Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems in Wales
APRIL 2014 CHANGES TO WELSH LEGISLATION –
AUTOMATIC FIRE SPRINKLERS
Government of Wales Act 2006
The Welsh Assembly has been able to draw up its own legislation since the 2006 Government of Wales Act. Subsequently, Ann Jones AM – Assembly Member representing the Vale of Clwyd – introduced an ‘LCO’ or Legislative Competence Order to make it compulsory for residential fire sprinkler systems in Wales to be installed in every new home. Ms Jones was the first individual Member of the Welsh Assembly to introduce such an order.
Legislative Competence Order (LCO)
Well received by the Fire Brigades Union and organisations representing senior fire officers throughout Wales, the LCO was first passed in 2011.
In April 2014, installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems was made compulsory in Wales for all converted and new-build residential properties. It was a significant change to legislation and followed approval by the Welsh Assembly in October 2013 of the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011. The regulations were signed into law and a Commencement Order issued.
Statistics showed a decrease in fire-related deaths in the home in the previous ten years but the Welsh Government believed more could be done to bring down the fatality and injury rate, data for which showed an average of seventeen fatalities and five hundred and three injuries per annum. The legislation demonstrated a commitment to further reduce the figures.
From 30 April 2014, all bed and breakfast, student, some hostel, and all converted and new-build residential care home accommodation had to incorporate sprinkler systems into their designs before approval would be granted by Building Control authorities. Focussing on residential property (including houses and flats) and applicable to both new-build and conversions, further legislation required all such properties to include fire sprinkler systems from January 2016.
The new measures were directed towards a reduction in deaths and injuries from fire but also looked to protect the sustainability of new-build properties in Wales and safety of first responders.
Building Research Establishment Analysis
The findings of a report commissioned from the Building Research Establishment fuelled interest and debate when published in April 2012. Analysis revealed that whilst cost-effective for students’ university halls of residence and new-build care homes, the same could not be said of sprinkler systems installed in single-occupancy dwellings.
These findings were questioned by bodies supportive of the new Welsh Measure (including the Chief Fire Officers’ Association) who contrasted the lower figures used to establish the (statistical) value of a life in the United Kingdom, with those applied in other parts of the world. In America, for instance, the figure was three times that used in the UK, whilst the Norwegian figure was twice as big.
The fire sprinkler industry suggested costs could be reduced when systems were:
- fitted to BS9251 standards
- designed to the right specification
- with collaboration from the relevant water company, connected to the mains supply rather than relying on a tank and pump
Cooperation from water companies to facilitate mains supply was relevant since the requirement for, and cost of a tank and pump, was an assumption in the RIA (Regulatory Impact Assessment) calculations.
BAFSA (the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association) took the view that subject to sufficient flow and pressure in supplying pipework, almost ninety percent of single-occupancy, new-build homes could benefit from sprinkler systems installed in this way, bringing down the projected cost by about a third.
Collaboration between all parties was, and remains, crucial in the drive to deliver water regulation-compliant, cost-effective life safety sprinkler systems.
BAFSA has worked closely with water supply companies in Wales and across the United Kingdom, whose ongoing support is key to success.
The 2014 legislation reflected the will and determination of the Welsh Government to change the way developers and providers think about fire safety and design their properties. The Assembly proved that where there’s a will there’s a way… it’s to be hoped that others join suit.