The case for sprinklers across the built environment
By Iain Cox, Chairman of the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA).
The Business Sprinkler Alliance welcomed the statement last week from The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) which calls for the Government to require the installation of sprinklers in all new and converted residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, student accommodation, schools and care home buildings of 11m in height or above. We fully support these chartered professional bodies and the actions they are proposing because sprinklers save lives. Further sprinklers should be considered as a viable option across the built environment because they also protect buildings and businesses from fire. They make the job of the Fire and Rescue Services safer, easier and cheaper whether a fire starts in tall residential buildings or large industrial and commercial buildings.
Fires start in businesses every day. Home Office figures show that there have been 22,800 fires in industrial and commercial premises in the past three years. Fire’s effect must be recognised as widespread and multiple, as its adverse effects range from loss of life, to loss of business, to loss of jobs and environmental damage.
In past month alone, there have been three significant fires in industrial and commercial building across the Midlands alone. Two of these large fires took place in in Tyseley, Birmingham. Both required the attention of 100 firefighters, taking several hours to deal with and disrupted key roads and rail routes into our second largest city. One destroyed a furniture business. The second destroyed a tyre storage facility and damaging neighbouring businesses. A further fire in Leicestershire saw a bed factory destroyed. Over 40 firefighters tackled the blaze on Blaby Industrial Estate utilising water from the adjacent canal. The fire damaged adjoining business to the premises.
Iain Cox, Chairman of the Business Sprinkler Alliance said: “We want to protect livelihoods as well as lives. Lives come first, but sprinklers are effective in other areas. People think fires don’t happen – they do. People think that fires have no consequences – they do. It’s more prevalent than people think. People should be safe from fire, but the businesses may not be. Furthermore, insurance doesn’t cover the cost to society.”
Many business owners believe that if they build to regulation they are creating a resilient building – this is not the case; they are simply creating a compliant building where the requirement is for life safety, not property protection. According to research carried out by YouGov for the Business Sprinkler Alliance, nearly seven out of 10 (67%) businesses are unaware that current building regulations in the UK do not adequately prevent and protect against the devastating effects of fire.
Having sprinklers fitted protects businesses in the long run. They safeguard against potentially disastrous losses and also aid life safety. 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. Above all, they maintain business continuity. In the event of a fire, many businesses with sprinkler systems find they are back up-and-running in a matter of hours.
“Fire has a greater reach and impact than people think. If you protect buildings you automatically protect people,” added Iain Cox.