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Laura Hughes, Property Policy Adviser at the ABI

Government warned against dropping school sprinkler guidance

Association of British Insurers says proposed changes to school buildings would affect fire risk

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 24, 2016 | Security & safety

Proposed changes to guidance governing how schools are built would alarmingly undermine efforts to reduce the risk of fire, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) warns today. 

The redrafting of a document known as BB100 replaces a government commitment: “that it is now our expectation that all new schools will have sprinklers fitted”, with a sentence stating the opposite: “The Building Regulations do not require the installation of fire sprinkler suppression systems in school buildings for life safety and therefore BB 100 no longer includes an expectation that most new school buildings will be fitted with them.”  

There are more than 1,500 fires in schools and other educational establishments every year, equivalent to four a day, and the biggest of these has typically cost around £2.8 million in recent years. Aside from the financial impact, these fires disrupt the education of an estimated 90,000 children and students annually.  

Instead of watering down fire prevention measures, the ABI is urging the government to ensure sprinkler systems are fitted as mandatory in all new schools and any under-going major refurbishment.  

Laura Hughes, Property Policy Adviser at the ABI, said: “A decade ago the government made it clear sprinklers should be expected in all new school buildings. Despite that, only an estimated 30% of new schools built since then have had them included. Sprinklers should be a compulsory part of all new educational buildings, but instead the Government is moving in the opposite direction.  

“The case for sprinklers is a strong one. Aside from their ability to save lives they drastically reduce the amount of damage done when there is a fire, saving money and getting that school back up and running more quickly. The cost of installing a sprinkler system can be recouped in less than ten years thanks to the savings which will be made insuring the school. It’s a win-win situation for schools and all children should be benefitting from this additional safety measure.” 

The cost of a sprinkler system is generally between one and two per cent of the total construction bill. The estimated cost for a medium-sized primary school is just over £100,000.  

The ABI is urging the government to mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London next month with new legislation for compulsory sprinklers in all new schools, care homes and warehouses over 2,000m2.

The ABI has submitted a response to DfE’s consultation on Building Bulletin 100 – Fire Safety Design for schools – which you can see here.    

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