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CFRA pressing ahead to make FT-6 cable compulsory

A move underway to make fire retardant FT-6/CMP plenum cabling mandatory in new commercial building sites across Canada could have enormous impact on ITS designers and installers currently not based e...


March 1, 2006  


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A move underway to make fire retardant FT-6/CMP plenum cabling mandatory in new commercial building sites across Canada could have enormous impact on ITS designers and installers currently not based either in Ontario or Vancouver.

According to Marek Kapuscinski, product engineering cable director for Belden CDT’s networking division in Pointe-Claire, Que., every six months upwards of 80,000 kilometres of the more flammable FT-4 riser cable is installed across Canada.

He estimates that works out to as much as 1,200 tons of plastic insulation and jacketing materials that would produce thick, dense smoke in the event a fire were to erupt in a commercial building. Tests have revealed that FT-6 cable generates 40 times less smoke.

“The underlying thrust for fire safety in a building is smoke control for that is what kills people,” says Kapuscinski, who spoke at the recent BICSI Winter Conference in Orlando.

“The vast majority of cabling goes into suspended ceilings lying loose and there are tons of plastic up there. FT-4 cables that we have in Canada have no smoke controls at all. One day there is going to be a serious fire. I don’t want to have to say at that point, we were sitting on the sidelines hiding behind the National Building Code (NBC). This is the year for Canada to decide.”

The current regulatory situation is both confusing and complicated, at best. In Canada, only Ontario and the city of Vancouver have toughened up the requirements contained in the code and made FT-6 mandatory in all new commercial buildings.

The rest of B.C. and all other provinces have opted to remain part of the FT-4 status quo.

The situation in Canada is in stark contrast to the U.S. where the majority of states have adopted the more stringent controls.

“Upwards of 90% of the U.S. has controls on smoke, Ontario has it, the city of Vancouver has it, but the rest of Canada is not protected in the same way,” Kapuscinski says.

He was part of a group from the Cable Fire Research Association (CFRA) that pressed for changes with the Standing Committee on Fire Safety and Occupancy during the run-up to the 2005 release of the NBC, a document that is reviewed and revised every five years

The committee, an arm of the National Research Association of Canada, publisher of the code, did put the matter to a vote in 2003 at a meeting in Montreal, but only nine of 23 members voted in favor, with abstaining and negative votes not being counted. It later issued a statement saying that the changes proposed for plenum cables were submitted late in the review cycle and that members did not have a chance to properly review the issue. It added that it should be treated as a “high priority” in the next revision for 2010.

Kapuscinski maintains that the new standing committee should be told to start working on this right away and release an interim amendment: “It’s being formed right now and hopefully a meeting will take place this year. I will do my best at that meeting to present this issue.”

Kapuscinski notes that while much of Canada is still largely using FT-4 cabling, the U.S. is considering a move from FT-6 to an even tougher flame and smoke controlled cabling standard called Limited Combustible or LC-50.

According to the CFRA, such cabling satisfies the conditions established by some jurisdictions to permit installation without additional fire protection measures — such as using metal conduit or sprinkler systems in plenum spaces.

Building owners and managers, architects, electrical engineers, fire safety inspectors and installers of cabling need to be aware of available options to improve fire safety; particularly regarding the relative fire safety performance of Limited Combustible (LC) cabling versus combustible cabling, it says.