What is it about sprinkler systems that screams expense? Is it the huge expanse of pipework running through the building? The thought of further plant and change to existing infrastructure? Is it the thought of water winding its way around your building waiting to pounce and flood your tenants? Is it the thought that after all that, it may never be needed?

Yet, the human in you knows that these systems WILL save lives in the event of fire. Something that became all too evident in 2017.

Ian Robertson, CEO at PropertyServe, explores further.


Myth busting

First a few updates to bring you up to speed…

  • The metal pipework is gone. Modern day installations of residential sprinkler systems have adopted an innovative CPVC pipework and fittings system which is fully fire tested and approved for use in residential sprinkler systems. This means no steel pipework, no cutting machines, no oil and no loud noise.
  • Retrofit domestic systems can typically ‘plug in’ to existing infrastructure utilising the BCWS or MCWS systems.
  • Wet Risers – Water is held in the central riser storage tank until triggered to deploy through the wings of the building by the fire brigade.
  • Dry Risers – Only the fire brigade can charge these systems with water upon arrival at a fire or for testing.


Lets look at the numbers

In 2012 BAFSA (British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association) demonstrated that it is cost effective and practical to retrofit automatic fire sprinklers in existing high-rise tower blocks in particular in those constructed between 1950 & 1970.

In a pilot project, which installed automatic fire sprinklers in a 13 storey, 1960s tower block in Sheffield – Callow Mount, BAFSA demonstrated once and for all how significant improvements in life and building safety can be achieved with minimal disruption by retrofitting an automatic fire suppression system.


It was agreed that the 47 residents would remain in occupation throughout the entire installation. If a system could be retrofitted into a completely occupied block, then this would provide evidence that concerns over practicality for fire sprinkler retrofits were entirely unjustified.

Although this was a challenge, there was little doubt about the practicality of retrofitting a CPVC sprinkler system, provided the right product and material was used. Using CPVC eradicated any need for cutting or welding equipment, or any noisy threading machines. Installers could make necessary adjustments on-site by cutting the piping to the exact measurement needed.


In 2012 the average cost per one bedroomed flat was just under £1,150  which included the provision of sprinklers in utility rooms, common areas, bin stores and an office.

It took approximately one day per-flat to complete the installation of the 47-flat tower block.

Significant cost-savings were made during installation, as only one man is needed per section to install CPVC pipes and fittings.


Widen the scope

Since then BAFSA members have worked with Councils in the UK, retrofitting some 100 of the 4000 older, high rise tower blocks.  Experience has shown that costs vary according to several factors including:

  • Finishing – some councils require all pipework to be boxed in.
  • Sprinklers alarms – in compliance with BS9251 the sprinkler indicator panel will simply show which floor the sprinkler system has activated. However, some clients prefer each flat to be separately monitored on the sprinkler panel which is considerably more expensive.
  • Number of bedrooms – Callow Mount were all one bedroomed flats.
  • Complexity of the overall refurbishment project – what other works are being completed at the same time.
  • The overall dimensions of the block.

An analysis of retrofitting work in high rise tower blocks completed in the past 5 years confirms that costs per flat average out between £1500 and £2500 per flat.

More recently we have completed retrofit installations to a number of social housing apartment blocks in the North West. All installations were retrofit applications into existing tenanted units with the costs ranging from £1250 – £2400 per flat dependent on the layout, infrastructure and client requirements.

We can all appreciate that despite the downward trajectory of costs associated with retrofit sprinkler systems, they remain a big ticket item. However, with the significant steps taken by the industry to become more agile and affordable, coupled with the ever increasing demand from all parties, not least tenants, to provide safe places to live, is it time to consider retrofit sprinkler systems for your upcoming budget?

* It is essential that all fire protection and prevention contracts are undertaken by competent people utilising 3rd Party Approved products which are suitable for the task in hand.


Ian Robertson is CEO at PropertyServe; sole supplier on Lot 1 of our Fire Safety Works framework.


Nominated supplier on our Fire Safety Consultancy framework WYG discuss the new Building Safety Bill, as well as actions property owners should consider before the bill comes into place.

What do building owners have to do to be compliant with the legislation and requirements around fire safety?

PFH have been following recent developments with the Grenfell enquiry and wanted to issue the following statement to Members who may have concerns relating to fire doors and associated works within their properties.

A Which? report published last month (15th February 2018) has highlighted the safety risk that faulty domestic household appliances can pose to residents. The investigation reveals that appliances such as fridges, freezers and ovens are responsible for over 60 per cent of household fires, with washing machines and dryers highlighted as the biggest culprits, causing over a third.

The number of household fires has stayed at a similar level for five years, causing close to 16,000 life threatening blazes since 2012 and demonstrating that little improvement is being made year-on-year to this worrying statistic. As a result, Which? is calling for government action via the new Office for Product Safety and Standards, which launched last month, to ensure unsafe goods are kept out of homes.

Ensuring tenants’ safety in their own homes is always a number one priority for landlords and choosing the right appliances and white goods is a critical consideration given the latest findings.  Without updated guidance from the government this can be a difficult responsibility and JLA believes that suppliers need to support housing organisations in finding alternative solutions when domestic options are currently failing them.

When it comes to communal laundries and kitchens or even within the home itself, JLA stresses that it’s important for landlords to remember that domestic equipment isn’t the only option available. Commercial appliances that have been designed specifically for social housing can significantly reduce the safety risk, providing all the robustness and longevity of an industrial machine, while still retaining the key benefits of a domestic appliance including the size and ease-of-use which is so important in promoting independence amongst residents.

From compact washers and tumble dryers to under-counter dishwashers and fridges, there is a range of commercial products to suit all social housing needs. In addition, JLA has been at the forefront of developing unique innovations in the fight against appliance fires such as its Sensor-Activated Fire Extinguishing (S.A.F.E) technology which automatically dispenses water vapour into the dryer drum if higher than normal temperatures are detected, preventing a fire starting.

As the market-leader for commercial laundry and catering equipment, JLA is committed to supporting social housing landlords meet and exceed standards for their tenants and prompted by the latest Which? report,  JLA is offering free consultations to all social housing organisations to ensure the equipment they are providing is fit for purpose and provide guidance and advice on improvements or upgrades.

The full Which? report can be viewed here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/02/revealed-the-brands-linked-to-the-most-appliance-fires/

Housing Division at JLA

Established over 40 years ago, JLA is the market-leader in the supply and maintenance of commercial laundry, catering and heating equipment and works closely with Housing partners to provide all-inclusive solutions that meet every need.

www.jla.com                     @jla_Ltd

Tel: 0800 591 903

The Grenfell Tower tragedy has brought fire safety to the fore in the social housing sector. In this blog, leading experts at suppliers on the Technical Support Services framework give their advice on how best to approach fire risk assessments


  1. Understand what type of fire risk assessment you require

It’s absolutely vital for a social landlord to develop an understanding of what type of fire risk assessment they should be specifying.

Commissioning something detailed and intrusive when it’s unnecessary represents poor value for money, while a basic assessment may not give you the coverage and depth required.

There are four types of fire risk assessment:


Type 1 – common parts only (non-destructive)

Type 2- common parts only (destructive)

Type 3- common parts and flats (non-destructive)

Type 4- common parts and flats (destructive)


Types 1 and 3 are the most commonly requested, while 2 and 4 are more in depth and require a degree destructive investigation to examine the fabric of the building.

The type of assessment to be undertaken depends on both the building and its occupants, with higher-risk blocks demanding a more in depth assessment (a high-rise block with over 50s accommodation for example; if of LPS construction will need to be a Type 4).

As a general rule, intrusive assessments don’t need to be repeated if good records are kept, whereas programmed repeat non-destructive inspections are essential to flag up any potential hazards. Either way, your consultant should be able to offer advice on the best way forward.

The initial assessment will determine the subsequent frequency of future assessments by looking at the hazards and risks associated with a particular property, the type of occupancy and its use. An FRA should specify when a review is due.


  1. Don’t treat a fire risk assessment as an end in itself

A fire risk assessment is not a tick box exercise. Commissioning fire risk assessments and then failing to act on their findings not only puts lives at risk, it’s also a waste of money. Recommendations need to be converted into action where appropriate.

Too often, consultants revisit clients’ properties only to find issues flagged up in previous assessments haven’t been addressed.

There are numerous reasons for this – for larger landlords the sheer volume of properties involved may appear overwhelming and difficult to stay on top of, particularly when budgets are already stretched. Internal issues such as changes of personnel or merger with another landlord can also lead to work being sidelined. Obviously, none of these would be viewed as a ‘reasonable excuse’ if disaster were to strike.

Work with your consultant to ensure you understand the report’s findings and if action is required take advice on the areas to prioritise.


  1. Get the fire safety message across to residents and staff – they are part of the solution

Gaining access to properties is an issue for landlords that comes up time and time again. It’s an essential part of the fire risk assessment process and also ensures landlords can carry out their own checks.

Importantly, in a recent test case a Croydon Council took a leaseholder to court over her refusal to allow access to a property. She had replaced the flat door with a uPVC one, a combustible material, and the landlord needed to change it back to a fire door. The council won.

In addition, there’s a reason why fire doors are sold as a door set that includes the frame. A quality manufacturer will not supply a door without its accompanying frame because the two have been tested together to ensure compliance. Replacing the door and leaving the frame risks compromising its effectiveness in the event of a fire and invalidates its safety certificate.

Another common issue is the storage of items in communal areas that could represent a fire risk.

It really comes down to communication and education – people often don’t realise what can contribute to increased fire risk.

Does your organisation make residents and staff aware of what to look for and things not to do? If not, one solution is to work with your consultant to produce a list of dos and don’ts that can be distributed.


  1. Make fire safety an integral part of your asset management strategy

What approach have you taken to date? Are all of your FRAs complete, of the right type, and up-to-date? Have all actions been completed?

A sensible starting point would be to carry out a full stock condition survey to assess the state of the stock. This can be used to inform your asset management strategy and flag up any issues requiring attention, including the general safety of buildings.

Part of the problem may be that information hasn’t been recorded, or updated properly. Some landlords have adopted database systems like Keystone and Qube to record information received from full stock condition surveys and fire risk assessments.

Robust data makes it simpler to keep on top of maintenance and to budget accordingly.

It also allows repairs and maintenance to be tendered on a schedule of rates basis with contractors so it isn’t necessary to go out to tender each time.

The computer database informs the landlord what needs to be done, the contractor carries out the work and it’s recorded on the database.


  1. A measured approach to fire safety assessments is a win-win

The recent upsurge in demand for fire risk assessments following Grenfell tells its own story. Many landlords are realising that they are not where they need to be and that’s led to a spike in demand.

It’s also created problems in the supply chain with manufacturers struggling to keep up with demand for fire doors. PfH is able to bring some certainty to that equation thanks to its members’ significant collective buying power, its sector expertise and strong relationships with suppliers.

A more measured approach that prioritises and plans works as part of an active asset management strategy offers the best solution for landlords and tenants and facilitates a responsive supply chain.

This means properties are maintained to the necessary standard in a managed manner that gives landlords certainty over their future expenditure and greater ability to secure value for money from their suppliers.



  • PfH would like to thank Pennington Choices, Pellings, Michael Dyson Associates, Ridge & Partners and Rand Associates for their help in compiling this article. All five are on lot 1 of the Technical Support Services framework.
  • To find out more go to the framework page