Vicentini Auto first began trading in 1974 as a family owned and operated car dealership and is based in the northern Italian city of Verona. Since then the company has steadily grown into one of the country's most prominent outlets for the purchase of new and used vehicles, and is widely respected for the expertise of its employees.
The company specialises in the prestigious Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche marques and in 2010 it began work on the construction of a new 56,000m2 state-of-the-art showroom, comprising three buildings that are designed to house models from each of these brands. The buildings took just over two years to complete and now form the largest car centre in Europe. With stock worth millions of Euros and many employees, visitors and customers on-site at any one time, Vicentini Auto recognised the importance of having a life safety infrastructure that could provide the earliest possible warning of fire.
After being contacted by Vicentini Auto, local distributor, DES, was commissioned to specify a fire detection system to protect the entire site. Zeno Nicolis, the company's technical manager, explains, ‘We are also based in Verona and have supplied systems for many of the region's high profile projects. We have a number of highly qualified and experienced individuals on the team that possess in-depth knowledge of technical regulations and legislation in the sector. Since 1996 we have worked closely with Hochiki Europe and now distribute the company's industry leading solutions exclusively.'
Following a visit to the site Nicolis was given a brief to configure a life safety system that adhered to strict technical and aesthetic guidelines. He comments, ‘Like the cars that are displayed there, these buildings are designed, built and finished to the very highest standards. Not only did the fire system have to be almost invisible, so as not to spoil the aesthetics of the showrooms, it also had to offer the very best levels of detection and reliability while reducing the likelihood of unwanted alarms. After considering the various options I felt confident that Hochiki Europe's FIRElink aspirating fire detection solution would tick all the boxes.'
The FIRElink range of detectors are the only high sensitivity detectors that are routinely applied to the protection of clean, dust free environments like modern car showrooms and the very dirty and dusty environments found in industrial applications. This is achieved by using Laser Dust Discrimination (LDD) with a patented dust management and separator system. These features have greatly extended separator life service intervals. At the other extreme, FIRElink is capable of providing the very highest levels of sensitivity in environments such as computer and clean rooms. In these applications it is able to sense the very smallest amounts of smoke.
Paul Adams, Hochiki's marketing manager, comments, ‘Most types of buildings can benefit from having an aspirating fire detection system but it tends to be particularly useful where an early warning is desirable. This is because aspirating detectors are around 10 times more sensitive than general point detectors.'
Most of the system at Vicentini Auto is hidden from view, as the majority of the 1,800m of pipework is located in places such as ceiling voids. This aesthetic advantage is achieved without compromising the effectiveness of the system and a total of 10 FIRElink-400 systems were installed across the three buildings. These were configured around Hochiki's Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP) – a robust addressable communications solution for intelligent fire detection and fully integrated systems.
Nicolis explains, ‘The system is linked to three control panels – one in each building – that form part of an integrated building automation system. Each control panel utilises four loops, which are all connected to a central control room from where it is possible to manage all the panels and associated devices on-site.'
The installation also includes a variety of other Hochiki Europe products including 325 ALG-EN optical smoke detectors that feature its High Performance Chamber Technology. This minimises the differences in sensitivity experienced in flaming and smouldering fires and the result is a device that is incredibly responsive and helps to reduce the possibility of unwanted alarms. In addition, 30 SPC-ET beam detectors and 101 HCP-E call points were used.
While DES designed and commissioned the system, local company, Moretto, was responsible for its installation. The company's managing director, Silvio Moretto, was delighted with the progress made once on-site and comments, ‘Hochiki products are extremely well designed.
Installing Hochiki aspirating systems is incredibly quick compared to other fire detection systems, particularly when considering the building's structure'.
The installation was completed on schedule and the new system has worked perfectly, with no unwanted alarms reported. Zeno Nicolis of DES concludes, ‘We are very pleased to have been involved with this project which sets new standards for car dealerships, not only in Italy but around the world. We had every confidence that the demands of Vicentini Auto for a reliable, unobtrusive and best-in-class fire detection system would be met by Hochiki Europe, and this has proven to be the case.'