Should sprinklers be compulsory in all new homes?
Published: 10 February, 2010
The Welsh Assembly has voted in favour of making sprinklers mandatory for all new homes in Wales, but the Passive Fire Protection Federation believes this may cause problems, writes Chairman David Sugden.
The Welsh Assembly has voted in favour of making sprinklers mandatory for all new homes in Wales (see here). That must be a good idea! Or is it? Such a ruling will have a major economic impact on house builders at a time when the industry is facing serious problems. Not enough houses are being built as it is, without extra costs up front for the developer. Of course saving lives is more important than saving money but we have to be realistic. Imposing this law may cause more problems than it solves.
Installing sprinklers is a good idea in principle but that isn’t the end of the story – they have to be maintained, which costs time and money. As it is many people (maybe the majority?) don’t maintain their smoke alarms, so is it likely they will maintain the sprinkler system? And, more importantly, will having sprinklers make householders complacent about other fire protection measures?
Not many people have heard of passive fire protection but almost everyone already benefits from it in their home. In most properties it is built in - walls, doors and windows which can stop the rapid spread of fire and allow time to escape. The only maintenance issues involve making sure that these are properly restored after alterations, sealing gaps after new pipes or cables have been run, and remembering to close the door when leaving the room.
The point is that fire protection is not about any one element. All measures must be considered as a whole. Active measures such as sprinklers and smoke alarms work alongside built in protection. No law should be passed nor Government statement issued on fire protection unless these measures are considered as a whole.
Chairman, Passive Fire Protection Federation
Ganders Business Park