Published December 5, 2019
National Fire Chiefs say sprinklers should be compulsory in all blocks of flats taller than four floors.
They want the Government to introduce new laws making sprinklers mandatory for all residential buildings taller than 11 meters.
That’s seven meters lower than even they had previously called for and 19 meters less than current rules.
National Fire Chiefs Council chair Roy Wilsher claims the Grenfell tragedy and Bolton Student Accommodation fire prompted the rethink.
They believe the reduced limit is crucial to keep residents safe and they say the new laws should be extended to also include properties built before 2007.
That means forcing property owners to retrofit sprinklers on a risk-assessed basis when refurbishing existing blocks.
Mr Wilsher, said: “Sprinklers should be mandatory in all new residential buildings from 11m (or 4 floors) and above, at a minimum.
“NFCC has previously championed the requirement for sprinklers in high-rise block of flats above 18m, connected to a full review of linked measures in ADB [Approved Document B].
‘Currently, there is a gap for protection of buildings between 11m and 18m.
‘With the threshold for sprinklers now being considered separately from a number of closely related safety measures, we believe the threshold should be lowered to 11m.’
The NFCC is the professional voice of the UK fire and rescue services and is comprised of a council of UK Chief Fire Officers.
They issued their response to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Approved Document B consultation paper ‘Sprinklers and other fire safety measures in high-rise blocks of flats’.
Housing Minister Robert Jenrick announced in September that the Government were considering lowering the mandatory height for sprinklers from 30 meters to 18 meters.
The 18-meter height was largely based on previous advice from fire chiefs but now the NFCC say that height should be reduced further.
They insist automatic fire suppression systems including sprinklers should be mandatory on all new residential buildings taller than 11m – or four floors.
And they say the rules should be applied to existing buildings on a ‘risk-assessed basis’ to provide safety for residents.
NFCC sprinkler lead, Gavin Tomlinson, welcomed the stronger position adding: “The recent fire at the Bolton student accommodation on 15 November 2019 highlights only too well that fires do not discriminate, and that an 18m threshold is arbitrary.
“The NFCC will continue to lobby for more widespread use of sprinklers in many building types, and especially where they are home to vulnerable residents.
“The revising down of height thresholds is an important step in the right direction.”
At least four serious fires have destroyed large parts of residential buildings that were shorter than 18m this year. None of the building had sprinklers installed.
The Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) also backed mandatory sprinkler installation in new or converted residential buildings “regardless of height”.
Jane Duncan, chair of the RIBA expert advisory group on fire safety, said: “It is over two years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, yet far too little has changed.
“England’s regulations lag shamefully behind other countries, such as Wales where sprinklers have been required in all new and converted residential buildings since 2013, and Scotland where sprinklers will soon be required in all multiple occupancy residential buildings.
“The next government must urgently and radically overhaul the building regulations to prevent more disasters and keep the public safe.”
Protect24 have been working with a number of private landlords adding retrofit sprinklers to existing properties across the North West for the past two years.
They are the UK’s leading provider of retrospective fire protection measures for social housing properties and the first to offer a complete one-stop show approach for clients.
Protect24 retrofit sprinklers for the ForHousing Group, formerly City West, have already prevented two major fires.
A single sprinkler recently suppressed a chip pan fire whilst another saved a pensioner trapped in her bedroom.
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