It’s Never Too Early for an Integrated Systems Testing Plan


Integrated Systems Testing requirements that are not planned for can impact a building’s substantial performance and substantial completion deadlines – as well as the project’s bottom line.

Since 2015, the National Building and Fire Codes of Canada have referenced CAN/ULC-S1001 as the standard for Integrated Systems Testing (IST). This standard became law in 2020, and is being rolled out in municipalities across Canada in various phases. 

In April, we outlined how the City of Calgary approached the law change. But, as we discussed in that article, IST requirements change depending on the municipality, so we thought we’d give you another perspective from two of our Ontario leaders, Smith + Andersen Principal Brad Tilson and Footprint Associate Tom Crowe. Below, they discuss the IST requirements in London, Ontario. Here, the City has been enforcing S1001 for nearly 10 years, which means project teams should be planning for IST right from the beginning of a project to reduce the chances of it impacting deadlines later. 


When is the right time to start talking about an IST Plan?

The right time to start talking about IST is at the first project meeting. Once there is a design brief outlining the systems planned for the building, contractors can identify the requirement for IST so owners and developers are aware.

The next step is a conversation between the owner/developer, the general contractor, and the consultants on a project to educate everyone on the process and align their expectations. Who will be the Integrated Testing Coordinator (ITC)? How will IST be implemented? What are the requirements for contractors? These discussions can happen before a shovel is put in the ground. 

IST Plans methodically test each integration between fire protection and life safety systems in a building, and the more complex the integrations are, the more complex the Plan should be. The project schedule must consider the time needed to create this Plan, coordinate with all the trades who need to be on site to attend the testing, and then complete the testing. There's a lot of coordination involved, and the earlier this begins on a project, the less chance of it impacting deadlines. 

The majority of IST Plans we create in the London office are for new buildings in order for them to achieve occupancy. However, the Authority Having Jurisdiction may require an IST for any new integrations with fire protection and life safety systems in existing buildings. I'm currently the ITC at the Toronto Public Library in North York, as they’re upgrading their fire alarm systems.


It’s not always an obvious connection like a fire alarm upgrade, either. You might be upgrading an elevator for example, which has to integrate with the existing fire alarm system. An IST is needed to confirm that, in the event of a fire alarm, the elevator operates as intended and is recalled to the ground floor as part of the emergency fire operation.


How can improperly planned IST impact a project?

Incorporating unexpected IST can affect the project schedule and budget. These pressures can lead to engaging individuals on the project who may not fully understand the requirements of CAN/ULC-S1001. These individuals might understand fire alarm systems, and be able to complete the work quickly, but don't know the full requirements of IST. The building owner may end up with a poorly completed integrated testing plan (and potentially unsafe building) or even fail to achieve occupancy, which affects the schedule and costs even more. 


Who is responsible for IST?

Consultants can advise a building owner or developer of the requirements under the National Building Code and the Ontario Building Code (or the applicable local building code) but, ultimately, the building owner or developer is responsible for completion of IST.

The London Smith + Andersen and Footprint teams planned and coordinated IST for the Barrel Yards apartment complex in Waterloo, Ontario.

Who can create and coordinate the IST Plan? 

The CAN/ULC-S1001 Integrated Systems Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems standard requires an owner or developer to retain a qualified third-party ITC to plan, manage, and execute the IST Plan. This is similar to a Fire Alarm Verification Inspection, which requires a Canadian Fire Alarm Association (CFAA) certified verifier to confirm the fire alarm system is installed properly and working correctly. An ITC will identify what tests need to take place and the sequence of operations for the various systems, as well as prepare an IST Plan. They also communicate the requirements with contractors so everyone is aware of their individual roles and responsibilities. 

Right now, we’re seeing more municipalities require an ITC to be either part of a company that is certified by Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), or certified as an individual. Some municipalities also have additional regulations requiring an ITC to be a licensed Professional Engineer for that province. That’s why it's essential to talk about a project’s specific requirements for an ITC early on. 


How much do IST requirements differ across Canada?

While there is a common standard in the National Building Code (effective from June 2020), IST submission requirements can differ depending on the municipality. Some have implemented submission strategies to prepare the building owner for the final testing stages. Other municipalities rely on consultants to enforce the standard – and educate building owners, developers, and general contractors as awareness of the standard is still elementary. And then there are municipalities, like the City of London, that have been enforcing CAN/ULC-S1001 since the standard’s inception into the Ontario Building Code in 2015. The City will not grant occupancy until receiving General Review letters from all of the consultants involved on a project, as well as the executed IST submitted by the ITC. 

It’s similar in Kingston and Mississauga – an IST Plan is required at the permit stage. The project won’t go any further until the City receives a Plan. And, as we mentioned earlier, the qualifications for ITCs also vary between municipalities. Some are imposing regulations for when you must submit the identity of the ITC.

The variations between IST requirements just in Southwest Ontario, let alone across Canada, really highlight the importance of talking about IST in the early stages of a project. It’s essential to gauge the level of understanding of building owners, developers, and project teams, identify the IST requirements, and develop a Plan so everyone knows their role right from the start. 


Brad Tilson is a Principal based in our London office. He has led complex projects across a number of sectors, and has been advising on the integration of life safety systems and IST since it became a requirement in Ontario in 2016. Read his full bio HERE.

Tom Crowe is an Associate for Footprint, which is a sustainability consulting firm and a member of the Smith + Andersen Group of Companies. Tom’s expertise includes integrated systems testing of fire protection and life safety systems in accordance with CAN/ULC-S1001-11 across Ontario. Read his full bio HERE


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