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Approved documents accompanying the Building Regulations in England and Wales make specific reference to the use of sprinklers (Regulations for Scotland and Northern Ireland differ slightly).
For life safety, new residential blocks over 30m high must be fitted with sprinklers to meet Approved Document B standards. Similarly an uncompartmented area in a shop or self storage building over 2000 square metres now requires sprinkler protection. There are corresponding regulations applying to large single storey buildings for industrial or storage use where the largest permitted unsprinklered compartment is 20,000 square metres.
When sprinklers are installed there may be significant benefits in respect of compliance with Approved Document B of the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended). For example: the installation of sprinklers can allow buildings to be built closer together (half the spacing is required) to adjoining premises. This is a major benefit where site space is limited. Other requirements in Approved Document B regarding travel distances for escape may also be able to be extended and certain requirements in respect of access for the fire service may be relaxed. There may also be the possibility for savings in construction and building cost by relaxation of certain passive fire protection measures and the freedom to allow 'open plan' design in three-storey dwellings and apartments.
In retail premises, sprinklers can be taken into account when calculating fire growth and smoke volume. This is turn allows the approval of longer distances of travel to exits.
The guidance issued to interpret the Building Regulations now recognises the use of sprinklers for life safety and it is clear that future legislation will call for the increased use of sprinklers. For existing buildings the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which replaced most existing fire legislation in England and Wales requires employers and others (the Responsible Person in the Order) to consider whether the duties imposed by the Order could be better discharged by fitting fixed fire suppression systems. The guidance documents published in support of the legislation recognize this. For example, residential care homes fitted with sprinkler protection can adopt a policy of delayed evacuation in the event of a fire alarm and the usual requirements to fit self-closers to all bedroom doors may be relaxed.
From 1 May 2005 all new residential care homes, sheltered housing and high rise domestic accommodation above 18 metres high have had to be fitted with sprinklers. In addition, sprinklers are required in all covered shopping centres. Reference should be made to: http://www.sbsa.gov.uk/new/tbooks.htm for copies of the relevant guidance documents. New schools in Scotland should also be fitted with a sprinkler system. It is likely that these requirements will be extended to other occupancies in 2015-6. Warehouses in excess of 14000m square metres should be fitted with sprinklers and in some cases, where hazardous materials are stored, small warehouses may also have to be fitted with sprinklers.
The Welsh Assembly has approved a Legislative Competence Order which will require the installation of sprinklers in a wide range of dwellings. This will take effect in two stages. From April 2014 all new and refurbished residential care homes, homes in multiple occupation and hostels (as well as certain other types of premises) will have to be fitted with an approved fire suppression system. From 1 January 2016 all new and converted single familiy dwellings including houses and flats will also have to be protected with approved automatic fire suppression systems.
All fire safety legislation is to be repatriated to the Welsh Assembly as are building regulations