Patrick Abgrall, president, Chubb Fire & Security, Europe
Retail complexes continue to attract millions of customers around the world, creating a pressing need for effective fire solutions
About 91% of retail sales last year were in physical stores and, despite the anticipated rapid growth of online shopping, more than 80% of retail sales will transact in physical stores in 2025, according to Forbes information. The shopping mall remains a key format for the traditional retailer so commercial building managers must remain ahead from a health and safety (and fire) perspective. The fire risks associated with crowds flowing through large-scale spaces can be heightened, underscoring the need to implement effective fire systems to protect tenants, customers and staff.
As well as safety, the operational and cost efficiency of a mall is a high priority for developers and investors. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fire safety solutions, and older buildings present architectural challenges, requiring specialized solutions, so fire safety solutions must be tailored and bespoke, and also cost-effective, compliant and efficient.
This can be achieved through interfaced systems, offering clients a cost-effective solution for fire protection. By combining detection and fire suppression system capabilities, response times can be faster while ensuring the safety of shoppers. As a best-known fire safety and security solutions provider for businesses worldwide, Chubb works with many retail chains, protecting customers and premises with essential systems, equipment and services,. It 20+ global monitoring centres provide 24/7 alarm monitoring services to ensure rapid response to any activation.
The changing face of the urban landscape has created the need for creative and innovative solutions. One example of daring architectural design that proved challenging for fire and security protection is the shopping mall CentrO in Oberhausen, Germany. Its size, open spaces, and the value of the contents of the 250+ shops, required a tailored fire safety solution to protect tenants and customers alike. CentrO’s fire safety requirements vary with the architectural features across the site, including the no-roof design with its challenges for fire safety.
It needed rapid detection of any fire-related emergency, with quick activation of the fire suppression solution to protect customers, workers and assets. So Chubb developed an innovative and bespoke solution, combining traditional water sprinklers with a high-pressure water mist system to protect the open-top areas. The use of side wall-mounted sprinkler nozzles to discharge high pressure water mist into the entire area, is paramount to the protection of the open-top areas and cannot be found anywhere else in Europe. It’s ideal for both new and older buildings, complementing the beauty and structural constraints of buildings like CentrO.
As with many retrofit projects, daily customer flow through the mall could not be disturbed during installation so development work happened outside opening hours. CentrO’s shape and size meant this could have been difficult, but by using scissor lifts and scaffolding, Chubb installed the fire systems while maintaining business continuity. Chubb continues to service CentrO today.
The size and requirements of retail centres differ greatly. Chubb works with Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer retail giant, with 2,600+ stores, to service and maintain fire extinguishers and security systems across its stores and head office, as well as extinguishers in the distribution centres. It ensures that service and maintenance of systems and equipment, as well as calls are responded to within specified periods of time. Engineers also sign in and out of site visits electronically, giving Tesco real-time visibility of engineer attendance and reassurance that systems are fully maintained.
The challenges facing the fire industry are multi-faceted and ever-changing. However, with new fire detection and suppression technology backed by third party certifications and best practice guides for protecting buildings old and new, we have the tools to protect occupants from fire – while helping clients maintain business continuity and keeping customers, employees, assets and daring architecture safe.