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Ministers propose sprinklers for all housing over six storeys


All new housing blocks of six storeys or more could soon require sprinklers under new fire safety plans proposed by the government in the wake of the Grenfell fire

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced yesterday (6 September) the government would be consulting on plans to lower the height threshold to ensure residents are ‘safe within their homes’.

Under current guidelines, sprinkler systems are required for buildings of 30m – approximately 10 storeys – or taller, but ministers will decide whether to bring this down to 18m – approximately six storeys.

This was one of the measures called for by the RIBA, though the institute also urged ministers to retrofit sprinklers to all existing residential buildings above 18m.

Ministers added that a new Protection Board was being set-up ‘immediately’ with the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council to carry out checks of high-risk residential blocks.

Funding of £10 million will be made available for the new board, which will operate until a new building safety regulator is set up.

The body will ensure building owners are acting on the latest safety advice and that all owners of buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding have put interim measures in place.

Jenrick said: ‘Residents’ safety is our utmost priority and we are making vital improvements to ensure buildings are safe.

‘I have listened to concerns on sprinklers from residents and building owners and our proposals are an important step forward in shaping the future building safety standards.

‘The new Protection Board will make sure building owners don’t flout the rules, as well as ensuring fire-safety risks in other buildings are being addressed.’

The government also said that its £200 million fund to remove dangerous ACM cladding on privately owned high rises will open on 12 September.

Jenrick warned building owners that ‘inaction will have consequences’ and said he would name and shame building owners that do not start removing ACM over the autumn. 


Readers' comments (6)

  • Industry Professional

    Good. Retrofitting for equivalent, existing buildings is however the as yet unanswered question.

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  • good, and use pressure brought to building owners by insurance premiums to encourage installation of fire suppression systems to existing buildings over 6 storeys.

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  • Speaking anecdotally, the sprinkler installation market in Wales has become a bit of a wild west with companies not commissioning domestic scale mist systems properly, could this policy without proper checks cause similar issues.I would like to see pressure on building owners to maintain and test such systems over longer periods.

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  • They didn’t keep the fire door closers or the smoke extraction system maintained at Grenfell, but a sprinkler system would have been kept in perfect working order?

    The problem at Grenfell wasn’t that the fire protection measures were flawed in principle, it was the fact those measures had been massively neglected in terms of maintenance and then compromised by the recent works. I really don’t see why a sprinkler system would have been any different if one had been installed. It might have functioned for a few years, but once it needed maintaining the RBKC would still have decided they had more important things to spend money on than the lives of poor people and it would have been left in disrepair.

    Even leaving aside RBKC’s negligence I think this is a general problem with active systems rather than passive ones. No-one knows how the future will go, and how rich or poor this country will be in a few decades. It would make much more sense to design housing units for the future which won’t become death traps in the event the money for ongoing maintenance dries up.

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  • Industry Professional

    While I think the proposal is a good thing for all to consider and consult upon, I also agree absolutely that systems that do not need maintaining are preferable. Of course, that is until someone comes along and disturbs the integrity of fire barriers and the like...….

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  • As we edge nearer to failed nation status, I imagine that we will envisage a ‘Judge Dredd’ future, where mega housing blocks can double up as super prisons for 2,000 residents each. See the film remake for inspiration and HMP Berwyn for the already failed architectural model...daily survival will be a more of a pressing concern than vague future safety threats. It’s all part of the disaster capitalism shock doctrine.

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