Hackitt Interim Report Published

Shortly before Christmas, Dame Judith Hackitt published an interim report of her review of building regulations and fire safety. The 118 page report largely focusses on the process by which fire safety is assured in buildings. Dame Hackitt has criticised the lack of clear accountability for fire safety in new buildings, the failure to upgrade safety in existing buildings, that those designing and installing fire safety need no qualifications, and the potential for unscrupulous people to cut corners when it comes to fire safety in buildings.

Regarding sprinklers she said, “There needs to be a demonstration that there are sufficient layers of protection to ensure that building safety does not rely heavily on compartmentation. There is a high risk of compartmentation being breached during use, whether as the result of residents’ own actions or of maintenance work carried out in the whole building. There are a range of fire protection measures that can be retrofitted to or amended to in existing buidings; for example, extra staircases and smoke ventilation or sprinkler systems.”

All her recommmendations in the interim report concern process; she has not yet made any recommendations for changes to the fire safety guidance in Approved Document B, which is the deemed to satisfy regulatory guidance for England. She will publish a final report in 2018, which we anticipate will include some recommendations for changes to Approved Document B.

US Offers Tax Incentive to Install Sprinklers

As part of the recently announced US federal tax reform, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, small businesses will be able to expense the retrofit of fire sprinklersup to a cap of $1 million in each year of expense. In addition, if they need to borrow to pay for the retrofit of sprinklers, small businesses will be able to deduct the interest expense on the loan. These provisions will support the fitting of sprinklers in nightclubs.

Larger entities can fully expense the investment over the next five years but that will slowly taper down from 2023. This will incentivise the retrofit of sprinklers in high-rise and other high risk occupancies built before sprinklers became mandatory.

Major fires in Germany

German media report that a fire in Saarbrücken has killed four people and injured 23, while a fire in Berlin has injured 22 people. The fatal fire was reported at 13:30 on 3 December. 100 firefighters and 25 police attended the fire in the five-storey building. It is thought that the fire started on the first floor. One of the victims jumped out of the building.

In Berlin Biesdorf a fire in a ten-storey building was reported on the morning of 2 December. 22 people were injured, of whom 19 had minor injuries and three were more seriously hurt. 200 firefighters attended the fire which is believed to have started in a kitchen on the third storey and to have spread through the staircase and other apartments to reach the roof of the building. According to the Berlin Fire Brigade there was a large amount of combustible material in the apartment where the fire started. A second apartment on the top storey of the building also burned out. A service shaft was made of wood and was readily combustible. The building is now uninhabitable and the fifty residents must be rehoused.

Major Fires in Capital Cities

There have been several major fires recently in some of Europe’s capital cities. In each fire the burning building was not fitted with sprinklers.

In Stockholm on 7 November a fire started at 05:00 in a retail, office and residential building that was undergoing renovation. The cultural heritage building was gutted.
Stockholm1 Stockholm2

London Fire Brigade reports that at 09:13 on 23 November it was called to a warehouse fire in Ponders End. 12 engines and 81 firefighters attended the fire in the Tottenham Hotspur merchandising store. The fire cast a large cloud of smoke and was visible from central London.

Celestine Photo

Also on 23 November, at about 13:00, a fire started in the Milcamps waffle factory, according to the Brussels Fire Brigade, which reported that the fire began in the cooling system for the ovens. A nearby school and some businesses were evacuated and residents told to keep doors and windows closed. A train line next to the factory was closed, causing huge delays to Charleroi, Mons and Gent. The 4,000 m2 factory was destroyed.

British Labour Party Leader calls for Sprinklers

On 9 November Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party leader, gave a press conference at which he called for sprinklers to be fitted in all existing social housing buildings higher than 30 m.

His party is not in government but this adds to the pressure on the government to act.
You can see him give the speech here.
Key text excerpts of his speech are here.

Meanwhile Chris Wieczorek, Head of Codes and Standards at FM Global has written an article putting some perspective on the differences between fire safety codes in different countries.

New Requirements for Sprinklers in Finland and France

From January Finland will permit 3-8 storey hotels to be built from wood if they are fitted with sprinklers. Larger compartments will also be allowed in many building types if sprinklers are present. In France, sprinklers will be required in car parks with more than two underground storeys and in all underground automatic car parks.

To ensure that new national regulations do not create a barrier to trade they are first sent to the European Commission which translates them at least into English, French and German and sends them to all the national governments in the EU.

New fire safety regulations in Finland have gone through this process and can be viewed here.

The amendments to the French car park regulations can be viewed here. The EFSN has extracted the clauses of relevance to sprinklers after the amendments are applied and collated them:New French Car Park Regulations.

Call for Papers for Fire Sprinkler International 2018

Fire Sprinkler International 2018 will take place in Stockholm on 13-14 June. As for our previous conferences, we are issuing a call for papers. Please download it here: Call for Papers 2018

Welsh Housing Starts Grow following Sprinkler Regulation

Far from dampening activity, since sprinklers became mandatory in Wales housebuilding has increased.

In January 2016 the requirement for new housing in Wales to have sprinklers took effect. Statistics published by the Welsh government show that, “During 2016-17, the number of new dwellings started increased by 2 per cent compared to the previous year to 6,871 dwellings. This is the second highest annual number recorded since the start of the recession in 2007-08.”

During the long campaign to introduce the Welsh regulation, housebuilders frequently claimed that it would destroy housebuilding activity in Wales. We always argued this was not so because the cost of a sprinkler system is relatively modest and about the same as the monthly movement in house prices. Now the evidence shows we were right.

First residential sprinkler system in France

On 28th June two live fire tests were run at Les Violettes care home in Nérac, southwest France.The tests were part of the acceptance protocol for the new fire safety concept for this building. A residential sprinkler system, fitted throughout, was the core of this new concept. 300 sprinklers were installed in the first building in France to be protected with a residential sprinkler system.

The first test was in a bedroom, where the damage was restricted to the bed. Relatively little smoke was produced and the self-closing fire door prevented any escape of smoke into the corridor. The second test was in a storage area. This fire was also rapidly extinguished.

150 delegates from across France were present to witness the event. Many were from fire services and commented that they had buildings which did not comply with French regulations and for which a residential sprinkler system would be the most effective and economic solution.

Regional press attended and the tests were a major story the next morning in La Dépêche du Midi.

and in Le Petit Bleu

as well as in Infos 47

For a video of the tests click Fire Tests by SDIS47

For a video by the installer, CLF Satrem, click Fire Tests by CLF Satrem

We have a mobile demonstration unit in France. To see it in action click Demonstration Unit


Croydon council to retrofit social high-rises

Following the disastrous fire in the unsprinklered Grenfell Tower in west London, Croydon council in south London has decided to retrofit all 25 social high-rise buildings in the borough that are 10 or more storeys high. Cardiff Council is considering a similar move. Sheffield Council has retrofitted some high-rise blocks and over 500 houses.

Sprinklers are extremely effective at dealing with high-rise residential fires, as shown by this compendium of medium and high rise sprinkler saves in the UK.