UK’s biggest housing association trials misting for fire suppression
Clarion, the UK’s largest housing association, is trialling a water mist fire suppression system as an alternative to sprinklers at one of its residential developments.
The organisation is fitting the low-pressure misting system at Fulton Court in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, an eight-storey retirement block, after running a study in June this year.
Misting systems operate in similar fashion to sprinklers, activating when temperatures reach a certain level, usually 57 degrees centigrade. The fine spray of water mist means a larger surface area of water is exposed to the flames, compared to sprinklers, which can be more effective at suppressing fires.
Clarion’s study involved construction of three typical living rooms, one with a misting suppression system, one with sprinklers and one with no suppression, and then setting fire to each of them in turn. The misting system performed well in the study, the housing association’s fire safety projects director Dan Hollas told CM.
“The misting system results in considerably less water damage and uses less than half the amount of water,” he said. “Misting technology has been used in the oil and gas sector but not as widely in domestic housing. There is some opposition from the insurance sector and the fire authorities who see sprinklers as tried and tested.”
The design and installation of water misting systems are covered by BSI standards, and there is the voluntary Fire Installers Registration and Accreditation Scheme (FIRAS) but no UKAS-accredited system.
Hollas said that Clarion is now evaluating the misting system at Fulton Court, which was installed by fire protection specialist Harmony.
“We are looking at how easy the system is to install,” he said. “Compared to sprinklers, the pipework is slightly smaller, so the installation is easier. But they are very similar systems.”
Clarion, which owns and manages 125,000 homes nationwide, had 33 fire insurance claims last year and its fire projects team have been investigating the potential of suppression systems since the Grenfell tragedy.
Perceived advantages of misting compared to sprinklers
- Environmentally sound – they use less water.
- Minimised water damage – not only do the systems use less water, the suppression/cooling action is through evaporation meaning a lot of the water is turned to steam and therefore not dousing the property.
- Smoke scrubbing – the process of smoke particles adhering to the fine water droplets, effectively cleaning the air.
- Smaller bore pipework offers potentially easier retrofit installation.
- Smaller tanks offer installation advantages.