The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – Fire Suppression & Sprinklers – Part 6

August 3, 2017 2:15 pm

In this recent fire engineering design and risk assessment blog series for architects and others in the building industry, we have been looking at fire suppression particularly in relation to sprinkler systems. In part 5, we compared sprinklers to passive fire protection measures in terms of reliability when in use, as it has been argued that sprinklers are not 100% effective, which implies other measures are – they were not, of course.


In part 6, we will look at the benefits of sprinkler systems based upon a document by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), which was compiled based upon the UK Building Regulations. It aims to show the concessions which could be made if a suitable sprinkler system was installed as a part of a fire safe design.


The BAFSA document, published in October 2011, is named Using Sprinkler Systems in Buildings and Structures – Compliance with current fire safety guidance and is available from BAFSA as a pdf by clicking the above link.


Installation and use of a suitable sprinkler system can affect means of escape provision within a building. When the sprinkler becomes operational it can subdue or at least reduce the burning rate of a fire, this has the effect of reducing the mass of smoke produced and therefore the time allowed for building occupants to leave the building may be increased. This increase in time allows, in theory, for the distance to be traversed to the exit to be increased without it impacting upon people’s safety.


In cases where the smoke detection element of the fire alarm system was not a part of the sprinkler system, it would mean that the smoke alarm would trigger prior to operation of the sprinkler system and so evacuation of the building would already have begun. For this reason, the method would only work where the sprinkler system was used as the means of detection.


Sprinkler systems can even have an impact upon the size of a compartment within a build. As sprinklers reduce the intensity and growth rate of a fire, it is less likely that the fire will grow to a large size and this means that only those people affected by the fire in their immediate area are under any threat. The risk of fire spreading to other compartments or even to adjacent buildings is much lower and as a result, the size of building compartments may be increased to a larger size than in a comparable non-sprinklered building.


In Part 7 of this series, we will continue to look at the ways sprinklers can work with other fire protection measures to achieve fire safety design benefits. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.


Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.


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