniable. Therefore, mandatory compliance with these requirements should be embraced by the industry without any fear or regrets. This is the future of the design and installation, and this future is here. Let’s be ready for it.
Sunny Ghataurah, P.Eng., P.E., CTS, LEED AP BD+C, is the President & CEO of AES Engineering. He has been in the industry since 1993 and has been leading the efforts in Western Canada around implementation of ASHRAE and NECB. Sunny has been educating the industry over the past two years through his in-demand presentations to various architectural firms, owners, professional organizations, conferences and association events. AES is an innovative lighting and electrical engineering firm with offices in Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. Sunny can be reached at Sunny.Ghataurah@AESengr.com.
Requirements for the audibility of a fire alarm system (FAS) are governed by Article 18.104.22.168. of the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC). So, why is this subject being discussed in a purely electrical publication? The answer is quite obvious – because fire alarm systems are designed by electrical designers, components of fire alarm systems are shown on the electrical drawings and specifications, and the installation of fire alarm systems is performed by electrical contractors under the scope of their electrical permits. But who inspects these installations? The answer to this question is not easy. It depends on each jurisdiction, and on the scope of the responsibilities of each inspection group.
Photo Credit: City of Surrey
Traditionally, electrical inspectors audit the compliance of wiring methods against Section 32 of the CE Code, and the compliance of fire alarm device installation according to the requirements of ULC S524. Building inspectors usually review compliance of fire alarm systems with clauses of the NBCC and occasionally with ULC S524. In some jurisdictions fire prevention inspectors are assigned to audit fire alarm systems with a review of the system’s audibility. However, the subject of a fire alarm audibility requirements is not consistently covered by the designers, electrical contractors and regulators.
Let’s evaluate some clauses of Article 22.214.171.124. of the NBCC, which frequently confuse designers, installers and regulators. Sentences 126.96.36.199.(1) – 188.8.131.52.(7) of the NBCC state the following:
(1) Audible signal devices forming part of a fire alarm system shall be installed in a building so that
(a) alarm signals are clearly audible throughout the floor area, and
(b) alert signals are clearly audible in continuously
staffed locations, and where there are no continuously staffed locations, throughout the floor area
(2) The sound pattern of an alarm signal shall conform to the temporal pattern defined in Clause 4.2 of ISO 8201,
– Audible emergency evacuation signal”
(3) The sound pattern of alert signals shall be significantly different from the temporal patterns of alarm signals.
(4) The fire alarm signal sound pressure level shall not be more than 110 dBA in any normally occupied area.
(5) The sound pressure level in a sleeping room from a fire alarm audible signal device shall be not less than 75 dBA in a building of residential or care occupancy when any intervening doors between the device and the sleeping room are closed.
(6) Except as required by Sentence (5), the sound pressure level from a fire alarm system’s audible signal device within a floor area shall be not less than 10 dBA above the ambient noise level without being less than 65 dBA.
(7) Except as permitted by Sentence (11), audible signal devices located within a dwelling unit shall include a means for them to be manually silenced for a period of not than 10 min, after which time the devices shall restore themselves to normal operation.
It should be noted that these requirements come with clarification notes in Appendix A of the NBCC –to further explain their intent. Terms such as floor area, residential or care occupancy, dwelling unit, alarm signals and alert signals are also defined in the NBCC. It is very important to thoroughly understand and correctly use these definitions and appendices.
Typical components of a fire alarm system
An alarm signal is defined by the NBCC as an audible signal transmitted throughout a zone or zones, or throughout a building, to advise occupants that a fire emergency exists whereas, “an alert signal is an audible signal [that] advises designated persons of a fire emergency.”
These two definitions, applied in conjunction with Sentence 184.108.40.206.(1) above, make it crystal clear that an alert signal is not intended for the building occupants. It is intended only for designated (well-trained and well qualified) persons who, in accordance with the fire safety plan, would locate the source of the alert signal and actuate an alarm signal where necessary. This is why Sentence 220.127.116.11.(2) mandates that only an alarm signal must meet the internationally accepted sound pattern. The NBCC recognizes that even with a perfectly executed fire safety plan in place, complete reliance on designated persons is inadvisable.
So the NBCC then mandates, that if the alert signal is not acknowledged within 5 minutes of its initiation, the alarm signal must sound automatically [see NBCC Sentence 18.104.22.168.(2)]. The clause continues that upon actuation of the alert signal, an immediate and automatic notification of the fire department will take place [see NBCC Sentence 22.214.171.124.(3)].
Despite the above stated objectives, and despite the fact that a building is always staffed with designated persons, many designers design fire alarm systems with alert signals that are audible throughout the entire building –thus confusing the building occupants! Such design occurs mainly because some Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) specifically mandate it. Extreme situations of confusion may arise in hospitals and detention facilities because of such design. Needless evacuations of hotels in the middle of the night or of spectators in the middle of a concert hall performance, could easily happen when an alert signal is actuated in a building where well-trained designated staff are present.
This brings us to the practicality of NBCC’s Sentence 126.96.36.199.(2). Auditing compliance of the sound pattern of an alarm signal against Clause 4.2 of ISO 8201 is also highly questionable, as the electrical designers specify audible signal devices that are constructed in accordance with ULC standard S525, Signal Devices For Fire Alarm Systems, Including Accessories. When audible signal devices are designed, constructed and certified to this ULC standard, they generate sound patterns that conform to Clause 4.2 of ISO 8201. Failure to adhere to this clause means going against Rule 2-024 of the CEC, Part I.
The performance requirement of Sentence 188.8.131.52.(2) of the NBCC thus is not necessary, as the ULC standard that applies to construction and testing of audible signal devices, already takes care of such criteria. Sentence 184.108.40.206.(3) of the NBCC clarifies to Code users that although the sound pattern of an alarm signal must follow very specific international requirements, there are no requirements for the sound of an alert signal. The alert signal must only sound different from the alarm sound. There is no consistent design and enforcement criteria for the sound of an alert signal throughout Canada.
Sentences 220.127.116.11.(4), (5) and (7) of the NBCC combine the safety and performance criteria with respect to the sound pressure level generated by an audible signal device. Restriction of the sound pressure level to 110 dBA is based on the health safety of occupants exposed to a very high dBA level of sound. Under no condition should the sound pressure levels of audible signal devices installed in public corridors of residential buildings be allowed to exceed 110 dBA. This also means (although not specifically mandated by the NBCC) that in order to meet the performance criteria of Sentence 18.104.22.168.(5), at least one audible signal device would have to be located inside a dwelling unit.
The statement by the author above is based on the audibility sound pressure levels data published in ULC S524. Appendix C of ULC S524 provides examples of a typical sound pressure level output for various types of audible signal devices and for various distances from these devices. It also provides an average value of sound pressure level loss when doors or walls block sound. In light of this information from ULC S524 (which indicates an average sound pressure level loss of 25 dBA when a door to a sleeping room is closed), it is inevitable that at least one audible signal device would have to be designed by an electrical designer for installation in a dwelling unit. Otherwise the performance requirement of 75 dBA in a sleeping room with the door being closed is simply not practical. The NBCC therefore recognizes that an audible signal device would have to be located inside a dwelling unit, and Sentence 22.214.171.124.(7) of the NBCC mandates installation of manual silencing means for the audible signal device located inside a dwelling unit. This NBCC requirement is intended to prevent any potential tampering (i.e. illegal or improper alteration of, or interference) with the audible signal device by the dwelling unit occupants.
Sentence 126.96.36.199.(6) of the NBCC mandates that in floor areas of occupancies other than residential occupancies, the sound pressure level from a fire alarm system’s audible signal device shall be no less than 10 dBA above the ambient noise level, without being less than 65 dBA. This NBCC requirement does not specifically mandate that the minimum sound pressure level of 65 dBA must be achieved in various rooms constructed within a typical floor area (i.e. doors of boardrooms, office rooms, storage rooms, etc.) with intervening doors to such rooms being closed.
This requirement of the NBCC has created lots of confusion and inconsistency. Some audibility tests are conducted with doors to said boardrooms being open, while some tests are done with the doors to these rooms being closed. Although the NRC technical staff have provided informal interpretation of this issue, by indicating that audibility tests could be conducted with doors to boardrooms being open or closed, there is no formal clarification on this matter (in Appendix A Note on Sentence 188.8.131.52.(6) of the NBCC).
Lack of clarity in the Code on this subject creates financial burdens on building owners when the design is not based on the minimum fire alarm system audibility level of 65 dBA in a typical boardroom –with the boardroom door being closed. Some inspection authorities require the addition of an audible signal device in each such boardroom or office room, in order to achieve at least 65 dBA of the sound pressure level in the room –with the door to the room being closed.
Electrician installing fire alarm
This requirement may create unintended implications, as an audible signal device installed in a boardroom or an office room constructed within a floor area quite often generates a sound pressure level in excess of 90 dBA, which exceeds work health and safety provisions of many local occupational health and safety regulations. For example, Part 7 of the BC Occupation Health and Safety Regulation states the following:
7.2 Noise exposure limits
An employer must ensure that a worker is not exposed to noise levels above either of the following exposure limits:
7.3 Noise measurement required
(1) If a worker is or may be exposed to potentially harmful
levels of noise, or if information indicates that a worker may be exposed to a level exceeding 82 dBA Lex, the employer must measure the noise exposure.
This is a simple illustration of the area outside purely electrical safety issues covered by the CE Code. Electrical consultants, electrical contractors and fire alarm system verification specialists involved in design, installation and verification of fire alarm systems, have to discuss all these relevant issues with AHJs enforcing requirements of the NBCC for electrically connected life safety systems. Especially with the AHJs which don’t necessarily perform electrical inspections.
This particular example illustrates the imperfection of the NBCC rules regarding audible signal devices of fire alarm systems. It demonstrates the need for greater standardisation and consistency amongst all applicable stakeholders involved in the implementation of NBCC electrical and fire safety objectives.
Ark Tsisserev is a Senior Associate with AES Engineering, electrical consulting company, and is a registered professional engineer with a M aster degree in Electrical Engineering. Prior to becoming a consultant, Ark was an electrical safety regulator and Chief Electrical Inspector for the City of Vancouver. He is currently the Chair of the CSA Strategic Steering Committee for the requirements of Electrical Safety and represents the CE Code Committee on the CMP-1 of the National Electrical Code. Ark can be reached by e-mail at ark.tsisserev@AESengr.com.
AES CEO & President, Sunny Ghataurah, and Principal, Amir Tavakoli, will share their expertise on the new Permit Application Requirements put into practice by the National Energy Code of Canada (NECB) and the Alberta Building Code (ABC).
Sunny and Amir will be sharing their knowledge on how these new energy codes may affect the design and construction of your projects. Earlier this year, Sunny published an article in Electrical Line magazine that outlines Canada’s evolving relationship with energy codes. Now after a short tussle, the building industry is finally on board with adopting energy standards that have already become the norm in the world’s most progressive countries. The new codes will affect architectural & interior design concepts, the design process, as well as permitting, construction and occupancy requirements.
Topics covered in the talk will include:
How the new codes affect business
Changes to the design process
Changes to the overall project schedule including site procurement, design, construction and occupancy
NECB 2011 code requirements
Submission requirements for building permit and occupancy
NECB applicability, exemptions and alternatives
How to incorporate provisions of NECB 2011 in electrical design
Lighting control in the space, space types and examples
Common and alternative methods of lighting control compliance with the NECB
Automatic shutoff – common and alternative methods of compliance
Functional testing (commissioning by the 3rd party)
Lessons learned from the implementation of NECB 2011 in other jurisdictions
There will be time for questions and answers following the seminar. For more information, please visit the following link: Registration or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be a continental breakfast and light refreshments for your enjoyment. Tickets are limited, so we recommend registering early!
Sunny Ghataurah(left) is the President & CEO of AES Engineering with 24 years of experience in design and construction of electrical, lighting and low tension systems. His project experience includes commercial, institutional (education and health) and light industrial facilities, especially large, complex projects ranging from thousands to nearly $1B in construction value. Sunny’s experience includes six years as an Electrician working on projects including commercial buildings, residential complexes and light industrial plants. This experience allows him to use resources effectively to perform efficient engineering practices.
Amir Tavakoli(right) is a Principal at AES Engineering. He is experienced in lighting design, power distribution, communication, security and fire alarm systems. Amir discovered his passion for building engineering during an internship during university, and has gone on to further pursue his interest in sustainable green building design. His vision is to design buildings today that will not burden the environment tomorrow, an interest making him a valued designer when it comes to any green initiative.
We have an exciting announcement to make! We are pleased to announce that AES Engineering will be offering a new course as part of the BCIT Electrical Trades Program, titled BC Energy Codes – Design, Construction and Compliance Requirements. This in-depth course will cover the electrical requirements of current ASHRAE 90.1, National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB), and energy codes adopted in BC. It will be taught by none other than AES President and CEO, Sunny Ghataurah, and AES electrical designer, Birinder Walia. The 8.00 am to 16.30 pm Friday classes will begin on the 16th of September and go for 5 weeks.
Design & Construction concepts will comprise of, but not be limited to: receptacle control, lighting power density calculations, switching (automatic shutoff, etc.), space lighting control (dimming, etc.), daylight harvesting and other specialized requirements, such as parking garage. In addition, the various energy compliance documents, submission procedures and commissioning documentation required by the City of Vancouver and other Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), will also be covered.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
Gain familiarity with the energy compliance documentation and submission procedure prescribed by City of Vancouver and other AHJ;
Gain familiarity with Part 11 of the VBBL which governs energy compliance for tenant improvements / alterations;
Identify spaces requiring receptacle control, and develop solutions for compliance;
Perform lighting power density calculations and recognize when such calculations are required;
Identify spaces where the various switching requirements prescribed by the energy codes apply, and develop solutions for compliance. Such requirements will be composed of manual-on, automatic-off, etc. for luminaires;
Identify spaces where additional space control requirements prescribed by the energy codes apply, and develop solutions for compliance. Such requirements will be composed of providing control steps (dimming) and individualized switching for luminaires;
Identify spaces requiring daylight harvesting and develop solutions for compliance;
Gain familiarity with the lighting controls commissioning process prescribed in the energy codes.
About the Instructors
Sunny is the President & CEO of AES Engineering with 24 years of experience in design and construction of electrical, lighting and low tension systems. His project experience includes commercial, institutional (education and health) and light industrial facilities, especially large, complex projects ranging from thousands to nearly $1B in construction value. Sunny’s experience includes six years as an Electrician working on projects including commercial buildings, residential complexes and light industrial plants. His focus is always on sustainable design from having worked on a variety of projects pursuing LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge. His approach to design is beyond just electrical systems and focuses on user behavioral change. Sunny is a BCIT alumnus and feels passionately about bringing his extensive industry knowledge back to home turf.
Birinder is an Electrical Designer with AES Engineering. He has been with the company since 2011, during which he pursued his Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Technology at BCIT part time, until successfully completing it in 2015. As a young engineer, Birinder has racked up impressive practical engineering experience in electrical, lighting, controls and low tension systems design. His project experience is heavily composed of tenant improvements and renovations in the office, retail, and healthcare sector.