Detroit Observatory Fire Alarm System – The University of Michigan

Built in 1854, the Detroit Observatory is the first observatory built in the state of Michigan. It is also the second oldest building on The University of Michigan's campus. Replacing a fire alarm and security system in this historically significant and aesthetically sensitive building became JDRM's challenge and the resulting solution a stellar success

The University of Michigan Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Department asked JDRM Engineering to develop a conceptual approach for the installation of a fire alarm system in the Detroit Observatory. While willing to accept surface mounted raceway if necessary, the University wanted it minimized, if not eliminated, difficult an all plaster and stucco-constructed building.

Two methods were proposed by the University – A traditionally wired fire alarm system or a wireless fire alarm system. A wireless system would help with initiating devices (smoke detectors, pull stations)  but would not help with signaling devices (horn and strobe devices), which would still need a hard-wired scheme.

JDRM studied the building, designed two solutions as requested by the University, and also presented a third option: utilizing a wireless system for initiating devices. This solution required no surface mounted raceway thus eliminating the need for wall cutting and patching in the historical structure. The cost for this approach was significantly less than the two options originally posed for JDRM to consider.

As JDRM studied the structure the existing security system was mapped with the raceway already feeding security motion sensors to pick up any human movement.  Because the raceway worked for signaling device locations the existing security system was to be removed and replaced with a wireless SECURITY system as was and fire alarm system. This freed up the locations for signaling devices and ultimately resulted in an optimum placement scheme.

JDRM also provided renderings for the AEC department’s Exterior Elements Design Review Committee (EEDR). These images (shown above) allowed for a thorough review of location and aesthetics to changes of exterior parts of building as well as interior applications where the building is considered Historical. JDRM’s renderings superimposed new work onto actual building photos  to illustrate the new look after construction. These renderings were accepted as submitted.

‹ Back to Case Studies