Room Integrity Testing

Room integrity testing is recognised as one of the most vital aspects of any fire suppression system. Any suppression system agent that is discharged into an area of risk has to be able to remain there for a minimum period of 10 minutes, from the initial activation of the fire alarm or alert.

All gaseous fire suppression system that protects enclosures such as data/server rooms are required to have a room integrity test when it is commissioned as per the requirements of British Standards BS EN15004 and NFPA 2001 and annually thereafter. Annual integrity testing is also a requirement of the BFPSA and is carried out by all major commercial institutions, such as banks and data companies. 

In the corresponding ISO standard BS EN15004, it states that it is mandatory to undertake the integrity testing annually on your enclosure if it’s protected by a gaseous fire suppression system’. BS EN 15004 also stipulates that if you undertake any modifications to the building envelope within the annual period further testing will be required as your annual certification will be invalid. It is worth noting that if you don’t have valid enclosure certification you may negate your buildings insurance in the event of a fire. 

APT Sound Testing has undertaken hundreds of room integrity tests on varying room types from the largest data centres and power station turbine enclosures through to small office server rooms. We are one of a very few companies that fully understand the theory behind extended discharge and hypoxic tests and we are also able to undertake localised smoke testing to highlight air leakage paths within the room envelope to allow clients to undertake targeted sealing works to improve retention times and attain a room integrity test pass. 

We can provide room integrity testing for a wide variety of types and manufacturers of fire suppression systems throughout England and Wales, whether it is part of a system installation or annual inspection.

Our engineers, using the latest in testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

For further information on our integrity testing services please contact one of our technical sales team members now.

A Room Integrity test predicts how long fire suppressant agents take to descend to a given level in the room without having to discharge the actual suppression system – this is usually 10minutes for the most popular gases). The room is then sealed, and then a series of tests is undertaken. The blower fan unit is temporarily fixed into the test doorway to pressurise and depressurise the enclosure. Afterwards a series of pressure and air flow measurements are taken from which leakage characteristics of the enclosures are established. The predicted retention time is calculated the type of extinguishing system data and the leakage characteristics.

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For most extinguishing system types, a retention time of ten minutes is the minimum period the suppressant agents is required to be retained for within the enclosure. NFPA 2001, Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems, requires that a minimum concentration of 85% of the adjusted minimum design concentration be held at the highest level of combustibles for a minimum period of 10 minutes. This is usually long enough to prevent re-ignition for most deep-seated fires and should provide adequate time for the emergency services to attend and prevent the fire taking hold.

For further information on our integrity testing services please contact one of our technical sales team members now. We can provide room integrity testing for a wide variety of types and manufacturers of fire suppression systems throughout England and Wales, whether it be part of a system installation or annual inspection.

Our basic fan test unit can undertake enclosure tests on rooms up to an envelope of 900m2. It usually takes between 25 – 30 minutes to set up – as long as the room is fully prepared and isolated. Once we have set up the equipment the test takes a further 10-20 minutes to conduct if it passes straightaway; however, it may take longer to inspect if smoke testing is required due to a test failure.

The results can be produced on the same day, with the full detailed report within 24 hours. We can usually undertake up to two enclosure tests on the same site, if the enclosures are in close proximity and are fully prepared for the testing. It is worth noting that throughout the test, there is no requirement to shut down any Computer equipment within the test enclosure so disruption can be kept to minimum. 

We can provide room integrity testing for a wide variety of types and manufacturers of fire suppression systems throughout England and Wales, whether it is part of a system installation or annual inspection.

It is a requirement of British Standards BS EN15004 that any enclosure protected by a gaseous fire suppression system should have a room integrity test when it is commissioned and annually thereafter. It should also be retested if any works are carried out to the building envelope, this can include works such as the installation of a new door or seals and/or new cables, pipe work or ductwork.

Studies reveal that the predominant cause of failure of gaseous extinguishing systems is poor room sealing. It is also found that the room integrity performance reduces with time; this is usually due to changes in construction the additions of cabling or services, or simply by natural movement of the enclosures envelope. 

It is important to ensure that good room integrity is established and maintained within areas such as data centre spaces, particularly bearing in mind the potential consequences of system failure. 

We use the latest testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

For further information on our integrity testing services please contact one of our technical sales team members now.

It is a requirement of the BFPSA that all protected enclosures have valid enclosure certification; it’s also a requirement of all major commercial institutions. The benefits of ensuring room integrity are widely recognised by insurers and regulatory authorities, who frequently require such testing to prevent critical system failure valuable assets such as server rooms and data centres.

In the relevant ISO standard BS EN15004, it states that it is ‘mandatory that integrity testing is carried out annually on all enclosures protected by a gaseous fire suppression system’. If you don’t have valid enclosure certification you may negate your buildings insurance in the event of a fire. In all instances the integrity certification should always be attached to the front of the protected enclosure/s to show it has valid certification and to clearly show the dates of the next test. The certification also has other useful information that should be adhered to at all times. If you don’t have integrity test certification fixed to the front of the enclosure, then the chances are that your enclosure may not have valid certification. In all instances do not panic, just call us on 01525 303905 and we will organise a test date to suit all parties. 

In many cases the stakeholder may not be aware that works have taken place inside the server room, which may have reduced the integrity of the enclosure envelope, which is why it’s always best to plan any works in protected enclosures so that everyone’s aware of the importance of maintaining the integrity of the enclosure envelope to ensure that in the event of a fire, the gaseous suppressant doesn’t leak straight through excess air leakage paths.

Also, if a room integrity test plan is followed at all times, then the integrity test can be programmed straight after the service works have taken place. To reduce the chance of potential fire damage to your valuable assets, it is essential that a room Integrity test plan is adhered to at all times. APT can formulate a testing schedule and warn you of any impending tests to ensure you have valid certification at all times. 

If you don’t think you have valid room integrity certification please contact us now. We use the latest testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

In our experience the majority of room integrity test failures are caused by the lack of enclosure integrity, and/or the ability of the enclosure to adequately retain the extinguishant agent. Often the correct initial design concentration can be achieved but the enclosure is not able to retain the extinguishant agent for the required holding period due to the large amount of air leakage paths.

If the enclosure has failed the room integrity test, remedial work should be undertaken to reduce the air leakage paths within the building envelope, this may include;

a. Sealing all cracks or penetrations leading into or out of the protected enclosure.
b. Sealing all pipe chases and cable trays to be sealed around the outside and inside where they penetrate the perimeter boundaries of the protected enclosure.
c. Walls to be caulked around the inside perimeter at the floor and ceiling junctions. 
d. Sealing of porous blockwork walls – this can be remedied by painting and ensuring the mortar joints are full. 
e. The addition of door sweeps or drop seals, weather stripping around jambs.
f. Sealing of windows/glazed sections to the area.
g. The sealing of the underside of doorways within the floor void.
h. Ensure that air conditioning dampers are closing properly. 

If you need advice on how to seal your server room or data centre please contact us now. We use the latest testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

If you fail your room integrity test don’t panic. We can quickly undertake smoke testing to locate and record the air leakage paths. Smoke testing is undertaken whilst the room is pressurised, the smoke will then move towards the nearest air leakage path. Targeted remedial works can then be undertaken by the contractor to seal the building envelope. Once the appropriate remedial work has been completed the enclosure should be retested to confirm if an acceptable level of integrity has been reached by achieving a retention time in excess of 10 minutes.

If you have failed your room integrity test and/or you need advice on how to seal your server room or data centre please contact us now. We use the latest testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

We have collated a series of the most frequently asked questions related to Room Integrity Testing. We hope it helps to you to understand the requirements of BS EN 15004.

a. Why do I need a fire enclosure test on my server room? – The test is a requirement of the British Standard for gaseous fire extinguishing systems – BS EN:ISO 14520. Most fire insurers will require evidence that the test has been conducted and the result is satisfactory. 

b. How quickly can a room integrity test be arranged? – Usually within a few days. 

c. How long does the enclosure test take? – Usually between 1 and 2 hours. 

d. Will the server room integrity test set off alarms? – No. The enclosure test is completely independent of the detection system. 

e. Is the room integrity test disruptive? – No. It is only necessary to stop access to the room for 10-15 minutes. Personnel can continue to work in the room. The enclosure test can be paused if immediate access becomes required. 

f. Do servers need to be switched off during the enclosure integrity test? – No the equipment can keep running. 

g. Do air conditioning units need to be switched off during the enclosure integrity test? – Recirculation (chiller) units may continue to run. Air supply/extract ducts passing into the enclosure will need the dampers closed or temporarily sealed. 

h. Will I get a certificate if I pass the room integrity test? – It will be issued within a few days. This should be retained for possible inspection by the authorities/insurers. A summary certificate can be issued at the time of enclosure test if required. 

i. Where do I store the pass certificate? – It is a good idea to laminate the certificate and then attach it to the front of the enclosure door, as it lets the fire officer know when the next annual test should be undertaken. 

j. What happens if the room fails the server room enclosure test? – We can carry out an inspection to identify leakage paths for remedial sealing. These will be pointed out at the time of the enclosure test and a plan included in the report. It is recommended that a retest be conducted after remedial action to confirm the adequacy of the retention time.
 
k. Can remedial sealing be done at the time of the server room enclosure test? – Yes, provided the leakage can be swiftly remedially, or temporarily, sealed. 

l. Can APT undertake remedial sealing? – Yes we can do this if requested or the client can arrange remedial sealing themselves. 

m. Do you supply any literature to help us prepare for the enclosure test? – Yes, we supply all our clients with an easy to follow checklist to help them prepare for the room enclosure test. 

n. How often should the room integrity test be undertaken? – The relevant British Standard (BS EN: ISO 14520) specifies that the test should be conducted annually as part of routine maintenance and/or after works have taken place to the enclosure envelope. 

If you have a question that isn’t covered above, please contact us now, we have a vast amount of experience in regards to testing protected enclosures throughout the UK.

Descending Interface

The fire retardant agent is discharged from the ceiling -highest point) into the protected enclosure. An ‘interface’ with a constant concentration – known as the Initial Concentration) descends from the discharge level as gas leaves escapes from the enclosure via air leakage paths. The time it takes for this ‘interface’ to reach the minimum protected height such as the top of the server racks is defined as the Hold time. The time retention time is usually set at 10 minutes. 

Continual Mixing

The suppressant Agent is discharged at near-ceiling level into the enclosure, thereafter fans circulate gas throughout the room, resulting in a uniform agent concentration. This concentration begins at initial concentration and lowers until it eventually reaches a specified minimum concentration. The time it takes for the initial concentration to reach the minimum concentration is defined as the hold time. 

Extended Discharge

Typically extended discharges consist of an initial discharge for 10 to 60 seconds to get the concentration up to the design concentration. Then the extended discharge will continue at a lesser rate. The intention is for the extended discharge to replace the agent that leaks out of the room. It is assumed that the extended discharge will create enough turbulence to create a continual mixing situation throughout the extended discharge period. 

Pressure Relief Venting

High pressures occur in the event of discharge and these need to be fully controlled or compensated for if the extinguishing ability is not to be fail or be impaired. It is important that consideration be given to provide pressure relief in areas where structural damage is most likely to occur if there is not sufficient venting to allow the dispersal of localised spike pressures in the event of a discharge.

As the natural leakage area from an enclosure may vary it is recommended that this is not utilised as the pressure relief facility as it will not remain constant. It is therefore recommended that the enclosure is structurally sealed to a very high degree and that the pressure relief is then catered for by installing Pressure Relief Damper units (PRD) with an equivalent surface area.

We can provide room integrity testing for a wide variety of types and manufacturers of fire suppression systems throughout England and Wales, whether it is part of a system installation or annual inspection.

The primary purpose in defining the size of an enclosure is to define the volume that is to hold the agent. Unexpected or excessive loss of agent from an enclosure will result in a reduced agent concentration and a greatly decreased period of protection. The design and installation of a facility such as a server room should include an examination of the enclosure to locate potential air leakage paths.

A room integrity test will check that the enclosure can hold the agent for a minimum period of time. Experience has shown that enclosure integrity will reduce over the normal lifetime of an enclosure unless it is properly maintained year on year. For example air leakage paths will may be formed if cable penetrations are disturbed or new openings are made to run additional cables or pipework. Since the design of extinguishing systems depends critically upon enclosure Integrity; it is essential that enclosure integrity is maintained for the lifetime of the enclosure.

Regular checks and a ‘permit to work’ scheme will help maintain its integrity. The Integrity Test is based upon a descending interface being formed; in this case the extinguishant is discharged into the enclosure and gradually escapes through leakage paths around the perimeter being replaced by the ingress of fresh air forming a descending interface. The retention period is the time it takes for this descending interface to reach the tallest item of equipment requiring protection. Obviously the greater the leakage area, the quicker the loss of agent, if this exceeds the allowable leakage rate protection will not be fully effective for the tallest items of equipment over the recommended retention period.

Our engineers, using the latest in testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

For further information on our integrity testing services please contact one of our technical sales team members now.

Extended discharge tests are commonly used where it is not possible to fully seal an enclosure – such as a Gas Turbine Enclosure in a power station. An initial discharge is release in a sufficient concentration that extinguishes the fire, and then an extended discharge takes place to replenish the extinguishing agent at a suitable rate to prevent the fire reigniting for a required period of time.

Initially the test was introduced as an environmentally friendly alternative to discharge testing following the phase out of halon extinguishant under the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion. It is applicable to all sizes of enclosure and all extinguishing gases, including Argonite, Inergen, Proinert, IG55, FM200, FE25, HFC 227ea, FE25, Novec 1230 and CO2.

If you require a test on your turbine enclosure then please contact us now, our engineers, using the latest in testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

For further information on our integrity testing services please contact one of our technical sales team members now.

Successful extinguishment of a fire by a gaseous extinguishing system is critically dependent upon the extinguishing concentration being maintained for a specified period after discharge. Excessive leakage of extinguishant through the construction or ventilation system may result in the fire reigniting. It’s extremely important that the envelope to the protected room is built with an overriding consideration to preventing air leakage.

In our experience the following items should be actioned during the protected enclosures design and construction phase:

1. The test enclosure walls should extend from the floor to ceiling slab, in areas where suspended ceilings exist, all the ceiling tiles should be present and clipped.

2. All holes, cracks or penetrations leading into or out of the test enclosure must be sealed; this includes pipe runs and cable trays. All walls should be sealed around the perimeter of the test enclosure where they rest on the floor slab and where they intersect abut the ceiling above.

3. If voids below raised access floors continue out of the test enclosure to adjoining rooms, the floor void must be completely sealed under the floor, by constructing a bulkhead directly under the walls to the test enclosure, these bulkheads must be sealed completely top and bottom. If the rooms share the same under floor air handlers, then the bulkheads must have dampers installed.

4. Block walls/masonry walls must be sealed slab to slab to prevent air leakage through the walls, the walls should be painted with at least 2 coats of masonry paint, however rendering the walls is usually a better option as it’s even more airtight.

5. The general aim is to make the test enclosure as air tight as possible, during and after the clean agent discharge. Clean agent is heavier than air and therefore openings below floors are usually more critical than those above ceilings; however, during discharge the room gets pressurised to some extent and any gas that can be pushed out of the room will not return. This is more prevalent in smaller rooms because each little crack becomes more significant as the surface to area to room volume ratio changes.

6. Constructional joints are another feature that requires sealing. This may include board joints and the junctions between wall and floor elements.

7. Any profiles in ceilings/walls should be sealed at the junction with adjacent walls/ceilings. Even small open profiles will pose a leakage problem if there are many of them.

8. Doorsets should incorporate flexible ‘smoke’ seals and frames should be backfilled or mastic sealed. Rolling shutters and louvered doors are a particular problem and should, if possible be avoided. If drop curtains are used to reduce leakage through these items it is important that they run in channel guides to reduce edge leakage and unwanted displacement.

9. Air supply and extract ducting will usually be dampered closed on extinguishant discharge. There will inevitably be some leakage past louvered dampers. Whilst this will not normally pose a problem, it will become significant in enclosures where there are extensive areas of dampers in relation to the enclosure size. Under these circumstances it should be ensured that the dampers are well adjusted to minimise leakage.

10. Thought should also be given to other penetrating elements. Cable ducts may be well sealed externally but are likely to provide a leakage path unless packed internally at the point of penetration.

It is hoped that the above comments are of assistance to those responsible for sealing protected rooms. Clearly successful sealing can only be determined by fan testing. However, provided the above points are carefully and fully applied there is no reason why the enclosure should not satisfy the retention time requirement. If you think you have a problem in terms of your enclosure construction please contact us now.

Our engineers, using the latest in testing technology to provide thorough assessments of potential areas of air leakage and advice and recommendations on sealing as well full retention and remedial sealing reports.

For further information on our integrity testing services please contact one of our technical sales team members today.