The year is 1911, and the empty hull of the Titanic has moved into Belfast’s Thompson Dry Dock for its fit-out, painting and installation of the propellers. Adjacent to the dry dock sits the Pumphouse, where powerful pumps can drain the Thomson Dock of 26 imperial gallons of water in just 90 minutes, the equivalent of two swimming pools per minute. With the ship in place, the caisson gate closes, the pumps kick into life and the dock drains to reveal its beautiful Victorian architecture.
Today, 112 years after the Titanic made her fateful maiden voyage, the Pumphouse has been bought back to its former glory, with every red brick and arched window lovingly restored to host Belfast’s first working distillery in almost 90 years. Opening to the public in April 2023 Titanic Distillery housed in this historic building will welcome tourists hoping to learn a little more about the heritage of Belfast's famous docks and sample some traditional Irish whiskey.
Atlas World, a leading fire installation company also based in Belfast, were commission for this prestigious project by the consulting company who specified Hochiki products.
With experience in fire security projects in both modern and listed buildings, including Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, Queens University, Belfast MET College and Lidl’s Northern Ireland Distribution HQ the team led by Gavin Nesbitt, the technical sales manager, knew this would be a complex job not only because the building was listed, but also because of the methods used during the distilling process.
“Although Atlas World have been using Hochiki products for several years now, my experience has only been in the last 18 months or so. I loved how easy the products were to fit out, especially in comparison to competitors, plus the range is vast so you can pick and mix depending on the requirements of the project.
The process of making whiskey is quite dangerous, with the potential for fire occurring from the release of flammable compounds such as ethanol (alcohol). Although the essence of whiskey distilling is steeped in heritage and tradition, when it comes to safety there is no room for nostalgia. It was important that Atlas World were able to use a range of products that were suitable for the use of the room, ensuring the safety of staff and visitors and of course protecting this world heritage site.
“Hochiki’s ESP range was installed including multi-sensors and optical sensors. This enabled us to programme the sensitivity of the devices depending on the environment, for example steam and heat. With Hochiki’s products we could adapt the parameters to not only to keep everyone safe, but also to reduce the risk of false alarms. Once that alarm goes off everyone must leave immediately because there is a high risk of explosion in this type of environment. For a distillery which is also operating as a tourist venue, false alarms are not only hugely disruptive to the operation itself but can cost the distillery a lot of money and be damaging to their reputation as a safe tourist spot. Hochiki Europe’s products have dramatically reduced the risk of false alarms for our customer.
We also installed Hochiki’s range of loop powered sounders and beacons. These visual devices were critical for the parts of the building where noise levels might cover the sound of an alarm for workers using ear defenders and of course they are vital in facilities such as disabled toilets. The other bonus is they consume exceptionally low levels of electrical current and maximise the loop's capacity".
A key priority for the distillery owners was to ensure that this listed building was not damaged in any way, and so the National Trust and a specialist archaeologist was recruited to ensure that any works carried out would be done so empathetically.
“We needed to ensure that all the work we carried out complied with the specifications set out by the heritage experts. Aesthetically the design of Hochiki products is modern yet simple, so they can just slip into the background, do their job, all without detracting from or impacting on the surroundings. This was a feature that was important to Titanic Distillers".
As with many fire installation projects over the last few years, frustrations have been felt when projects have been delayed due to supply chain issues. Unfortunately, this project was not immune from this. However, as Nesbitt explains Hochiki were able to handle the issue
“We knew we would have some issues over call point availability, however our contact at Hochiki Europe was excellent at keeping us informed at every step and he came up with an alternative solution that worked well and meant we could still deliver the project on time.
Following the project at Titanic Distillers Hochiki are now my go-to supplier. We did use alternative manufacturers for the panels and aspirators but only because we weren’t familiar with these products from Hochiki, however going forward having now seen the standard, reliability, and ease of install I would not hesitate to recommend Hochiki Europe next time.”
Titanic Distillers opened its doors to the public on the 28th April 2023 and Atlas World will manage the ongoing maintenance of the Hochiki life safety devices installed.
Click here for further information on the ESP Range from Hochiki.