Sprinkler debate sees industries call for change

Sprinkler debate sees industries call for change

AHEAD OF a debate on sprinklers to be held in Westminster Hall today, building industry bodies and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) have called for legislative changes.

The debate today was led by MP Jim Fitzpatrick, with the NFCC stating ahead of the debate that England ‘is lagging behind Scotland and Wales’ on sprinklers, and calling for a change in legislation. It believes that the country needs to ‘come into line’ with Scotland and Wales, which have both introduced reductions in height restrictions for sprinkler installations, and also requiring mandatory installation ‘in some cases’ for flats and care homes.

In turn, the council wants to see sprinklers fitted in schools for both property protection and life safety, and in facilities ‘providing waste management and recycling’. Its view is that sprinklers should be ‘part of overall fire safety solutions in both new and existing buildings’, which is ‘further evidenced’ by the NFCC’s research alongside the National Fire Sprinkler Network. This, it claimed, ‘has proven the effectiveness of suppression systems in extinguishing fires’.

It concluded by noting that NFCC research had also shown that ‘in both converted and purpose-built flats, sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires’, which ‘supported the concept of risk-assessed retro-fitting of sprinklers into existing buildings’. Terry McDermott, NFCC lead for automatic water suppression systems, commented: ‘The case for increased use of sprinklers is clear and has the evidence to back these calls up.

‘We know that sprinklers save lives, protect property, keep firefighters safer, while reducing the impact of fire on the environment and protecting businesses. When fitted in homes, sprinklers reduce fire damage by around 75% and people are 50% less likely to be injured. I look forward to the fitting of sprinklers and their wider benefits being raised in this debate; it is essential this important issue is firmly on the agenda and we see changes made.

‘Standards in England must be enhanced and brought in line with national policy in Scotland and Wales with regard to water suppression systems. We recently responded to the government consultation on Approved Document B, which supports building regulations for fire safety and is used for large numbers of new and refurbished building designs, with a view to making these changes a reality.’

Inside Housing also reported on three ‘influential’ building industry bodies that have issued a joint call for mandatory installation of sprinklers in all new homes in buildings 11m or taller. The three included the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), with all three stating that sprinklers should be retrofitted in existing buildings during refurbishment works involving ‘material alterations’.

They also noted that the government ‘should require’ sprinklers in hotels, hospitals, student accommodation, schools and care homes, and while sprinklers have been required in new residential buildings of 10 storeys or higher since 2007 in England, regulations ‘do not apply retrospectively’. A statement from the three read: ‘As leading chartered professional bodies in the built environment, we believe further action is required to improve the fire safety of buildings in the UK.

‘Lives, stock and property are saved by the use of automatic fire suppression systems (AFSS), which includes sprinklers. At present, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland differ in their requirements on sprinklers yet the science of fire knows no political or geographical boundaries. Harmonising building regulations across the nation states of the UK regarding the installation of sprinklers would provide clarity to the industry and help protect the public.’

All three added in turn that they support installing fire suppression systems including sprinklers in buildings smaller than 11m ‘on a case-by-case basis of risk’, and promised to bring forward guidance ‘reflecting’ their position on sprinklers ‘in the absence of government legislation’.