Architects, Designers, Builders

Fire Sprinkler – Design Benefits

Although the life saving benefits that fire sprinklers bring can never be overlooked it is true to say that a fully installed sprinkler system can open up many design opportunities. Today, still, it is surprising to find that a lot of architects, designers and builders are unaware of such design freedoms fire sprinklers can bring.

Ultimately a sprinkler system can provide its occupants with an enhanced level of fire protection. Better still, sprinklers can help you maximise living spaces combining both comfort as well as safety. These days the vast majority of domestic and residential sprinkler systems use concealed sprinkler heads ensuring a minimal visual impact. Furthermore installation is quick and simple thanks to the extensive use of CPVC pipe-work and solvent cement.

Design Benefits of a Fire Sprinkler System

Figure 1 – A sprinkler system can allow for better open planning.

In Wales it will soon become mandatory for all new builds to have a fitted fire sprinkler system. Until compulsory legislation is brought into England and Scotland sprinklers will only ever fulfil the need of a building requirement. As such it is crucial that if a fire sprinkler system is considered it is designed into a project from the offset – this will ensure that costs can be kept to an absolute minimum.

Design Benefits of a Fire Sprinkler System - Sprinkler heads can be concealed

Sprinkler heads can be concealed


What are the Fire Sprinkler Design Benefits?

The following three building design guides summarise the permissible trade-offs which a fire sprinkler system can bring when in agreement with the relevant Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Approved Document B (ADB): Fire Safety


Key Design Headlines

  • An additional and separate staircase is not required in dwellings over 4.5m high from the ground, so long as they are fully fitted with sprinklers (2.7b).
  • Relaxation in boundary distances between properties which have a sprinkler system (9.15)
  • Residential care homes can increase the quantity of beds as well as negate the need for self-closing doors should a sprinkler system be fitted (3.52).
  • Fire separate between a store room and a shop front can be relaxed (5.58).
  • Fire fighting shaft requirements can be relaxed (17.9).

Did you know: Research conducted in 2009 identified that a fully fitted sprinkler system within an open plan flat could provide a greater level of safety then that of a standard ADB compliant design.
(Source: NHBC “Open Plan Flat Layouts: Assessing life safety in the event of fire.”)

Click here to download a fact sheet summarising the key sprinkler clauses documented with ADB.

Click here to download a fact sheet showing how sprinklers fit into the wider context of building regulations as well as trade offs.


BS 9999:2008 – Code of Practice For Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings 

Compared to ADB this standard offers a more flexible approach to building design, incorporating fire engineer principles. Unlike ADB this standard considers the occupants who will inhabit a building as well as the buildings characteristics.

By installing a fire sprinkler system arisk profile can be reduced. For example an occupancy which was determined to have a fast fire growth rate, could be downsized to a medium fire growth rate. Such a reduction will therefore lead to a reduction in the fire safety provisions required such as:

  • Longer travel distances – the 45m rule can be extended.
  • Larger compartments – larger open spaces.
  • Smaller exits and stairs.
  • Relaxed fire resistance between compartments.
  • Relaxation in heat detectors.

Click here to download a fact sheet summarising the key sprinkler clauses documented with BS 9999

BS 9991:2011 – Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Residential Buildings

The most recent design guide aims to complement BS 9999, which excludes individual dwelling houses from within its scope. BS 9991 maintain the design flexibility shown in BS 9999 and recognises the strength that sprinklers can bring. Importantly watermist systems get conditional approvalproviding (subject to AHJ agreement).

  • 3 storey house with open plan ground floor (6.3).
  • 4 storey house with no second means of escape (6.4).
  • Increased travel in common corridors from 7.5m to 15m and 30m to 60m (7.4).
  • Open plan flats can be achieved (9.7).
  • Based on fire and rescue service response times of less than ten minutes increased travel distances can be achieved:
    • 90m for houses less than 4.5m in height .
    • 75m for houses/flats not more than one floor above 4.5m. (e 19.1.2).
  • Boundary distances can be reduced by half (29.4.2).

Click here to download a fact sheet summarising the key sprinkler clauses documented with BS 9991


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