Our Building Needs an Integrated Test: To Certify or Not to Certify?

A few years ago, the new CAN/ULC-S1001 Standard for Integrated Systems Testing changed everything.

Suddenly, building owners, managers, and boards learned that their life safety system’s various components (alarms, smoke control, elevators, mag locks, doors, etc.) didn’t simply need to be tested individually. They are now learning they need to be tested together in an integrated fashion.

Most people were typically learning about this new integrated test when applying for a permit, which often led to a number of questions:

  • Who can perform this test for us?
  • Do they need to be certified by ULC?
  • Do I need a proper certificate at the completion of the test?

As we covered in this blog, there is some gray area surrounding integrated testing. Broadly speaking, it depends on your municipality.

Some municipalities require you to: 

  • Work with a certified Integrated Testing Coordinator (ITC)… 
  • Who works with a ULC S-1001 Listed firm
  • And earn a certificate by passing the test
  • These areas include municipalities like Kingston, Burlington, Oakville, Collingwood, and more.

Other municipalities do not. You do not need a certified ITC, nor do you need to work with a ULC-listed firm, nor provide a certificate.

However, if you go with a non-certified ITC, you’re opening yourself up to potentially massive financial and compliance problems down the line, while also undermining your building’s safety culture in the process.

Here’s why…

A Licensed ITC Sets You Up For Ongoing Compliance

The entire purpose of the CAN/ULC-S1001 Standard for Integrated Systems Testing is really twofold:

  1. Ensure our buildings are as safe as possible by making sure all systems work together in an integrated fashion, starting at the commissioning stage 
  2. Help provide building owners/managers/board with a baseline for future testing and compliance

That baseline is basically the playbook you need for constant compliance and stress-free inspections.

“Once you’ve done the planning work upfront, future testing becomes a lot easier and a lot more efficient. And on top of that, you could now more effectively gauge whether or not there’s some variance in terms of performance,” said our own ITC, Tom Marchese, P.Eng, PMP

“And you’re now catching things before they go off the rails. This means you could potentially save your money in terms of complete system overhauls that people have to do when they find out about problems the hard way.”

You Could Easily End Up Paying For This Test Twice

We can confidently predict that all municipalities will move towards requiring certification across the board. And this could happen sooner than later, without much warning.

So, if your municipality doesn’t require certification today, and you don’t obtain one, what happens when your municipality pivots and suddenly requires certification?

The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on a test, and then end up having to start the process over again. You could very easily end up going through this expense and effort twice in the same year.

If all municipalities will require ULC-listed firms and actual S-1001 certificates in the near future, it definitely behooves you to do things right the first time.

You WILL Need a Certified Test Eventually

This is not a test you will only do once. According to the standard, your building will have to be retested 1 year after your initial test, and every 5 years after that. At the same time, your building will need a new test if you add/remove/change anything in your building that involves your life safety system.

So, once again, it’s in your best interest to go the certified route.

It’s also important to know that certified ITCs do a far more thorough job of testing. So: 

  • If your first test isn’t certified, but your second is, your second test will be far more difficult
  • If your first test is certified, your second test will probably be just fine.

A certified ITC is going to look at things on a much deeper level, and they’re going to find things that a non-certified ITC never would.

“I haven’t done a single complex project that didn’t require some stick handling. Every time, something was off with the information, with the drawings, or the specifications didn’t match the verification,” said Marchese. 

“A lot of the people we work with are amazed at how deeply we look at things, and how far off their design documentation is from the system and configuration they actually have in the field. If these people would have gone with a non-certified ITC, they would have been in for a real shock the next time they were inspected.”

‘Hidden Problems’ Get More Expensive Over Time

It’s far more expensive to do things right the second time. Why?

Let’s say you have a problem that the non-certified ITC did not find. The longer this problem goes undetected, the more expensive it will become.

First of all, you’re going to have a hard time locating the right people.  

“When you’re in the throes of the test, you’ve got the system design experts there and ready to react, because everybody’s common goal is to get the permit closed,” said Marchese.  

“But once the permit is closed, oh boy! To try to get these people back in the game is very, very tough. And every year that passes is going to make it that much harder. People move on, leave jobs, or retire.”

‘Hidden Problems’ are More Expensive When the Fire Department Finds Them

If we find a problem in your life safety system, we give you documentation that shows the issue and what needs to be done to resolve it.

But, if the building or fire department finds that problem, they could give you a notice of assessment that could eventually lead to hefty fines.

Trust us. It’s definitely better if we find these problems well before the building/ fire department finds them.

At the same time, they are more likely to be a little more lenient for any issues if you can show them that you’re actively working with a ULC-listed fire safety firm and you’re currently in the process of doing A, B, and C to resolve the issue(s).

Do You Need an Integrated Test?

Let us help you maintain the right type of safety culture, while helping you save money through sustainable compliance.

 We’re proud to say that we were Canada’s first UL Listed CAN/ULC-S1001 Integrated Systems Testing Provider, and we’ve already helped a number of people just like you.

You can start the process right now by contacting us at 1 (800) 281-8863 or clicking here.

COVID-19 Update

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Safe Wishes,
Michele Farley
President & Senior Code Consultant
FCS Fire Consulting Services LTD