Sprinklers make the grade on St Nicholas’ Primary School

For a new £10 million primary school close to Glasgow, the installation of an automatic sprinkler system will protect both the occupants and the building as well as significantly reduce the potential disruption to the students’ school life in a fire event.

St Nicholas’ Primary School has been delivered in partnership with hub West Scotland and East Dunbartonshire Council. The new School in Bearsden has enabled the co-location of two former schools, St Andrews Primary School and St Joseph’s Primary School. Designed for 450 students, the 3008m2 building includes 17 flexible and open classrooms, a 316m2 hall, outdoor learning areas as well as play areas and a 3G synthetic pitch. The new school was designed and constructed by hub West Scotland Supply Chain members Holmes Miller Architects and Morgan Sindall Construction.

The design of this exemplar school has seen fire sprinklers installed throughout the two-storey building, in-line with Scottish Building Standards for non-domestic buildings. The building is protected by a total of 409 sprinkler heads, with the exception of the plant, boiler and biomass rooms which feature early detection systems. The sprinklers are concealed in ceiling voids and the entire system is fed by a water storage tank and electric fire pump which is located in the school’s service yard.

Designed to meet the Ordinary Hazard Group 1 (OH1) classification within BS 12845:2004, the sprinkler system has a discharge density of 5mm/min/m2 over a maximum area of operation of 72m2 for 30 minutes duration.

The automatic sprinkler system will protect this school, both in terms of life and also property. By preventing large fires, sprinklers also protect the environment by avoiding CO2 emissions, reducing excess water use by the fire brigade and eliminating water supply contamination. In the event of a fire, many schools with sprinkler systems find they are back up-and-running in a matter of hours, so the sprinkler system will maintain the school’s continuity and allow students to return to normality far more rapidly and with considerably less disruption to teachers’ already hectic schedules. Schools are also vitally important to the community for events, meetings and activities. These can also continue with minimal interruption.

Home Office figures show there have been 1900 fires in educational establishments over the past three years. The impact of these fires both financially and in terms of disruption to students, teachers, families and the community can be devastating. The Association of British Insurers says the most expensive school fires typically cost around £2.8 million to address, and over the past four years an average of 24 of these large-loss fires have occurred every year, totalling £67.2 million.

Currently, sprinklers are mandatory in new school buildings in Scotland and Wales, but not in England and Northern Ireland. The government is currently reviewing Building Bulletin 100 (BB100) and the BSA wants the government to explicitly maintain and enhance the “sprinkler expectation” in the revised BB100 so that fewer schools are damaged and destroyed by fire. Better still, the Government should make property protection a consideration for the fire safety Building Regulations in order to effectively protect all buildings of significant social and/or economic value from fire.

Fire can have a lasting and devastating impact on both schools and communities and must be avoided. The installation of sprinklers at St Nicholas’ Primary School could limit the damage from fire, significantly reducing the potential disruption to the students’ school life.