Resi sprinklers call after London flats blaze

10 September 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: London Fire Brigade

A huge fire which destroyed a London block of flats has prompted renewed calls for sprinklers to be fitted in all new residential buildings, as well as retrofitting taller buildings.

The blaze took hold at the four-storey, timber-framed building in Sherbrooke Way, Worcester Park early yesterday morning.

At the height of the fire, around 125 firefighters were called in to tackle it. Fortunately, no-one was injured, with all residents evacuated safely.

In response to the incident, Jane Duncan, chair of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, said: “It is very sad to see another terrible fire occur. I am relieved to hear there has been no loss of life, but the loss of all personal possessions is awful for those involved and my thoughts are with them. While we have welcomed the government’s ban on combustible materials for residential buildings over 18m, this four-storey building fire demonstrates that the application of this regulation may need to be extended.

“The RIBA has consistently argued for sprinklers to be a requirement in all new and converted residential buildings, and to be retrofitted in existing residential buildings above 18m when they are being refurbished. This fire demonstrates the need for sprinklers in residential buildings, and fire warning systems in individual flats, not just in communal parts. However, while important, sprinklers should not be used to compensate for other crucial fire safety measures.” 


I could not agree more. I have spent a lifetime in Building Control working for both Local Authorities as well as Government Approved Inspectors. If is not only the Legislative bodies that need to take on board the increased risks in Fire safety issues, it is also the professions. In the course of my years in the job i have often recommended pending new rules coming into force on Fire Safety amendments through updates in Building Regulations to Architects/designers/Surveyors when carrying out my plans examination assessments of their projects, only to be completely ignored.
I remember once discussing with an Architect the matter of mains operated smoke alarms for domestic dwellings, that was only weeks away from becoming a mandatory requirement under the Building Regulations. My statutory time was up to issue an approval of his plans for some houses. His response was not to commit his client to the additional cost if it was not a lawful requirement I could insist upon at that time, even after I tried to convince him of the massive fire safety benefits for the occupants of these houses. Hello!

Joe Quigley MRICS.FCIOB. (rtd), 11 September 2019

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