For any building that’s both a historical monument and houses millions of records – most of them on paper – it stands to reason that fire protection is of the utmost importance. This is very much the case at the Archive of Serbia, where Apollo Fire Detectors has been brought in to provide a robust solution.
Fires in libraries and archives cause two types of damage: material loss of the collections (and perhaps the building) and what might be termed social damage.
Indeed, society has suffered some extraordinary losses from ancient times to the present, from the fire at the Alexandria Library to the fire at the Library of the Academy of Sciences in the former Soviet Union.
Archives cannot be replaced. Once they’ve been destroyed, they are lost forever.
Opened in 1900, the Archive of Serbia is the country’s national archive. Located in Belgrade, the current building was dedicated in 1928 to house and protect documents and other materials produced by state bodies and organisations of Serbia before 1918, as well as documents produced during and after World War II.
Although the National Archive was heavily damaged during the latter conflict, the archives still hold a large amount of information dating back to early medieval times. Over ten kilometres worth of historical records, in fact, housed within 972 archives and representing 51 collections.
By definition, archives contain highly combustible materials like paper and cardboard. Tightly packed shelves positioned closely together accelerate the progress of any fire and even small amounts of smoke and soot can damage ancient and valuable documents. Water which is used to extinguish any fire can also cause a great deal of damage.
To avoid as much damage as possible, early warning fire detection is an absolute essential.
Designing the fire protection system
When called in to design, install and commission a new fire protection system for the Archive of Serbia, Apollo Fire Detector’s business partner TVI Ltd in Belgrade specified Apollo’s XP95 optical smoke detectors and XP95 heat detectors.
Vladimir Zrnić from TVI said: “Designing a fire detection system for the Archive of Serbia was challenging and interesting at the same time. We knew that the air would not be completely clear and that rising temperatures had to be detected extremely early to avoid fire spreading rapidly as it would in a room filled with very old, and therefore very dry paper.”
Zrnić continued: “XP95 heat detectors monitor temperature by using a single thermistor which provides a count output proportional to the external air temperature. The standard heat detector will report an alarm at a temperature as low as 55 degrees Celsius, whereas the XP95 optical smoke detector works using the light scatter principle and is ideal for applications where slow-burning or smouldering fires are likely. Both are ideally suited for this project.”
Overall, more than 80 devices have been installed covering ten software zones in the four-storey building. Fire suppression systems cover three floors of the structure which boasts an overall floor space of five thousand square metres.
Special considerations to be taken into account included the above average dust levels and very high ceilings. In combination with heating and ventilation systems, which can cause stratification, high rooms can be challenging spaces for fire detection systems. Large numbers of high shelves are potential obstacles that could delay the detection of fire and smoke so system designers need to bear this in mind.