Lerch Bates Inc. Building Insight

Global Leaders in Technical Consulting for the Building Industry

Lerch Bates Opens New Office To Serve Growing Hawaiian Market

Ryan See Appointed Consultant, Elevator Consulting Group, to Manage Honolulu Office

Lerch Bates, an international consulting firm for vertical transportation, façade access and materials management, announced it opened a new office in Honolulu, Hawaii, and appointed Ryan See consultant, elevator consulting group, to manage the firm’s operations in the state. The addition of the Honolulu office increases the total number of domestic Lerch Bates offices to 25 and 34 internationally. See joins the world’s largest and oldest vertical transportation consulting group with more than seven years of extensive elevator industry experience.

Ryan SeeSee is tasked with providing vertical transportation consulting services for design, maintenance and new construction projects throughout Hawaii. He is responsible for vertical transportation system studies, complete administration of design and construction services, design and contract documents, vertical transportation maintenance evaluations and due diligence studies. Lerch Bates has been a pioneer of the vertical transportation industry in the state for more than 25 years.

“Lerch Bates continues to expand its presence in the United States and around the world,” said Lerch Bates President and CEO Bart Stephan. “Ryan has exceptional experience with Hawaii’s vertical transportation industry and he will be a valuable asset as we continue to grow in the state. He has extraordinary knowledge of the local marketplace and we welcome him to our exceptional team of consultants.”

See previously managed modernization and new construction projects for ThyssenKrupp and Otis Elevator Company in both Hawaii and Denver, Colo. His career also included serving as a new installation estimator and quality supervisor during his tenure with Otis. See worked on many landmark projects including Honolulu’s City Financial Tower, Ala Moana Pacific Center and Waihonua at Kewalo, 707 17th Street in Denver and Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from of the University of Washington.

Lerch Bates announced in August that it had been awarded a two-year contract to consult on the modernization of the diverse elevator systems of the largest office complex in Hawaii. The multifaceted vertical transportation renovation project at Pacific Guardian Center (PGC) includes a 10-story 786-stall parking structure, twin 30-story office towers and the celebrated four-story Dillingham Transportation Building. Upgrading PGC’s elevator systems is one of Lerch Bates’ largest projects in the western United States. The program includes replacing Westinghouse Mark V equipment in the two seven-car banks and installing destination based technology.

PGC is an award winning office complex that features more than 630,000 square feet of first-class office and retail space located in the heart of Honolulu’s Central Business District. The mirrored glass towers, named after their respective positions, Mauka (“mountain”) and Makai (“ocean”), are juxtaposed by the Mediterranean Revival/Italian Renaissance style of the the historic Dillingham Transportation Building. The vertical transportation modernization program was designed to meet the expected future demands of the center while maintaining the rich character and environment of the property. The project is expected to begin this fall and be completed in the fall of 2016.

Lerch Bates’ Hawaiian office is located at 307a Kamani St., #3, Honolulu, HI 96813.

The End of Proprietary Fire Alarm Systems

Proprietary fire alarm systems have a long history. These are systems generally designed, built, installed, and serviced by the same company, or installed and serviced by a very small, limited group of dealers or authorized representatives,

Much of the development of modern fire alarm systems was driven by the innovation of these large proprietary system companies.

Three of the most prominent companies that have historically built, installed, and serviced their own fire alarm systems are Autocall, Honeywell, and Simplex.

Over the last century, as fire alarm systems become more technically complex, the proprietary companies were in many cases in the best position to meet the design challenges of larger systems, and they flourished. In addition to strong technical superiority, they had fine marketing and sales infrastructures which helped them maintain their market leadership.

These proprietary vendors maintained, and still do, that their control of the manufacturing, sales, and service channels enabled them to provide a superior product. In many cases, they did produce excellent products.

Over time, however, building owners and managers began to realize that the close working relationship, technical superiority, and atmosphere of trust they had come to expect from their large proprietary system vendors was being replaced with a one sided, monopolistic relationship. The vendors, after getting their proprietary system installed in a building, seemed to take increasing advantage of their single source relationship by charging vastly higher than market prices and providing steadily deteriorating customer service.

Proprietary fire alarm companies have historically had a very strong sales presence in the specifier market, where architects and engineers include their systems in new building designs, often without a lot of consideration of post installation service and upgrade issues, or much contact with the people who will end up living every day with their design and specification decisions. This strong presence has enabled proprietary companies to maintain a large market share even as end user dissatisfaction has grown.

The computer and electronic revolution has presaged the end for proprietary fire alarm companies. Like the fire alarm business, computers were once dominated by large single source companies who gave their customers what they chose to give them. The development of open systems and universal architecture enabled an explosion of competition, vastly improved customer service and satisfaction, and continues to drive prices down.

The same forces are now shaping the fire alarm industry. New computerized technology is making the systems much less complex for the installer. The rise of digital signaling makes the fire alarm into a glorified computer. As systems become internally simpler, they become easier to design and

manufacture, so more manufacturers enter the market or move up into the larger systems markets that the big proprietary vendors used to control.

Many electronic building control systems have entered into the realm of “open systems”, where manufacturers have worked together to provide common standards and protocols for communication between the products of different manufacturers. Although this development it may have reduced profits at the former proprietary building systems companies, it has proved to be a boon to end users who are no longer locked in to single vendors. And the biggest open system of all, the internet protocol TCP/IP, will eventually make every electronic system an open system.

The fire alarm business has not yet seen the advent of open system for the reason that makes fire alarm different from technically similar types of electronic control systems; the broad range of codes and standards with which fire alarms must comply.

Building Life Safety — The Basics

One of the primary concerns of building owners and managers is the safety of the occupants in their buildings. Life Safety is an integral part of almost all buildings, but some building owners and managers may not fully understand these systems, the reasoning behind them, the way they work, and the ways in which they need to be maintained.

Life Safety begins with the methods of construction used in each building and proceeds through the installation of specialized systems to protect the occupants from fire and other calamities.

Each building in the United States is built to meet a complex web of standards and regulations known collectively as “the code”. There are building codes, fire codes, plumbing codes, electrical codes, mechanical (or HVAC) codes, elevator codes, and more. Codes in almost all jurisdictions are based on “model codes” which are generic codes produced by private organizations dedicated to the task. Cities, counties, and states then take that material, add or subtract any items that may be of local concern, and adopt the finished product as their legal code. Most legally adopted codes however, are still very close to the model codes, so we can make a lot of generalizations about the legal code requirements in almost all jurisdictions.

The first fire safety aspect of any building is its basic design and floor layout. For instance, every building must have a certain number of emergency exits and each exit must be a certain maximum distance from each occupant, depending on the type and number of occupants and the size of the building.

Next, buildings must be constructed using fire resistive materials and fire resistive design. Stairwells, corridors, and elevator lobbies are all required by code to be isolated from the rest of a building by fire walls or doors designed to resist penetration from fire for a certain time of ten one hour or two hours. Open spaces can be divided by fire rated walls, cutting down on the potential for the spread of a fire.

The next layer in building fire safety is the design and installation of specialized systems to detect or extinguish a fire, and to facilitate the safe evacuation of the occupants of the building.

Fire alarm systems are required in many types of residential and commercial buildings as well as all hospitals, schools, day care centers, nursing homes, places of assembly, and high rises. Fire alarm systems detect the presence of a fire with automatic smoke and heat detectors and also provide manual pull stations, generally at each exit, that enable the building occupants to manually alert others in the building and the appropriate authorities of a fire condition. A fire alarm, when activated either by automatic or manual means, will usually sound a loud alarm throughout the facility where it is located and send some type of emergency signal to a guard station in the building or to an off site central monitoring station. That monitoring station will in turn notify the fire department.

Fire alarm systems work in conjunction with fire sprinkler systems. Sprinkler systems are required in even more types of buildings than are fire alarm systems. Fire sprinkler systems consist of a large network of water pipes running throughout a building ending in sprinkler heads, which usually appear on the ceiling. These sprinkler heads are equipped with a type of thermal link which opens or breaks after sensing an ambient temperature above its rated temperature level, causing that sprinkler (not all of the sprinklers, as depicted in the movies,) to open and release a spray of water. When any sprinkler opens, the resulting flow of water in the pipes triggers a special water flow sensor, activating the building fire alarm and usually alerting the occupants and the authorities. Some sprinkler systems are installed in buildings with no fire alarm system and those systems usually are required to notify the fire authorities of a fire condition, although they may not sound an alarm for the building occupants.

Other non emergency building systems work with the fire alarm system to ensure occupant safety. In most cases, following an alarm sent to the fire alarm system, some or all of the air conditioning and heating fans will be automatically turned off to slow the spread of fire. Some doors located within fire rated walls may be automatically closed, also to prevent the spread of fire. And any elevators will usually be automatically returned to the ground level and deactivated so that the occupants do not risk accidentally traveling to a dangerous floor or being trapped in a disabled elevator.

A system provided in virtually all buildings to ensure safety during an evacuation is the emergency lighting and exit sign system. Emergency lights consists of battery or backup generator powered lights that will automatically turn on when regular electrical power fails, whether from within the building or because of an outside electrical utility problem. These lights are usually arranged to provide at least a usable path of light to the building exit. Exit signs are directional indicators provided to point the way to the exit. Exit signs are also always backed up by emergency power.

These are the major components of building life safety. Each one of these paragraphs scratches the surface of a complex subject. In subsequent entries I will try to provide more information on each of these topics.

I would like your input on further items of interest to building owners and managers within the topic of fire alarm and life safety. Please feel free to comment with ideas.