Supplier Spotlight – Domestic Sprinklers: Safer High Rise Living

Written by Connor Saddington, Domestic Sprinkler’s

From 2007 in England all new high-rise apartment buildings greater than 30m in height have had to fit sprinkler systems fitted. This is in contrast with Scotland where the limit stands at 18m and since 2016 in Wales all new apartment buildings and houses must have sprinkler systems.

Due to this regulation only coming into effect in 2007 there are still a great number of high-rise blocks across the UK without the additional feature of a sprinkler system. We stand with London Fire Brigade’s commissioner Dany Cotton who says; “for me where you can save one life then it’s worth doing,”

“Is it possible to retrofit a sprinkler system?”                              

For a long time, it was deemed impractical and uneconomical to make it a requirement to retrofit high-rise blocks with fire sprinklers. This was something that we felt had to be put right. Domestic Sprinklers were appointed to carry out the very first High Rise Retrofit installation in the UK, at an occupied 13-floor 1960’s High-rise residential block in Sheffield. A project funded and directed by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) for the Sprinkler Coordination Group (SCG).

Work at the building was undertaken in September of 2011. The primary objective being to determine the practicality of installing a complete system, without the need to decant residents. Fitting sprinklers in 47 flats, plus, utility rooms, common areas, bin stores and an office took less than four weeks to complete. This proved to many how practical and cost effective it can be to retrofit a sprinkler system in occupied High-rise buildings in reasonable time and with minimum impact on residents.

More recently, Domestic Sprinklers have been awarded the contract to design, supply and install sprinkler systems in Albion Towers, Sturminster House and Shirley Towers in partnership with Southampton City Council.

Sadly, two fire fighters lost their lives in 2010 when a blaze at the 15-storey Shirley Towers started in a ninth-floor flat. An inquest revealed the blaze started after a resident left a curtain resting on a lamp.

These three towers were prioritised due to the complex scissor block design where flats are divided between two separate floor levels and separated by a landing level.

Canberra Towers, Redbridge Towers and Millbrook Towers are the tallest council blocks in the city and have been identified as the next towers to be fitted with a sprinkler system.

“Will the sprinkler s

ystem cause more damage than the fire?”

Many assume that property fires will cause far less damage than the water from a sprinkler system, this simply isn’t true!

In residential and domestic properties each sprinkler head operates by means of a fusible temperature link located within each sprinkler head. Each concealed sprinkler head is fitted with a cover plate flush with the ceiling, no bigger than a common smoke alarm. The solder link above the cover plate melt upon reaching a temperature of 57 degrees centigrade. The sprinkler head itself then descends at 68 degrees centigrade, discharging water over the origin of fire.

Sprinkler systems are proven to always control and, in some cases, extinguish the fire, limiting the extent of the fire and smoke damage. Ultimately allowing further time for residents to evacuate the building safely.

A chief fire officer has said that having a sprinkler system is like having a fire-fighter in your property 24/7.

“Who can install a sprinkler system?”

It is imperative you choose a sprinkler system contractor who has the skill and experience of installing such a system. The British Standard, BS9251 says that the system should be designed, installed and maintained by a “competent person”. We strongly recommend that you choose a contractor registered with FIRAS and third party accredited. It is common practice to use someone in the Gas Safe scheme to service your boiler, so it makes perfect sense to take the same approach when installing a sprinkler system and use a FIRAS approved company. At the end of the day it could save your life.

Summary

  • Fire sprinklers can be retro fitted into high rise properties, with little disruption.
  • High-rise flats can be retro fit with a sprinkler system for around £1,148.00
  • The annual maintenance of a sprinkler system is in the region of £250.00
  • The water from a fire sprinkler system will cause less damage to the property than a fire.
  • Be sure to always use a FIRAS approved company to install your sprinkler system