With around 40 individual buildings housing over 160,000m 2 of prime office space, Cobalt Business Park is the largest complex of its kind in the UK. Located just a short drive from central Newcastle, it has played a vital part in the regeneration of the region, which is now one of the nation’s most vibrant and forward thinking business hubs.
Building work began over 12 years ago and being awarded Enterprise Zone status meant that tenants could enjoy free business rates and 100 per cent capital allowances for corporation tax until August 2006. This led to a plethora of blue chip multinational organisations choosing to locate there and by doing so they have brought over 9,500 jobs to the area.
Cobalt Business Park offers access to a wide range of facilities and boasts a surgery, a nursery, restaurants, a swimming pool, a fitness suite and a 500 capacity delegate conference centre. In order to give those working on-site the highest levels of protection its owner, Highbridge Properties, has insisted that each of the buildings has a state-of-the-art fire detection system as part of an overall building services infrastructure.
Based in Blyth, Northumberland, ARC365 is one of the north-east of England’s leading life safety installation specialists and it has enjoyed a long-term relationship with Cobalt Business Park. Chris Harris, director of ARC365, explains, “We were originally invited to tender for the fire detection installation in the first building. Our proposal centred on the installation of a Hochiki Europe fire detection system, which we have used almost exclusively over the last 17 years. We won the contract and since then we have been asked to carry out similar work for all but three buildings on the site.”
"We will continue to specify products from Hochiki Europe, as we know that we can rely on them to ensure the highest levels of protection”
Although the buildings that comprise Cobalt Business Park are all different shapes and sizes, and house many different types of organisations, ARC365 tries to keep the fire detection systems as consistent as it can and introduce as many common features as possible.
Harris and his team are involved when the main construction works are underway, usually through Castle Building Services Ltd, who have been involved in the electrical and mechanical disciplines of many of the buildings throughout the business park.
Harris says, “When the developer has a client for the building, a complete fire detection system is designed and installed, based on the layout the client requires.” If a building is unused, we usually just install a limited fire detection system in shell and core areas such as stairwells until it is occupied. Working as a team with Castle Building Services Ltd gives them the confidence that the Hochiki products we offer are of the highest quality and reliability.
"This innovative chamber design minimises the differences in sensitivity experienced in flaming and smouldering fires"
All of the systems installed at Cobalt Business Park are analogue addressable and most of them use Hochiki Europe’s Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP). Stuart Davies, the company’s marketing manager, explains, “ESP is a resilient total communications solution for intelligent fire detection and fully integrated systems. It has a multi-purpose structure that provides the flexibility and expansion to accommodate simple addressable systems through to integrated building management and safety systems.”
The buildings’ fire detection systems are also compliant to the BS 5839 category L1 standard, which means that automatic detectors are deployed throughout all areas including roof spaces and voids. This gives the earliest possible warning of fire and makes sure that there is sufficient time for escape.
Unwanted and false alarms are a problem in any type of building but in offices, where there is a high density of people, they are particularly disruptive. Where possible, ARC365 installs Hochiki Europe’s ALG-EN optical smoke sensors, which feature the company’s High Performance Chamber Technology. Harris states, “‘This innovative chamber design minimises the differences in sensitivity experienced in flaming and smouldering fires. The result is a high performance optical chamber that is equally responsive to all smoke types and helps to reduce the possibility of unwanted alarms, as the algorithms in the devices can be adjusted to account for the different environments that they are used in.”
A fast and efficient installation is important for ARC365, and the ability to fit detectors onto a standard base unit offers significant time and cost savings, without any compromise in quality. Harris adds, “Our experience with other manufacturers’ products has highlighted just how well designed and thought out Hochiki Europe’s are, what can take minutes only takes seconds.”
To enhance continuity across the estate, each building has a stainless steel plate installed in the reception area to house ARC365’s control equipment for the fire detection, disabled refuge and accessible toilet alarm systems. This means that if one of the site’s security operatives has to enter one of the empty buildings, they can easily locate the control panel and know how to operate it.
Cobalt Business Park is very much a work in progress and new buildings are being designed and constructed all of the time – the most recent being a four floor office block and a two storey retail/office block - both handled electrically and mechanically by Castle Building Services Ltd. ARC365’s Chris Harris, concludes, “It’s been fascinating to see how it has developed over the decade or so and we are thrilled to be a part of it. We will continue to specify products from Hochiki Europe, as we know that we can rely on them to ensure the highest levels of protection.”