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NEWS


installation ‘in some cases’ for flats and care homes. It also wants to see sprinklers fitted in schools for both property protection and life safety, and in facilities ‘providing waste management and recycling’. Sprinklers should be ‘part of


overall fire safety solutions in both new and existing buildings’, which is ‘further evidenced’ by NFCC research alongside the National Fire Sprinkler Network which ‘has proven the effectiveness of suppression systems in extinguishing fires’. It concluded by noting that


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’.


Inside Housing reported on the


views of RIBA, RICS and the CIOB, the ‘influential’ building industry bodies issuing a joint call for mandatory installation of sprinklers in all new homes in buildings 11m or taller, and for the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing buildings during refurbishment works involving ‘material alterations’. In addition, it 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 ten storeys or higher since 2007 in England, regulations ‘do not apply retrospectively’. A statement 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 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’.


Local government calls


The Local Government Association (LGA) called for tougher regulations relating to sprinkler installation in high rises. LocalGov reported on the LGA statement, which said that the height threshold ‘at which automatic fire suppression systems are required in residential buildings’ should be lowered to 18m; down from the current 30m or 10 storey limit. It also urged the government to ‘require’ automatic suppression systems to be installed in ‘all new premises where vulnerable people sleep’, such as care homes and residential schools. On existing proposals for a 30m


threshold, the LGA stated that this was ‘too high given the practicalities of firefighting’, and chair of its fire services management committee Ian Stephens commented at the LGA’s annual fire conference: ‘Residents have a right to be safe and to feel safe in their homes and automatic fire suppression systems, which can include sprinklers, offer a strong reassurance that is urgently needed following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. ‘The cost benefit case for them


in new high-rise tower blocks and care homes has been made and retrofitting needs to be considered in existing buildings as part of a holistic approach to fire safety. Sprinklers alone are not a universal panacea and installation should be proportionate and risk based. ‘Nevertheless, the investment


required may impact heavily in some areas with large numbers of tower blocks, which is why we are calling on government to provide funding for this work, as it has for the remediation of flammable cladding.’


The Guardian reported in turn


on a letter from 15 city councils and local authorities, backed by Labour and delivered to Downing Street in late March, which demanded ‘urgent government funding’ to retrofit sprinklers in ‘hundreds’ of tower blocks, as ‘residents do not feel safe’. Labour accused the government of ‘failing to meet its pledge’ that it would do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep people safe. With the cost estimated to be as high as £1bn, this would ‘dwarf’ the £400m provided to replace combustible cladding. Shadow housing minister Sarah Jones said the letter was ‘prompted by the government’s refusal to every single council request so far’ for funding, and that the demand ‘does not cover’ privately owned blocks. She also cited evidence that


shows that ‘apart from explosions there had never been multiple fatalities in a building fully equipped with sprinklers in the UK’, with building regulations having made it the law since 2007 for all new 30m or higher residential towers to have sprinklers. Labour research in London meanwhile ‘revealed that just 4% of tall council blocks currently have sprinklers. The government must step up’. The Guardian noted that the


government said it is ‘consulting on changes’ to building regulations and ‘is considering submissions’, and the news outlet also pointed out that Croydon Council has announced plans to fit sprinklers in its 25 tallest blocks, while Birmingham City Council has a £31m, three year plan for retrofitting 213 blocks. Signatories included councils from


London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Solihull, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. The letter to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire stated that funding would be ‘vital to safeguard and reassure many thousands of tenants across the country’, and where retrofitting has begun ‘we also request that those councils should be able to apply for funding retrospectively’


www.frmjournal.com MAY 2019 11


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