Office interior showing building systems in the ceiling.
The High Stakes Around Integrated Systems Testing


Who has the ultimate responsibility for testing the integration of life safety and fire protection systems – a process that is both essential for safe buildings, and non-negotiable for occupancy?

The requirement to test the integration of life and fire protection systems within a facility (the CAN/ULC-S1001 “Integrated Systems Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems” standard), became a National Building Code requirement in 2015. However, there is still common (and understandable) confusion around Integrated Systems Testing (IST) on a project. 

Senior Associate Glen Beaudoin and Designer Srivats Vijayan – both part of Smith + Andersen’s national electrical team – discuss who is responsible for IST…and why IST is required over and above the usual functional testing of equipment or systems.


First thing’s first…who IS responsible for Integrated Systems Testing (IST)?  

Owners and developers are often surprised to find out that IST has to be procured separately. It is completely outside the scope of a project’s architect, prime consultant, AND electrical consultant. It is ultimately the responsibility of an owner or developer to make sure IST is carried out on their project, and this means they need to engage an Integrated Testing Coordinator (ITC), who then manages the IST process. 

It’s helpful if the electrical consultant can also be hired as the ITC, as they can often leverage their in-depth knowledge of the electrical design. When Smith + Andersen is engaged as the electrical consultant on a project, we try to also put together a package for IST as an additional service. 


So, not just anyone can perform IST?

No. A uniquely-qualified (and trained) individual is required to coordinate the IST process. 

There are a number of competencies required by the CAN/ULC-S1001 IST standard that establish the specific levels of technical knowledge, practical skills, and expertise required to be an ITC. This Coordinator needs to be experienced in the design, installation, and operation of fire protection and life safety systems. In Alberta, they also need to be a registered engineering professional, with knowledge of building codes and standards. 


How is IST different from Fire Alarm Verification Inspections (FAVI)?

We’re all familiar with FAVI and their implications. What’s important to understand is that, while this will traditionally test and confirm that the alarm works, it won’t necessarily test that any systems that are integrated with it will perform as intended in the event of an emergency. That’s where IST – the testing of the integration between systems – comes in. 

IST is functional performance testing that incorporates multiple related systems, rather than a single piece of equipment or a single system. It’s essential for building safety, as this is the testing that confirms each integrated “component” performs as intended. 

The CAN/ULC-S1001 IST standard is a requirement in both the National Building Code and the National Fire Code for any new buildings prior to gaining occupancy. IST is not a “nice to have”.

Interior of Toldo Lancer Centre at University of Windsor

University of Windsor's Toldo Lancer Centre required a two-phase IST plan to accommodate schedules.

What does IST involve?

There is a standardized process that we follow when we act as Integrated Testing Coordinator (ITC) on a project. 

First, we’ll collect the relevant information for the facility and systems, and use this to develop an Integrated Testing Plan – a procedure that is unique to each project. We will then coordinate with specific, individual contractors, who each need to be involved with IST. 

The ITC communicates with any contractor associated with the systems that are interconnected with life safety systems. So, if it's a security system that's interconnected with the fire alarm, we would need the fire alarm manufacturer, electrical contractor, and the security contractor. If the HVAC system is interconnected with the fire alarm, we need the mechanical contractor. Elevators? We’d require the elevator technicians.

The ITC brings it all together, advising each discipline about their responsibilities as part of the testing process, and when they are required to submit documentation and be on site.


How does IST for existing buildings differ from IST for new buildings? 

The City of Calgary is prioritizing education for owners of existing buildings. For now, owners of existing buildings that have not had IST conducted are asked to start building documentation so they could do an IST in the future. 

In many cases, gathering this documentation will be the challenge for building owners! If you own a 20-storey office building that is 40 years old, do you know how the stair pressurization works? How the smoke control works? How is everything connected?

As older buildings go through upgrades (say, fire alarm one year, and then a sprinkler and fire pump upgrade the next, etc.), the Engineer of Record should be telling the owner to keep track of documentation detailing the upgrade. Then an ITC can come in and build an IST plan from that information. 


How often must IST be performed? 

As per the National Building Code, IST is first required near the end of the construction phase, and must be completed prior to issuance of occupancy. The next IST is to be conducted one year after the completion of the initial test, then once every five years from that point onward. While it is a building owner’s responsibility to know when these milestones are coming up, when we’re ITC on a project, we like to make sure we’re looking ahead to the next requirements and taking that role on for the owner.

Additionally, if there's any renovation to a building that affects integrated life safety systems – even as small as adding a maglock to a door in the path of egress – some version of IST will need to be completed. In my mag lock example, because the security system needs to be tied into the fire alarm system, this then needs to undergo IST in order to confirm that these systems are “talking” to each other properly.


Glen Beaudoin is a Senior Associate based in our Calgary office. His collaborative approach, with mechanical engineers, as well as multiple other disciplines, contribute to his unique perspective on the integration of life safety systems. Read his full bio HERE

Srivats Vijayan is an Electrical Designer based in our Calgary office. He specializes in the design of electrical systems for both new construction and renovation projects, and has been the Integrated Testing Coordinator on a number of facilities in Calgary. 


To learn more about Smith + Andersen’s Integrated Systems Testing experience, reach out to any of the below members of our national electrical team.