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Fire Protection & Prevention



Project demonstrates once and for all how significant improvements in life and building safety can be provided by an automatic fire suppression system installed with minimal disruption.

A major project report demonstrates that it is both cost effective and practical to retrofit automatic fire sprinklers in existing high-rise tower blocks, including those constructed between 1950 & 1970. The report, ‘Sprinklers for Safer Highrise Living’ describes how a pilot project, sponsored by the sprinkler industry and overseen by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association resulted in the successful installation of sprinklers  in a 13 storey, 1960’s tower block in Sheffield.

It has long been the view of many fire safety professionals that automatic fire suppression systems could be used to supplement existing fire safety provision in high rise buildings and compensate in locations where this might not be adequate.

A primary objective of the project was to determine the practicability of installing a complete system without the need to decant residents.

Taking less than four weeks in total to complete the work, the approach adopted demonstrates once and for all how significant improvements in life and building safety can be provided by an automatic fire suppression system installed with minimal disruption.

The report reviews: • the identification of risks associated with high rise blocks • the direct and indirect consequences of fire in-rise residential premises • the relevant recommendations in current fire safety legislation and guidance documents • research into the use of sprinklers in residential and domestic premise

It has now been clearly demonstrated that:

• it is possible to retrofit sprinklers into occupied, high-rise, social housing without decanting residents •  such installations can be undertaken on a fast track basis • tenants, residents and their families feel safer knowing they are better protected with a sprinkler system in place • the potential trauma and disruption to individuals and communities following a fire would be reduced the minimum impact of a fire in a sprinkler-protected block will substantially reduce the need for rehousing tenants and major refurbishment following a fire • the true installation and whole life-costs can permit a cost benefit analysis of sprinkler installations in relation to potential repair and rehousing costs following a fire • retrofitting sprinklers as part of a major refurbishment project would form only a small part of the overall costs • the retrofit design and installation can be adapted for high-rise blocks with different layouts

The final cost of the project produces an average cost per flat of just under £1,150 (£1,148.63) which includes the provision of sprinklers in utility rooms, common areas, bin stores and an office.

In consequence of the success of the Sheffield pilot project findings, BAFSA and the Sprinkler Coordination Group will be recommending that the option of retrofitting automatic fire suppression systems should be properly considered by the relevant stakeholders when considering or planning:

• major refurbishment programmes of high rise accommodation • undertaking and reviewing statutory fire risk assessments • implementing measures to rectify deficiencies disclosed by fire risk assessments • considering the cost effectiveness of various fire safety measures • compensating for deficiencies or defects in fire safety provision or non compliances with current fire safety standards (such as the existence of only one staircase)

It is also very clear that automatic fire suppression systems:

• enhance the safety of residents and other occupants of high-rise blocks • reduce the risks to life and injury experienced by firefighters working in high rise blocks. • reduce the social impact of fire on occupants, their families and neighbourhoods • reduce the costs and financial impact of a fire on hard-pressed local authorities and landlords

Project Manager Manager, Steve Seaber, accepts legislative change will not happen immediately but he believed “that guidance should be changed to reflect this report’s findings”. These findings will permit national government, local housing authorities and private sector housing associations to give informed consideration to the wider use of automatic fire suppression systems as part of a comprehensive fire safety strategy for existing, unprotected high-rise blocks across the UK. Anyone wishing to purchase a copy of the report can do so via info@bafsa.org.uk at a cost of £25 inclusive of UK post – a free copy of the DVD will be sent with each report.