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Should all new homes have fire sprinklers ?
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adam2
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 12:42 pm    Post subject: Should all new homes have fire sprinklers ? Reply with quote

As many members are aware, almost all new homes in Wales are legally required to have fire sprinklers fitted.

In the rest of the UK there is no such general requirement. There are some special circumstances under which sprinklers ARE required including new tower blocks and new homes with poor fire brigade access, but there is not any general requirement.

Should the "Welsh regulations" be adopted elsewhere in the UK ?

Arguments for requiring sprinklers.

Preserves life------even a single fire related fatality in a building with sprinklers is rare, multiple fatalities are almost unknown.
Preserves property------Fire is almost always confined to one room.
Saves public money------The direct cost to the NHS in money of treating a single victim with severe burns can easily exceed a million pounds.

Arguments against
Adds to cost of new homes.
Adds to complexity
Ongoing costs of maintenance
Does not prevent fire under say a table or sofa, the smoke from which can still kill.
Does not prevent lethal smoke from say a smouldering fire in a linen cupboard.
Ongoing energy use, requires either continually available heating, OR electric trace heating of the pipes to prevent freezing, not compatible with "passivehaus" or similar standards.
May encourage foolish risk-taking "it is OK because we have sprinklers"
May lead to relaxation of other fire safety measures, as is already happening.
Potential risk of hugely expensive damage if thieves or vandals or squatters activate a sprinkler deliberately.
Effectively rules out simple, low technology, home built, off grid homes.
In the great majority of installations an electric water pump is needed, grid reliance thereby increased.
Many installations also require a large water tank that occupies valuable space.
My main concern with mandatory sprinklers would be the gradual upgrading of standards, or "gold plating" or steady "mission creep" whereby what should be a simple and relatively cheap requirement steadily becomes more costly and more complicated.

Examples of FUTURE requirements might include.
If an electric pump is needed, what if it breaks, future requirement for duplicated pumps ?
What if the electricity supply fails ? Future requirement for standby generators or large battery banks ?
Would there be in future a statutory requirement to re-house the vulnerable during power cuts ?
What about failures of the water supply ? this could be long term in time of drought, re-housing also needed ?
What if the occupier fails to pay for water or electricity and these utilities are cut off.
What if a key meter runs out of credit, future requirement for a non metered supply ?
How often will the installation have to be upgraded ? (compare to the electrical industry, many relatively new homes, or rental properties require major electrical work before sale or rental to comply with the latest upgrades to regulations)
How long until the water hygiene industry require an annual draining, cleaning and chlorinating of the sprinkler tanks, against legionella growth.

The arguments against seem more numerous than the arguments for, though preserving life is arguably of greater importance than the more numerous arguments against sprinklers.

On balance I am in favour, though I hope that someone keeps the civil service in check regarding continual upgrades.

What do others think ?

IMPORTANT this is NOT the place to discuss the recent fire tragedy in a tower block, we already have a thread on that subject.
This thread is about the merits or otherwise of requiring sprinklers in new homes throughout the UK and is NOT about a fire in an existing building.

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Little John



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In tower blocks or other large buildings where evacuation is more than a short distance away and especially where those buildings are rented in either the public or private sector- yes

In privately owned and occupied buildings and even in rented buildings where evacuation is a short distance way - no except insofar as very specific fire hazards are identified.
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fuzzy



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are already design rules about fire escape routes in houses. I cant even see any need in well designed tower blocks except for the stair escape routes and communal areas.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fuzzy wrote:
There are already design rules about fire escape routes in houses. I cant even see any need in well designed tower blocks except for the stair escape routes and communal areas.
If you consider that there are already adequate design rules about fire escapes routes, are you suggesting that all recently built tower blocks in the social housing sector are quite safe and there is nothing to worry about? Or, to put the question another way, are these the same kind of "adequate" rules that we might find in other areas of fire safety?

Areas such as appropriate cladding materials, for example?

Having said all of that. I am inclined to agree that such sprinkler systems could be limited to public routes and communal areas.
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fire alarms here in Chateau Renewable set themselves off with monotonous regularity.

No I do not want a cold shower every time I do a stir-fry, thanks.

But then again, I'm agile, the door's only a few strides away, and the house isn't covered in expanded polystyrene.

Sprinklers are needed in buildings where:

* You're a long way up (tower blocks)
* You're not there for a lot of the time (schools)
* Your mobility is...er...what are they calling disabled people this year?
* There are wodges of 'innovative materials' e.g. plastic.

Really, just doing without the plastic saves a lot of aggro.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fuzzy wrote:
There are already design rules about fire escape routes in houses. I cant even see any need in well designed tower blocks except for the stair escape routes and communal areas.


It is generally understood that the fitting of fire sprinklers ONLY on stairs and escape routes is of little benefit.
Escape routes from all but the smallest and simplest buildings should be of entirely non combustible materials.
There is almost no risk of fire directly affecting an escape route in a large building.
The real risk to life is smoke, and a fire burning out of control, and unconfined by a closed fire check door, will fill an escape route with fatal smoke in a minute at the most.
This smoke is most unlikely to trigger sprinklers.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent criteria RC
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adam2
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
The fire alarms here in Chateau Renewable set themselves off with monotonous regularity.

No I do not want a cold shower every time I do a stir-fry, thanks.

But then again, I'm agile, the door's only a few strides away, and the house isn't covered in expanded polystyrene.

Sprinklers are needed in buildings where:

* You're a long way up (tower blocks)
* You're not there for a lot of the time (schools)
* Your mobility is...er...what are they calling disabled people this year?
* There are wodges of 'innovative materials' e.g. plastic.

Really, just doing without the plastic saves a lot of aggro.


No risk of a cold shower as a result of cooking a stir fry !
All common types of fire sprinkler react directly to heat AT THE SPRINKLER HEAD they are not activated by smoke as might result from cooking.
The usual activation temperature is IIRC 68 degrees centigrade.
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to hear about the temperature thing but I bet there's still plenty of possibility of error.
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Little John



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a post peak industrial society, high-tech, high-maintenance entities like tower blocks will become increasingly unsustainable in a variety of ways. But, in ever denser urban regions, they will become ever more necessary.

The above is a paradox that will become increasingly apparent across our societal systems from food production to transportation and everything else in between as the years go on.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As RC says, most people are only a few steps from a window or door in a house. A lifelong goal should be fewer electronics and fragile systems, not more.

Building for safety in the first place could be law if we wanted, punishable by knocking the building down and starting again.
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vtsnowedin



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:

No I do not want a cold shower every time I do a stir-fry, thanks.

.

Perhaps a few cooking lessons are in order? There are settings for the stove burners other then high. Smile
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adam2
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
Glad to hear about the temperature thing but I bet there's still plenty of possibility of error.


Provided that standard sprinkler heads, of a proven design are used there is almost no possibility of error.
Sprinklers have been used for decades in factories and have an excellent record of reliability.

My real concern is that civil servants will be let loose to develop an "improved" design, preferably involving electronics, software and data links and other points of failure.

A standard sprinkler head is very simple with almost nothing to wear out, perish or otherwise fail.
The most common type consists of a spray nozzle held shut by a small glass capsule partially filled with a liquid. As the temperature rises the liquid expands until the glass shatters and releases the water.
The liquid is dyed, and the colour denotes the operating temperature.

There is nothing to go wrong. The glass is utterly imperishable and lasts indefinitely. When the temperature reaches the boiling point of the liquid, the internal pressure increases substantially and the glass can not fail to shatter.
Surface rust may attack the metal parts, but even 50 years of rust wont impair operation.

Domestic use is a new idea, but sprinklers are a mature technology, and given an adequate water supply can not fail to function.
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clv101
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We are having to install a sprinkler system in the house we're building. It's the only aspect of the Building Regs that we'd rather not comply with - all other aspects have been fine.

We're not concerned about the system failing, it doesn't require a pump or tank so once installed we don't need to worry about it. The problem is that its added best part of £3k to our build cost!
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adam2
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

clv101 wrote:
We are having to install a sprinkler system in the house we're building. It's the only aspect of the Building Regs that we'd rather not comply with - all other aspects have been fine.

We're not concerned about the system failing, it doesn't require a pump or tank so once installed we don't need to worry about it. The problem is that its added best part of £3k to our build cost!


I would however suggest that this installation is not typical.
It would appear that ample pressure and flow is available without any pump or tank. (just watch out for future changes to the rules)

Many domestic sprinkler systems do require a pump at extra cost and complexity, and in effect require a mains electricity supply.
In many cases a water storage tank is also required, at extra expense and significant space taken up.
I also have a suspicion that standards will be continually improved and that a sprinkler water tank installed in 2018 might be non compliant in say 2023.
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