Integrated Systems Testing (IST)

Written by: Nicole Imeson, P.L.(Eng.)

Integrated Systems Testing—commonly referred to as IST—is the testing of fire protection and life safety systems which integrate with each other. The purpose is IST is to test the integrated function of two or more interconnected systems; where each individual engineer or contractor will test their specific systems, IST looks to test the functionality of those systems together. The requirements and procedures for integrated systems testing are outlined in CAN/ULC-S1001; which can be viewed online for free.

Systems requiring integrated systems testing may include smoke exhaust systems which are an integration between HVAC and fire alarm, door holds which are integration between door hardware and fire alarm, and emergency equipment which is an integration between critical equipment and life safety generator. One common way to determine if a life safety system qualifies for IST is if any two systems are designed or installed by two or more contractors or design professionals. This test doesn't always apply— such as with life safety power systems and lighting systems—but does typically highlight if there's an interconnection between two systems.


IST Coordinator

An IST coordinator oversees the IST process, develops the testing plan, and witnesses the testing. As per Alberta Municipal Affairs Standata 19-BCI-020 “an integrated testing coordinator shall be a registered engineering professional knowledgeable and experienced in the design, installation, and operation of fire protection and life safety systems, and the fire protection and life safety functions of building systems.” While it may be simpler to hire the engineers of record to complete the IST, the coordinator can be a separate party.

The testing plan outlines the requirements to systematically test the integration between each life safety system interconnection within the building. Alberta Municipal Affairs has published a sample project test plan for reference. There is also a sample test plan, test protocols, and procedures within CAN/ULC-S1001. The testing plan should include the required participants to carry out each test and the required results to provide a stamped IST certificate, which is required for building occupancy in most cases in Alberta.



How Does Integrated Systems Testing Impact Building Owners?

First and foremost, the operation of life safety system is what enables people in a building to exit safely and timely in the event of an emergency. Regular testing of these systems and integration between disciplines is critical to building occupants and risk management. Building owners should ensure their contractors are aware of IST requirements and have allowed for it within their project budget and schedule. As enforcement is relatively new in Calgary, IST may not have been initially included on all projects. Where renovations or system modifications occur between testing, only the integrated systems affected are required to undergo an IST.

Owners should also be aware of testing frequency outlined in CAN/ULC-S1001, which states, “an integrated test shall be performed one year after the completion of the initial integrated test conducted” and “following the one-year integrated test, subsequent integrated tests shall be conducted at intervals not exceeding five years.” It is our understanding this may not be currently enforced by the City of Calgary, but enforcement should be expected in the future. Assuming the testing plan has been well preserved and has been updated with building changes between tests, the later tests should be a repeat of the original testing plan to make sure none of the systems have malfunctioned.


How Does Integrated Systems Testing Impact Engineers?

The design criteria for the life safety systems are the responsibility of the design professional for each system. As the engineer of record for the life safety systems, engineers are an integral part of the IST, even if they are not acting as the IST coordinator. “Prior to implementation of the integrated testing plan, the integrated testing coordinator shall provide the integrated testing plan to the design professionals for review and acceptance.” states CAN/ULC-S1001. A meeting may be required to discuss the integrated systems and their performance prior to finalizing and submitting the test plan. Once acceptance from the engineers of record is received, and any comments are incorporated into the test plan, the test can be scheduled with the construction group.

The IST seeks to avoid re-testing systems which have already been tested, meaning the IST coordinator will likely require functional test reports for various aspects of the building’s life safety systems to determine which systems have not been tested. An example of this is the fire alarm verification inspection (FAVI). If the FAVI report outlines the procedure, completion, and acceptance of functional testing for systems turned on or off by the fire alarm, the acceptance of this report enables the testing coordinator to not repeat those tests.


How Does Integrated Systems Testing Impact Contractors?

As the installers of the buildings life safety systems, the contractors are an integral part of IST testing. The contractors will assist the test coordinator in activating and witnessing the operation of various life safety systems. As such, it is important the contractor review the test plan well in advance of the test date to ensure they have all necessary personnel on site. It is also recommended a dry run of the test be completed ahead of time to ensure integration functions as intended.

The objective of integrated systems testing is to test the interconnection between life safety systems and enable people to exit the building safely in an emergency. Ensuring the functionality of these systems is key to risk management and occupant safety.