The Scottish Government has thrown its weight behind proposed legislation to make sprinkler systems compulsory in all new social housing in Scotland
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the government would bring forward legislation based on a proposal by MSP David Stewart.
Current rules only require buildings taller than 18m, whatever tenure they have, to have automatic fire suppression systems fitted.
Kevin Stewart said: ‘This is an opportunity to further improve standards in our social housing and this work will be taken forward alongside the recommendations of the two reviews of building standards and fire safety which we will consult on later this summer.’
The decision to proceed with legislation follows a consultation on a member’s bill submitted by David Stewart.
The vast majority of respondents were in favour of the general principle of the installation of fire sprinklers, with 94 per cent expressing full or partial support.
However, a number of those responding voiced worries about the cost of the proposal and its effect on housing supply.
A submission from the tenant participation organisation, Tenants Information Service, said that ‘fewer houses would be built for the housing available’, and that landlords would also face future maintenance and repair costs, which could be passed onto tenants.
But David Stewart said: ‘Scotland needs more new social housing but it also needs social housing that is safe.
‘Installing fire suppression systems during the construction stage will undoubtedly incur some capital cost but I believe that this is best viewed as an investment that will prove cost-effective in the long term.
‘Fire sprinklers will enhance the resilience of housing stock and increased market demand, along with the scale of projects, should help to drive down prices.’
In its response, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities pointed to potential difficulties within mixed use developments of having separate requirements for private and social housing.
The Scottish Government said it will consult in coming weeks on separate proposals to extend the use of sprinkler systems care homes and houses and houses with more than 10 residents.
Sprinklers are already compulsory in all new homes in Wales, following the introducton of legislation in 2011.
Chris Stewart of Collective Architecture
Everyone in Scotland agrees that sprinklers should be installed into all buildings, we are going through a period of flux where some organisations have already decided sprinklers are essential and some are moving towards this conclusion. Some projects unfortunately are committed to budgets which can not allow sprinklers and others where they are being added in.
The quicker sprinklers can be included the better although as often is the case this may have to be achieved within the same budget. Safety has to be the top priority and we will always do our best within our means, I just hope that additional funds are made available to ensure other important factors such as public realm quality is maintained.
Graeme Nicholls of Graeme Nicholls Architects
This is a positive move in terms of life safety, and that must be considered most important, regardless of the increased construction cost associated with sprinkler systems.
The current technical standards have more restrictive requirements on design of flats over a certain scale. This means you often need to include for things like protected lobbies, fire doors, and have to avoid certain open plan layouts when sprinklers are not included.
Hopefully any new technical standards will take this into account and allow greater freedom for designers, too.