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If an independently certificated fire sprinkler installer is contracted to supply an automatic fire sprinkler system, it will have the experience, skill and expertise to ensure that the system components and pipework do not compromise the fire compartmentation of the building.
While some trades may run pipes or cables incorrectly through fire barriers (which allows fires to spread) and which will allow smoke to affect other parts of a building, reputable installers of passive fire protection components have provided advice on how to do this properly http://asfp.associationhouse.org.uk/default.php?cmd=213
In 2012 BAFSA demonstrated that it is cost effective and practical to retrofit automatic fire sprinklers in existing high-rise tower blocks in particular in those constructed between 1950 & 1970.
In a pilot project, which installed automatic fire sprinklers in a 13 storey, 1960s tower block in Sheffield – Callow Mount, BAFSA demonstrated once and for all how significant improvements in life and building safety can be achieved with minimal disruption by retrofitting an automatic firesuppression system.
In 2012 the average cost per one bedroomed flatwas just under £1,150 which included the provision of sprinklers in utility rooms, common areas,bin storesand an office.
Since then BAFSA members have worked with Councils in the UK, retrofitting some 100 of the 4000 older, high rise tower blocks. Experience has shown that costs vary according several factors including :
An analysis of retrofitting work in high rise tower blocks completed in the past 5 years confirms that costs per flat average out between £1500 and £2500 per flat.
It is essential that all fire protection and preveetion contracts are undertaken by competent people utilising 3rd Party Approved products which are suitable for the task in hand.
BAFSA is dedicated to making sure that sprinkler systems are installed to the highest professional standards. All BAFSA members have 3rd Party Approval and are regularly inspected by UK’s 3rd Party Certification bodies.
In pursuance of this committment BAFSA launched the first accredited sprinkler installation qualification – the IQ Level 2 Certificate in Fire Sprinkler Installation. This qualification is intended for people employed in installing fire sprinklers to develop the knowledge and competences necessary to meet the industry standards for the installation role. This course has government recognition in England and is currently available from the Manchester College, Neath Port Talbot Group College and Llandrillo College.
An Upskilling Award is also available at the Neath Port Talbot Group College.
The National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) have been watching the tragic events unfold at the horrendous fire at Grenfell House tower block in North Kensington in London. We wish to express our heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has been affected by this devastating incident.
Clearly the fire spread and subsequent loss of life at this fire is unprecedented in this type of structure in the UK. We know of no other high rise residential building on our shores that has suffered such extensive damage, with fire spreading throughout the building to extent we have seen at Grenfell House.
The scale of the fire, significant loss of life and impact on the local community is immeasurable, the effect of this fire will be felt for years to come in terms of human and financial loss. It must also be stated that the risks to firefighters posed by an incident of this magnitude were also far in excess of normal firefighting expectations.
There will now follow a detailed and thorough investigation into the cause of the fire and reasons for the fire spread. The whole of the fire sector including architects, fire engineers, fire investigators and right the way through to firefighters will be keenly awaiting the outcome of this investigation to provide answers around the cause and spread of the fire and to establish what can be learned to prevent reoccurrence.
The NFSN feel it is premature and inappropriate to pass judgement on the effectiveness of sprinklers in relation to this particular fire in advance of the official investigation being completed.
Whilst it is too early to speculate on the cause of the fire and the reasons for the rapidity of the fire spread, the subject of sprinklers is being raised up in the discussions and the National Fire Sprinkler Network are being approached for comment and opinion as to the effectiveness of sprinklers.
As a group the NFSN are concerned with promoting the advantages of sprinklers in the built environment and to this end we work to lobby for sprinklers, educate on the effectiveness of them, improve stakeholder support and engagement around the wider sector and importantly to provide evidence of the benefits of sprinklers.
In regard to providing evidence the NFSN have over the past year coordinated the collection of data from all UK Fire and Rescue Services, in a bid to describe the general effectiveness of sprinklers.
The data collected has been secured from all fire and rescue services in the UK taking information from Fire Reports that have been completed after fires have occurred in buildings were sprinklers were fitted. The data captured evidence stretching over a five year period.
The data has been analysed to establish firstly the reliability of sprinklers, based on answering the question “did the sprinkler system operate?” In addition the effectiveness of sprinklers was explored asking the questions “Did the sprinkler system control the fire and what was the extent of fire damage”?
Amongst the key findings of the report are the following headlines: across all premises types sprinklers are 99% effective; across all premises types operational reliability of sprinkler is 94%; The average fire damage in dwellings not fitted with sprinklers is 18-21sq.m. In dwellings where sprinklers are present, the average is under 4sq.m; The average fire damage in other building types with sprinklers is 30sq.m which is half that of buildings without;
A copy of the report can be accessed here.
It remains to be seen if sprinklers would have been effective at Grenfell House. The NFSN are not about to speculate on this in advance of the official investigation.
The NFSN are committed to sharing expertise and advice across the fire sector and to working in continued partnership with the National Fire Chiefs Council to promote fire safety solutions involving the use of sprinklers and other automatic water suppression systems.
“Safer High Rise Living… the Callow Mount Sprinkler Retrofit Project” is a major report, published by BAFSA in 2012, which demonstrated that it is cost effective and practical to retrofit automatic fire sprinklers in existing high-rise tower blocks in particular in those constructed between 1950 & 1970.
Download “Safer High Rise Living… the Callow Mount Sprinkler Retrofit Project” HERE
It 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, 1960s tower block in Sheffield – Callow Mount.
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 practicality 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 demonstrated once and for all how significant improvements in life and building safety can be achieved with minimal disruption by retrofitting an automatic fire suppression system.
The report reviews:
This 2012 report clearly demonstrated that:
The final cost of the project in 2012 produced an average cost per flat of just under £1,150 (£1,148.63) which included 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 recommended that the option of retrofitting automatic fire suppression systems should be properly considered by the relevant stakeholders when considering or planning:
It is also very clear that automatic fire suppression systems:
These findings 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.
Since 2012 BAFSA in collaboration with the UK Fire & Rescue Services have invited Local Authorities, Central Government and Housing Associations to more than 20 free to attend seminars on the subject.
Following the fatal Grenfell Tower, many people will today be asking how such an incident occur. Examination of the facts and a formal investigation will be ongoing but meanwhile BAFSA can confirm that the building dates from 1974, when sprinklers were not required in high-rise apartment buildings in the UK.
Those requirements only took effect in England in 2007. Since then all new high-rise apartment buildings higher than 30m have had to fit sprinklers. In Scotland the height threshold is 18 m and in Wales since last year all new apartment buildings and houses must have sprinklers.
Grenfell Tower was given a major refurbishment, costing £10 million, which was completed last year. Sprinklers are not required in an existing building and all reports indicate that they were not fitted. We believe that the cost do so would have been about £0.2 million (around 2% of the refurbishment cost). New external cladding was fitted and it looks from all the visual evidence that this was combustible. We do not know if the cladding was fitted to improve thermal insulation or purely for aesthetic reasons.
At this stage we cannot be certain how the fire started. Reports suggest it began in an apartment on the fourth floor. If that is correct, it is highly likely that a sprinkler system would have prevented the fire from developing as it did.
Alan Brinson of the European Fire Sprinkler Network has this to say ”This fire is similar to The Address fire in Dubai on New Year's Eve 2016. The difference is that building had sprinklers and nobody was killed.”
BAFSA Chief Executive, Keith Macgillivray MBE added “The families and friends of the Grenfell Tower community are in the thoughts of BAFSA and its members as are the members of the Fire & Rescue Services who are still endeavouring to extinguish the fire.”