Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
February 12, 2019

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Dorgard Pro: Holding fire doors open – until the alarm sounds

“consistently ignoring” advice

Sprinklers must be made mandatory for all residential new-builds, says LFB

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is urging the government to make the installation of sprinklers mandatory on all new-build residential developments – whatever their height.

Only two out of 15 of new tower blocks in London had sprinklers installed during spot checks made on developments for which planning applications were made in 2016.

The LFB says the failure of so many developers to heed its advice to fit sprinklers on new residential developments proves the industry “cannot self regulate” and that developers are “consistently ignoring” advice.

At present sprinklers are only a legal requirement in England in new residential blocks taller than 30 metres. The LFB wants the government to bring English law into closer alignment with Wales, where sprinklers are mandatory in all new domestic buildings, and in Scotland, where they are compulsory in residential buildings – including care homes, sheltered housing and schools – above 18 metres.

“Sprinklers save lives, they’re not a luxury.” LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton

However, the government is so far – to the dismay of many fire safety experts as well as the LFB – maintaining that a sufficient level of fire safety is achievable without retrofitting sprinklers.

“Sprinklers save lives, they’re not a luxury,” said LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton, who expressed hope that new legislation will be introduced after a government consultation on building regulations, which ends in March. “We think they’re essential in every high-rise building, and in places where our most vulnerable residents live – places like care homes.

“The LFB are campaigning on vital things like sprinklers because we think that no community should ever have to suffer in the way Grenfell has.”

Integral component

Simon Rooks, operations director at Johnson Controls, echoed Cotton’s sentiments. “Fitting sprinkler systems in old and new buildings needs to be a priority – sprinklers aren’t simply an add-on, but a life-saving essential,”  he said.

“Ensuring that sprinklers are installed shouldn’t be dependent on building height or whether a building is old or new. We urgently need a solution that ensures sprinkler systems become an integral component in fire safety systems across the country, both residential and commercial.”

Rooks, who is also a council member for the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), believes “the government should offer clear guidance and financial support to local councils and building owners. Retro-fitting sprinklers in existing high-rises, or incorporating sprinklers into the design stage of new-builds, is cost-effective, practical, and urgently needed.

“Building managers and specifiers need to find the right supplier now to ensure the safety of their residents – and legislators need to take action today to save lives.”

Labour’s housing spokesperson Sarah Jones said: “It is outrageous that developers continue to ignore our fire services – and that the Government let them. The government cannot continue to deny councils the funds for retrofitting of sprinklers by claiming they are non-essential.”

Housing Minister James Brokenshire said: “I will be considering all submissions, including the LFB’s, carefully, in informing next step. There is nothing more important than ensuring people are safe and feel safe in their homes and I welcome LFB’s input into our consultation on fire safety regulations.”

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Bob Docherty
Bob Docherty

All well and Good for LFB and other F&RS around the country to promote sprinklers but we in the fire world ‘get the message’. What you need to do is inform Building Controls (especially the London ones Dany before you go outside your area) and Approved Inspectors of the efficacy and life saving properties of sprinkler systems. my experience is that a lot these professional people don’t seem understand how efficient sprinklers and water mist systems are as a life saving tool. Even when they do ‘get it’ they are so reluctant to give any leeway when such a system… Read more »

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