In 2007 amendments to the Building Regulations 2000 Approved Document B (Fire Safety) Volume 2 came into force – they prescribe new building height and size thresholds for the mandatory fitment of sprinklers in new commercial buildings (NCBs), major refurbishments and retrofits to existing structures as well as referencing the British Standards for sprinkler design and fitment. Under these regulations only warehouse premises in England and Wales of 20,000m2 or above have to be fitted with sprinklers.
Even after this recent amendment, the regulation of sprinkler fitment in NCBs falls far short of norms in many other European countries. It also falls short of the norms that Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA) believes would help UK business implement long-term business resilience planning.
Local Acts in the UK
In the UK, the existence of Local Acts currently makes provision for some Local Authorities to require buildings over 7,000m3 to install fire prevention measures – including sprinkler systems – in buildings which otherwise could be exposed to unnecessary fire risk.
How the UK compares with the rest of the EU
In the majority of the largest EU countries, fire sprinklers must be installed in commercial and industrial properties with an average floor space one tenth of that regulated in the UK (20,000m2). For example, the following European countries with much smaller regulation on maximum sizes of warehouses without sprinklers include: Austria: 1,800m2; Belgium: 5,000m2; Denmark: 2,0002-5,000m2(dependent upon fire load); France: 3,000m2; Germany: 1,800m2; the Netherlands: 1,000m2; Norway: 800m2; and Spain 2,000m2.
Consequently, business losses on the continent are far lower than the UK’s £865 million in 2008. For example, in Germany in 2008, damage as a result of fire cost £400 million i.e. half that of the UK, and the European Insurance and Reinsurance Federation (the CEA) has reported that commercial fires statistically decreased by 6 per cent in Germany in 2008.