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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.

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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:

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.                     @jla_Ltd

Tel: 0800 591 903