Business Sprinkler Alliance

Regulation for the installation of sprinklers in buildings

In England and Wales, the provisions for sprinklers are detailed in the ADB Guidance and are driven by a consideration of life safety only.

Sprinklers are only expected to be fitted to warehouses larger than 20,000m2.

Sprinklers are not expected to be installed in factories.

Sprinklers are required in care homes where there is more than one bed in the rooms.

BB100 (the schools’ fire safety design guide) calls for sprinklers to be installed in medium-high risk buildings for the purposes of both life safety and also property protection.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the ADB Guidance was amended to require new residential buildings taller than 11m to have sprinklers fitted (reduced from a 30m threshold).

In Wales: sprinklers must be installed in all new homes.

In Scotland: new social homes, flats and shared multi-occupied residential buildings must be fitted with sprinklers. Warehouses larger than 14,000m2 are expected to be fitted with sprinklers.

BSA comment:

The ADB Guidance only requires sprinklers in very large warehouses (the size of two football pitches). But as ADB and BB100 are only guidance documents, the sprinkler provisions can also be circumvented. For example:

  • Warehouses larger than 20,000m2 can be built without sprinklers if the designer can demonstrate that all occupants can evacuate safely in the event of a fire. For example, in 2018, a 38,000m2 warehouse was built in Daventry without sprinklers and received Building Regulation approval. A fire destroyed the whole building in 2019 and the business failed following the fire.
  • Since 2010, few new schools have been built with sprinklers. This has been possible as the vast majority of new schools are being deemed “low-risk” premises. In 2020 there were xxx fires in schools resulting in xxx m2 of property destruction. Xxx schools were destroyed completely.

The solution is to make property protection (alongside life safety) a consideration of the Fire Safety Building Regulations so that buildings are designed to survive fire events. As sprinklers control/extinguish fires at source, they would be installed in many more buildings as a result of this change to the Regulations.

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