Lords criticise mandatory sprinklers as bill rumbles on
Controversial legislation to make sprinklers mandatory in all new homes built in England and Wales has received a mixed response in the House of Lords
A private member’s bill to extend the current requirement for fire-suppression systems was debated at the committee stage last Friday (5 March).
The Welsh Assembly has already vowed to make sprinklers – currently only mandatory in the UK in residential developments over 30m high – compulsory in all new domestic buildings (AJ 04.02.10).
However, Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association, said: ‘The [construction] industry is in a state of collapse, and this is the wrong time to do anything that would deter new investment and home building.
‘The cost of installing a fully fledged sprinkler system might be in the region of £1,500. It does not sound disastrous, but at this time it would be, because house-building is at such a low ebb.’
Shadow communities minister Lord Bates accepted some of the benefits of sprinkler systems, but added: ‘Beside the costs that arise at the point of sale, there will be ongoing maintenance costs to householders… How long is the lifespan of a sprinkler system?’
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However, Nick Troth, an associate director at Arup Fire, welcomed the move. He said: ‘There are significant gains in using sprinklers, in particular when you look at the difficulty elderly people have in evacuating premises quickly.’
But Dolores Altaras, director at Altaras Architecture, said she wanted to see more evidence of the benefits of sprinklers, adding: ‘We have the toughest fire regulations in the world, which is why we don’t have the fire hazards experienced in other countries.
‘The sprinklers make sense in a tall building, but for a two-storey house, it’s ridiculous.’
The bill will now progress to the report stage.