Wandsworth Council is responsible for 187 tower blocks in its borough. None of the tower blocks are currently fitted with fire sprinklers. However, in the wake of the horrendous Grenfell Tower fire in the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a report in the Wandsworth Guardian reveals that Wandsworth Council will retro-fit 6,400 homes across 100 tower blocks in the borough with fire sprinklers. Work will commence as soon as possible, although no exact date has been given.
In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, Wandsworth were amongst the first to listen to advice from the London Fire Brigade. A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said, “Sprinklers can suppress fires quickly, reduce property damage, potentially save lives, help with business continuity, reduce the impact of fires on the environment and protect firefighters.
“London Fire Brigade supports the installation of sprinklers in residential high rise blocks as part of its wider fire safety management strategy and for many years has also been campaigning to have them fitted in buildings which house some of the capital’s most vulnerable people such as care homes, specialised accommodation and schools.”
In the report by the Wandsworth Guardian, the council’s executive member for housing, Claire Salier, commented, “Across the country virtually no social housing tower blocks have sprinkler systems and Wandsworth’s will be among the first in the UK to have them installed.
“Whilst our fire safety and containment systems are of the very highest standards, and are independently assessed by fire safety experts, this installation programme acts on the best advice from the Fire Brigade and will provide even greater reassurance and safety for residents in high rise blocks.
“It is now mandatory under Building Regulations for all new build blocks over 10 storeys to have sprinkler systems, these proposals bring our towers up to these standards.”
In the announcement published on the council website, Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “The dreadful and tragic events at Grenfell House have brought this issue into sharp focus and although we do not believe there is a specific risk to any of our high rise properties we are simply not prepared to take a chance.
“We will therefore be fitting water sprinklers to every home in these 100 blocks as quickly as possible so that our residents can be reassured that everything that can be done is being done to protect them, their families and their homes.”
While current building regulations in England mean that only buildings constructed since 2007 taller than 30m are required to have sprinklers fitted, it is hoped that the Independent review into building regulations and fire safety currently underway following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire will bring about a change in the law to enforce retro-fitting of fire sprinklers in all such buildings regardless of when they were built.
Croydon council were also amongst the first in London to commit to an urgent review of fire safety measures in high rise residential blocks. They will be retro-fitting fire sprinklers in 25 council blocks which have 10 storeys or more.
The effect of the Grenfell tragedy will be felt for years to come. At Applications Engineering we will continue to support the campaign being led by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) and the Fire Brigade to ensure fire sprinklers are retro-fitted in all residential and commercial buildings to safeguard lives, and protect communities from the potential devastating effects of fire.