Let's get physical

Growing concern in building safety is driving demand for more physical testing of fire and smoke systems. Our Research & Development (R&D) Academy in Whitstable, Kent is becoming more popular with consulting engineers, contractors and building clients as specifiers are looking for greater reassurance about system performance for life safety, comfort and energy efficiency reasons.

Steve Gore, our Engineering Manager, reported that despite the increasing sophistication of simulated testing via computer models, there is still a demand for using physical test facilities.

“Computer modelling certainly has its place, but there can be a significant amount of inconsistency between different models even using the same input data,” he said.  “It can all depend on how complex the scenario is and the beauty of a physical test is that you can recreate actual conditions and then show the engineer or client just how their equipment will respond in reality.

Sometimes good ‘old fashioned’ ways are the best.
— Steve Gore, Engineering Manager

Customer visit days

Steve and the engineering team host monthly invitation days at the Academy where visitors witness product demonstrations, including best practice fire and smoke damper installations, and take part in product installation and training. These events conclude with a technical debate where issues around safety and energy efficiency are discussed and knowledge exchanged.

The R&D Academy opened in 2014 and was commissioned by BSRIA, who audit the calibration and operating procedures. The facility includes a fully equipped demonstration area where tests can be witnessed by contractors, consultants and end clients; and now also boasts a fully-fledged conference room.  

Importance of physical demonstrations

“Both engineers and consultants, in particular, could benefit from more exposure to physical demonstration of their designs,” said Mr Gore. “The way our industry’s supply chain works means that they are often kept remote from the real-life performance of the systems they specify. By witnessing a physical test and influencing how the bespoke conditions are adjusted, they can be as close as possible to seeing their ideas in action.”

Swegon Air Management comprises the Actionair, Air Diffusion, Naco, and Airfiltrera brands and its academy boasts a 7.5m x 5.6m test room to conduct testing on air terminal devices to the BS EN 12238 standard for mixed flow applications and to BS EN 12239:2001 for displacement flow.

Variety of testing capabilities

The room is set up to stage testing of grilles, diffusers, linear slot diffusers and floor grilles with air velocity measured at multiple points as required. The facility can be set up to compare the performance of different products allowing engineers to make comparisons between four-way and swirl diffusers, for example, before making final design decisions.

Aerodynamic testing of dampers, including blade and casing leakage to BS EN 1751:1999, is also available and technicians at the academy will also carry out thermal transmittance testing to BS EN 1751:1999 and thermal release testing in general accordance with BS ISO 10294-4:2001.

The Academy also has a high pressure wind tunnel designed to meet the specifications of the international Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) alongside cycle test facilities for long-term endurance testing of products.

Steve and his team have designed their own giant plenum box to test weather louvres in line with BS EN 13030 and this is proving to be a popular addition as more clients are asking for actual performance figures to meet more stringent energy efficiency targets.

The attitude used to be that one louvre was very much like another, but clients are much more discerning now and want real performance figures.
— Steve Gore, Engineering Manager

For more information on bespoke testing and how to book a demonstration day at the Swegon Air Management R&D Academy, please email: stephen.gore@swegonair.co.uk.