Should Single-Family Homes have Sprinkler Systems Installed?

In May 2020, UK legislation was finally amended to make sprinkler systems a legal requirement in residential blocks and mixed-use developments over 11m in height. The previous height at which such systems became mandatory was 30m.

And while this is certainly good news in terms of health and safety in high-rise buildings, it does raise an interesting question: should single-family houses be fitted with residential sprinkler systems, too?

Benefits of residential sprinklers

Smoke alarms do their job amazingly well. They significantly help to minimise injury and death in the event of a house fire, alerting occupants to an emergency situation. However, we have to remember that houses today contain more flammable materials – and more electrical items – than ever before. So while smoke alarms alert, they do nothing to slow the spread of fire or facilitate a safe evacuation from the home.

This is the argument for residential sprinkler installation. Research shows that, in the UK, house fires account for 80% of all fire-related deaths. Additionally, between 2010 and 2016, low-rise houses, bungalows, and maisonettes below three storeys accounted for 60% of all residential fires in London. In contrast, flats and maisonettes above 10 storeys accounted for just 5%. Low-rise properties are overlooked when it comes to fire protection. It’s clear that now is the time to bring in change.

Why aren’t sprinklers standard?

It’s easy to see how sprinkler systems could help to boost safety in the home. So why are sprinklers not required in homes as standard?

“The Government in England is reluctant to add any further burden of regulation to those responsible for building homes”, says former Fire Chief Ronnie King. King has long campaigned for all homes to be fitted with sprinklers, stating that “a single fire death in a sprinklered building is an extremely rare occurrence anywhere in the world… a multiple death is almost unheard of”.

And he’s not the only one who feels this way. Sean Frayne, Derbyshire’s Fire Chief, launched the Think Sprinkler campaign back in 2011, believing that a sprinkler is like “a firefighter in every room of your home”. Additionally, the Residential Sprinkler Association (RSA) was set up to promote the benefits of sprinklers in the home. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has campaigned for many years to have sprinkler systems installed in all new residential buildings, regardless of their height.

Is it worth it?

One of the biggest deterrents to homeowners when it comes to installing fire sprinklers is cost. So is it worth it? Anything above and beyond the minimum number of smoke alarms is often viewed as an unnecessary ‘luxury’. But, as the London Fire Brigade notes, ‘sprinklers are not a luxury, they save lives’.

Reports show that sprinklers are 99% effective, across all premises types. So there’s really no reason why sprinklers shouldn’t be grouped with domestic products like smoke alarms as vital fire protection means.

At Eversafe, we’re leading experts in dry & wet risers, sprinklers, and advanced fire protection systems. Contact us to learn more about residential installation, and see if sprinklers could be the right choice for your home.