THE LONDON Assembly has called for the move in a new report, as fires such as Grenfell Tower ‘must not be allowed to happen again’.
Safety and Health Practitioner and The Independent reported on the report, Never again: Sprinklers as the next step towards safer homes, in which the assembly called on the government to make automatic fire suppression systems (AFSS) ‘compulsory in every residential building above 18 metres high’. It also recommended ministers amend building regulations to ‘require all new care homes and sheltered housing blocks to be fitted with sprinkler systems throughout England’.
Installation should also ‘be mandatory in existing tower blocks where refurbishment work is being done’. This retrofitting work suggestion saw the assembly call on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to create a £50m retrofitting fund for installing sprinklers in 200 high risk buildings ‘over the next five years’.
It noted that passive measures could also ‘significantly reduce the risk of loss of life and property’, but stated that AFSS measures are ‘now currently not mandatory’ for buildings under 30m in height in England. The assembly also pointed out that Grenfell Tower could have been retrofitted with sprinklers during its 2016 renovation ‘for about £200,000’.
Other points made in the report include that sprinklers ‘almost completely eliminate’ fire deaths in buildings where they are installed, and cut injuries from fire by 80% alongside reducing building damage. Its main conclusion is that evidence ‘strongly points towards making sprinklers mandatory in all residential buildings’ in the long term.
It did also point out that it was ‘important to be pragmatic’ and accept the ‘magnitude of the task’, as the cost for retrofitting all buildings over 10 storeys in London alone ‘would cost up to £500m’, so ‘as such, we are calling for a risk-based, phased “road map” towards making sprinklers mandatory in all homes in England.
Navin Shah, the report’s author and member of the assembly, stated: ‘What happened to Grenfell Tower and the people who lived there must never be allowed to happen again. Since January 2016, the installation of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) has been compulsory in all new dwellings in Wales, and in Norway, Finland, and in some US jurisdictions, sprinkler systems are also required.
‘The Government needs to set out a clear road map towards making AFSS mandatory in England. “As a very important first step, AFSS must be made compulsory in all new residential buildings over 18 metres – six storeys – high, as well as new care homes and sheltered housing. Requiring AFSS to be retrofitted in every existing building is not immediately feasible.
‘In those buildings over 30 metres high alone, this could cost up to £500 million. Currently, we are behind the rest of the world when it comes to safeguarding Londoners from the horrific consequences of fire. It is time we act swiftly and decisively to change this. It is crucial that we use the outrage and the lessons of this fire to ensure that every Londoner is better protected from fire in their homes.
‘Sprinklers are a reliable and cost-effective fire safety measure that can greatly reduce risk of death, injury, property damage and harm to local communities. The time is right for action. The Government, the Mayor and local authorities must act now while the drive for change is palpable or risk missing this opportunity to further protect future generations from fire.’
A spokesperson for the Mayor, who will be ‘taking direct responsibility for the capital’s fire and rescue services’ in the spring, said Mr Khan was ‘committed to do everything possible to ensure that every lesson of the Grenfell Tower tragedy is learned and nothing like it can happen again. His draft London Plan requires, for the first time, that the “highest standards” of safety are set out at the planning stages of new developments, so they can be incorporated into the design and build.
‘This will include a range of fire safety measures, including sprinklers – which the Mayor believes should also be installed in existing social housing blocks far more widely’. In turn, a spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government added: ‘Public safety is paramount which is why, following the Grenfell tragedy, we set up a comprehensive building safety programme to ensure a fire like this can never happen again.
‘Building Regulations guidance has, since 2007, said that all new high rise residential dwellings over 30 metres in height should have sprinklers.’