Scottish bill proposes sprinkler retrofitting

Scottish bill proposes sprinkler retrofitting

THE BILL proposed by the Scottish government aims to ‘require Scottish social housing to be fitted with fire suppression systems’.

This proposed bill, the Social Housing (Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (Scotland) Bill, has been mooted by MSP Dave Stewart, who stated that ‘the necessity for robust fire safety measures in Scotland cannot be understated’, with Scotland having ‘consistently had a higher number of fires, as well as fire deaths, injuries, and damage’ than the rest of the UK.

After the Grenfell Tower fire, it is ‘crucial that we heed the warning and continually review and enhance our approach to fire safety. The strength of our existing measures should never be taken for granted. When it comes to fire safety it is true that there is no one “fix all” approach. Nevertheless, I believe that fire sprinklers are an important tool that hold much life-saving potential’.

From his perspective, installing sprinklers is a ‘proven method of preventing the spread of fires and limiting the death and damage that fire can cause’, and while new domestic high rises and residential care buildings are required to have sprinklers installed in Scotland, Mr Stewart states ‘I believe that these requirements can, and should, go further’.

His proposal aims to ‘require the installation of sprinkler systems into all new-build social housing across Scotland’, and notes that ‘there may also be a case for requiring the retrofitting of sprinklers into such existing social housing stock’. The consultation on the bill is now open, and the aim of the bill is to ‘improve fire safety across Scotland and reduce the numbers of fire fatalities and injuries in some of the most socially deprived areas where a significant amount of social housing is located’.

In detail, ‘a possible mechanism’ would be to amend the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 ‘so that any new building that is intended for use as residential social housing is included within the list of buildings required to have a fire suppression system installed’. While the ‘precise detail’ of this ‘would need to be examined, it is envisaged that the resulting legislation will place an obligation on all local authorities and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) to have fire suppression systems installed in all new housing developments that they commission’.

The bill would not ‘place any requirement on social landlords as to the type’ of system, but it is anticipated that ‘any technical specification will be left to Scottish Ministers to determine if they so wish in the future’. On retrofitting, the bill states that ‘there would remain a legacy of social housing without sprinkler systems which was built before existing regulations came into force’, with high rises ‘considered to pose particular risks due to limited safe evacuation routes’.

The opportunity ‘is being taken, through this consultation process, to explore the possibility’ of ‘imposing an obligation’ on social housing owners to retrofit systems. These suggestions would ‘obviously have implications for social landlords who own and manage social housing’, in terms of build costs increasing, but would ‘also lead to reduced levels of damage done to properties owned by social landlords due to fire’.

As such, insurance premiums would be ‘expected’ to fall, with money ‘freed up to use elsewhere’, and social landlords ‘will be afforded as much flexibility as possible’ as the bill ‘will not include specifications’ for system types. A ‘substantial lead in period’ would also enable landlords to ‘financially plan’ ahead, while social housing tenants ‘will receive enhanced protection’, ‘extra time to evacuate safely’ and ‘minimise the damage done to their belongings’.