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BAFSA Takes The Initiative.

BAFSA Takes The Initiative.

This report demonstrates that it isboth cost-effective and practical to retrofit automatic fire sprinklers inoccupied, high-rise social housing blocks without disturbing residents. Itchallenges the Chief Fire & Rescue Adviser who in a 2011 report to theDepartment of Local Government and Communities said: ÔÇ£itis not considered practical or economically viable to make a requirement forthe retrospective fitting of fire suppression systems to all current high-riseresidential buildingsÔÇØ.

Aprimary objective of the Sheffield high-rise sprinkler project was to determinethe practicality of installing a complete system without the need to decantresidents. The project installation commenced on 30 August 2011 wassuccessfully completed on 28 September 2011.

Takingless than four weeks in total to complete all the work, the adopted approachably illustrates how significant improvements in life and building safety canbe readily achieved with minimal disruption.

Sheffield Homes and Sheffield City Council placethe highest value on providing appropriate levels of fire safety in all theirhousing and recognise that there can be additional safety issues relating totower blocks. They were willing participants in this innovative project as theyconsidered it would contribute to developing national thinking on how firesuppression techniques can be applied retrospectively.

Thereare over 4,000 high-rise blocks owned, or managed, by local authorities acrossthe United Kingdom. Information provided by the Department for Communities andLocal Government list 213,199 individual dwellings in 3,778 high-rise premises inEngland.

Thereare 797 such blocks in Scotland and 15 in Northern Ireland but unfortunatelycomparable figures for Wales were not available at the time of writing.

In the twelve months prior to the commencement of the Sheffield pilot projectinstallation 13 fires in comparable properties occurred in the UK. These thathave resulted in 9 fatalities and 12 people, including 5 fire fighters,requiring treatment for injuries or smoke inhalation.

Thiscomprehensive report demonstrates that it is both cost-effective and practicalto retrofit automatic fire sprinklers in occupied, high-rise social housingblocks of that period without disturbing residents.

Inscoping the project it was agreed from the outset that the full and true costsof the Sheffield scheme should be recorded and openly reported.


Thecosts tabulated below show what the actual cost of a commercial contractbetween a housing authority or landlord and a sprinkler installation companywould be. (At August 2011 prices).

Summary of Total Costs (covering 47flats)











The actual final cost of the project resulted an average of just under £1,150(£1,148.63) per flat. This includes the cost of utility rooms, common areas andoffice.

Thesprinkler installation was carried at a cost of ┬ú1,150 per flat. The cost ofannual maintenance will be ┬ú250 per year if a contract for the whole block is entered into and if access can be guaranteedat the same time where this is required at 2011 prices. The combined cost ofinstallation and maintenance provides an annualised cost per flat of ┬ú40 over a30-year time frame.

In recent years there have been a number of seriousfires in older high-rise blocks that have resulted in occupant and fire fighterfatalities. In2011, a Department for Communities and Local Government report (CLG) suggested that retrofitting firesprinklers to such buildings would not be cost effective or practicable.

Thefindings of the Sheffield pilot project, as presented in this report, suggestsotherwise.


The findings of the Sheffield pilot project provideevidence of the practicality and cost effectiveness of installing sprinklers inolder high-rise blocks. In addition, theproject has created a template and methodology for the design of sprinklersystems in other un-protected high-rise blocks elsewhere in the country.Particularly, the pilot project has illustrated that:


┬ÀIt is possible to retrofit sprinklersinto occupied, high-rise, social housing without decanting residents

┬ÀSuchinstallations can be undertaken on a fast track basis.

┬ÀThe installation cost of ┬ú1,150 perflat compares favourably with other fire protection measures

┬ÀBS9251 canbe successfully used for designing such installations

┬ÀTenants,residents and their families feel safer knowing they are better protected witha sprinkler system in place

┬ÀThepotential trauma and disruption to individuals and communities following a firewould be reduced.

┬ÀSprinklers have the potential to significantly reduce the cost ofrehousing tenants and undertake major refurbishment work following a fire

┬ÀThe trueinstallation and whole life-costs can permit a cost benefit analysis ofsprinkler installations in relation to potential repair and rehousing costsfollowing a fire.

┬ÀRetrofittingsprinklers as part of a major refurbishment project would incur only a smallproportion of the overall costs.

┬ÀThe full life-costs of a sprinkler systemshould be compared with other upgrading fire protection measures so that thebenefits of each can be carefully weighed up.

┬ÀThe retrofitdesign and installation can be adapted for high-rise blocks with differentlayouts.

┬ÀThe outcome of the report could beused to review the findings of the BRE report from 2004 to reflect the costeffectiveness in existing high rise blocks.




We suggestthat existing guidance documents and approved codes of practice should beupdated to reflect the findings of the pilot project


Inconsequence of success of the Sheffield pilot project findings BAFSA and theSCG recommend that the retrofitting installation of sprinkler systems should bepositively considered by all authorities when reviewing or planning:


  • Major refurbishment programmes
  • Development of fire safety policies
  • Fire risk assessments
  • Cost effectiveness of other fire safety measures
  • Compensating for deficiencies or defects in fire safety provision or non compliances with current fire safety standards


It is alsocontended that the outcomes of the Sheffield pilot project, and the findings ofthis report, provides realistic evidence for housing authorities, housingassociations and fire and rescue services to seriously consider the potentialuse of retro-fitted sprinkler installations in existing unprotected high-riseblocks of flats to:


  • Enhance the safety of resident and occupants of high-rise blocks
  • Reduce the risks to life and injury experienced by fire-fighters working in high rise blocks.
  • Reduce the personal trauma and social impact of fire on individuals and neighbourhoods.
  • Reduce the costs and impact of a fire on hard-pressed local authorities and other property owners financial consequences and burden of fire.
  • Reduce the demands on fire and rescue, police and ambulance/health services in responding to the consequences of major fires in high rise accomodation.


Thesefindings will permit national government, local housing authorities and privatesector housing associations to realistically re-consider the use of sprinklersas part of a comprehensive fire safety strategy for existing unprotectedhigh-rise blocks across the UK.



In Brief:

Followingan approach through South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service contact was madewith Sheffield City Council as owner of the high-rise block, ‘Handbank’,located in on the Gleadless Estate. This estate is managed by Sheffield Homesas an ‘arms length organisation’. The block, which fully complied with currentfire safety standards, is one of six 13-storey tower blocks built during 1963.It had recently undergone major refurbishment work under the Decent HomesScheme and was fitted with a fire detection and alarm system. The refurbishmenthad not however, included -consideration of the value of sprinkler protection.


Theblock is designated as ‘sheltered housing’, with warden cover being providedduring weekday periods. The ground floor contains offices and communal rooms,with the 46 one-bedroom flats and 1 two-bedroom flat on the remaining 12floors.


Afterdiscussion, agreement in principle was reached with Sheffield Homes to offerthe block for a pilot project to test the Sprinkler Coordination Group’s thesisthat retrofitting sprinklers was not as difficult as had been suggested. It was agreed that the 47 residents wouldremain in occupation during the work progress. Although this added to thechallenges, it was considered by the SCG that if a system could be retrofittedin an occupied block, this would demonstrate once and for all that concernsabout the practicability of sprinkler retrofit were unjustified.



Funding forthe project was generously provided by the following BAFSA member companies:

API Vipond FireProtection

Applications Engineering

Armstrong Priestly

Automatic Fire Control

Compco Fire Systems

Fire Defence


Grundfos Pumps

Hall & Kay FireEngineering

Hall Fire Protection

International FireSprinkler Association

Lubrizol AdvancedMaterials Europe

Nationwide Sprinklers

Reliable Fire Sprinkler(UK)

SPP Pumps

TATA Steel UK Ltd

Thamside Fire ProtectionCo


Tyco Fire and IntegratedSolutions

UK Firewatch


Viking Fire Protection


A generous grant tosupport the publication of this report and promulgate the findings of theproject was provided by the International Fire Sprinkler Association


The Project wasalso provided with valuable support from:

Callow Mount Tenant’s Association

Chief Fire Officers’ Association


Marpal Ltd

Sheffield City Council

Sheffield Homes

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service

Warrington Exova

Zurich Municipal Insurance



TheSCG is an informal grouping of the UK organisations with an interest in promotingthe wider use of sprinklers. It meets as and when this is required and ispresently convened by the Secretary General of BAFSA. The Group works byexchanging information and avoiding duplication in respect of research,campaigning and lobbying. It works closely with the Parliamentary All PartyFire & Rescue Group.

Membership of Sprinkler Co-ordination Group

British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association

Chief Fire Officers’ Association

European Fire Sprinkler Network

FM Global Insurance

London Fire Brigade

National Fire Sprinkler Network

Sprinklers Scotland

ZurichMunicipal Insurance


TheBritish Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association is the oldest UK trade associationfor the industry and celebrated its thirty-fifth birthday in 2009. It is an associationof partners representing a significant majority

of third-partycertificated sprinkler installers as well as manufacturers, suppliers,contractors, insurers, the fire service and others with an interest in thefield.


┬Àprovidesauthoritative information on the benefits of sprinkler systems and howsprinklers can play a significant role in saving life and property from thedevastating effects of fire

┬Àworksclosely with the fire service, building control officers, insurers, architects,construction companies, developers and town planners

┬Àisdedicated to making sure sprinkler systems are installed and maintained to thehighest professional standards

┬Àisrepresented on a range of government sponsored bodies and thus participates atthe highest level in decision making processes in respect of fire safety

┬Àrepresentsthe views of its members in British Standards and other technical forums

┬Àtakesthe lead in commissioning and publishing reports and position papers on fireprotection problems which can be solved with sprinkler installations.

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