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University emergency lighting

Home to nearly 22,000 students, Teesside University has over the last few years made a £150m investment in facilities. Middlesbrough Tower is the most eye-catching structure on the campus and at 11 storeys high it houses the main reception area, offices and teaching areas.

As one of the oldest buildings on the site, it is undergoing a phased refurbishment. The building’s previous emergency lighting had been in place since the late 1960s and for the university’s estates manager, David Newton, it was time to upgrade.

David says: ‘The central battery systems had become expensive to run and maintain, and took up quite a lot of space. Also, the 8W luminaires that the old system used needed to be changed on an all too frequent basis, and this took a lot of time and money to do. Therefore, I wanted to install a system that would reduce overheads, while utilising the latest energy saving technology.’

Teesside has had a long-standing relationship with local safety installer Tees Fire Systems. The company designs, supplies, installs, commissions and repairs fire detection and emergency lighting all over the UK.

Tony Cooney is the company’s technical sales director. He says: ‘David had very specific criteria for the new emergency lighting system and we had to suggest a solution that could meet all of them. We have worked with Hochiki Europe for many years and have always been highly impressed with the design, quality and reliability of its products. Having heard about the new FIREscape emergency lighting solution, which utilises light emitting diode (LED) technology, we believed it would be ideal for this particular application.’

Made in the UK, FIREscape is an EN 50172 compliant intelligent low voltage system, which comprises an addressable emergency lighting control panel with battery back-up, and features addressable, self-contained LED luminaires and signage connected via low voltage (40V) cabling. The luminaires also come with battery back-up, so that they will function in every situation.

Cooney asked Mark Smith, Hochiki Europe’s UK sales manager, to visit the site. Smith says: ‘When I met Tony and David, as well as talking to them about the many features of the system, I was also able to provide an accurate idea of the long-term cost savings it could offer.’

Hochiki Europe recently carried out a comparison of FIREscape compared to a traditional manual test system and identified all the costs associated with each on a 1000 luminaire system used over a 10 year period. Smith adds, ‘It factored in maintenance labour, battery replacement, testing labour, recycling costs, energy use and initial capital outlay. We found that over this period of time FIREscape could save a massive £184,885, with a CO2 reduction of over 29.5 tonnes.’

Such is the size and scope of the project that the emergency lighting is being fitted in phases. The first phase was completed in late 2011 and David Newton says: ‘I was very impressed with the entire installation process and it also gave me a chance to assess FIREscape in-situ. Needless to say, it surpassed all my initial expectations and I had no hesitation in giving the go-ahead for its installation across the rest of the estate.’

Four years on, five floors of Middlesbrough Tower have been completed, while work has also started in the nearby Constantine Building. So far, more than 500 LED luminaires and have been sited and these are linked to four addressable control panels using existing cabling. Once the project is completed the control panels will be networked so that they can be monitored from a central location with the estates department.

The system has been configured with two modes that are programmed via the control panels. The first is an emergency mode, where the lights operate at maximum illumination if there is a power failure. Secondly, normal or maintained mode means that the system can be used as part of the permanent lighting of the building during pre-defined periods of a day. This is employed in the main corridors and stairs for when the cleaners are carrying out their work in the building.

As for the installation, Tony Cooney says: ‘The luminaires fit directly on to a standard Hochiki Europe sensor base. The whole process can be completed very quickly and this means that we cause minimum disruption to the operation of the building during normal working hours.’

Due to its complexity, maintaining the previous system was a problem and involved time, effort and money. However, with FIREscape, the estates management team can maintain it in-house and remain compliant with EN 50172, due to its use of low voltage cabling. The control panels continuously monitor and test the functionality of the system and it can also be pre-programmed to carry out specific monthly, six monthly and annual tests.

This in-built functionality also makes the system compliant with the requirements of BS 5266-1:2005, while reducing Teesside’s operational overheads. Its long life LED technology also means that it requires only one per cent of the bulb changes required with traditional lighting, lowering costs further. David Newton adds: ‘We were one of the first organisations to install FIREscape and it’s a decision that I’m extremely pleased about. Not only is it incredibly energy efficient and easy to maintain, it has provided us with an emergency lighting solution that significantly enhances the safety of staff and students alike.’

For further information

Contact Hochiki Europe on 01634 266566, email: or visit


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