A three-year study for the Business Sprinkler Alliance has found that the installation of sprinklers would be a cost effective investment for one in five warehouses in England.
The total annual cost to the UK economy of fires in English warehouses without fire sprinklers is currently £232 million, but the findings from BRE Global show that warehouses with sprinklers covering a floor area above 2,000m2 can achieve huge savings, particularly in direct fire losses.
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BSA chairman Iain Cox said: “The findings of this study scratch the surface in terms of the return fire sprinklers bring to business. In the future the BSA intends to look at the cost effectiveness fire sprinklers have on other sectors, such as manufacturing.
"What is clear from the current research is that insurance alone is not enough to fully protect companies from the long-term impacts of fire. We urge the government to do more to encourage the installation of fire sprinklers in commercial premises and promote a better understanding of the positive impacts of physical resilience."
The study looked at the whole-life cost benefit analysis for fire sprinkler installation in three ranges of warehouse sizes over a 45-year period and found that:
• The whole life costs for warehouse buildings larger than 2,000m2 (around half a football pitch in size) with fire sprinklers are on average 3.7 times lower than ones without them
• Fire sprinklers were, on average, not cost-effective in warehouses with an area below 2,000m2
• Environmental benefits from sprinklers include a reduction in CO2 emissions from fire, reduced size of fire and reduced quantities of water used to fight fire
• Only 20% of warehouses between 2,000 and 10,000m2 are fitted with fire sprinklers. For warehouses above 10,000m2, the estimated fraction with fire sprinklers is 67%
• If all warehouses above 2,000m2 were fitted with sprinklers, the annual saving to businesses in England could be up to £210m.
The research was launched in the House of Commons today alongside a new study on the financial and economic impact of warehouse fires from the Centre for Economics and Business Research [www.cebr.com].
Dr Debbie Smith, Director of Fire Science and Building Products at the BRE, concluded: "Despite a year-on-year decrease in the number of commercial fires, the estimated annual cost of these fires is rising along with related societal and environmental impacts.
"This project has broken new ground in terms of evaluating these broader sustainability impacts of fire in warehouses and demonstrating that, on average, sprinklers can be shown to deliver a net benefit."
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