The publication of the Phase 1 report from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in late October 2019 was yet another stark reminder, if one was needed, of the essential role that fire safety plays in all residential buildings, but particularly in high-rise blocks.
Even though the Inquiry’s Chairman has said that fire sprinkler systems will form an important part of the Phase 2 investigation this year, many pro-active HA and local authority landlords have begun implementing a major programme of fire protection upgrades, which includes the retro-fitting of fire sprinkler systems.
As sprinklers need to be located within individual flats and communal areas to suppress fires and aid escape, incorporating them in new builds is comparatively simple, as they can be integrated at the building design stage and pipework can be hidden within wall cavities and ceiling voids. For retro-fitted solutions, however, it’s not that straightforward, as in most cases the pipework will need to be surface mounted.
Once the sprinkler system pipework is installed, it needs to be concealed, as it provides a more aesthetic finish to each project and helps avoid potential complaints from tenants about unsightly orange pipes. It also serves a practical purpose of containing the components and acting as a visible barrier to potential tampering or accidental damage.
One of the main advantages of surface mounted pipework, is the simplicity and speed with which it can be installed by skilled contractors, so it’s important that the chosen method of pipe boxing is also quick and easy, as installation time and the associated costs are essential considerations on any sprinkler project. Consequently, these are key reasons why pre-formed and pre-finished solutions, such as Encasement’s Versa fire sprinkler pipe boxing, have become the preferred solution for many sprinkler contractors.
Versa ‘L’ shaped pipe boxing is manufactured from 5mm or 8mm thick plywood in a range of sizes and profiles and the system also includes dedicated accessories, such as internal and external corners, which help create an integrated finish and speeds the sprinkler installation. All that’s needed to install the sprinkler pipe boxing on site is to drill the holes for sprinkler heads, cut to length and secure to the wall or ceiling with wood battens, screws and caps.
From our experience of working with contractors on countless social housing projects where pipework needs to be concealed, Versa pipe and fire sprinkler boxing can be fitted in less than half the time of site made alternatives. Also, as it is pre-finished with durable white melamine, there’s no painting required on site, which saves further time and cost.
For housing associations, local authorities and their contractors, this time saving provides a number of benefits. It helps ensure that fire safety upgrades can be completed within shorter timescales and simultaneously minimises the disruption for tenants while the work is being carried out. Potentially the most important advantage is that the time taken to complete the projects can be reduced without compromising the quality or integrity of the installation, which can also reduce costs.
The over-riding aims must be to focus on helping save lives and enhance fire safety in high-rise residential buildings to avoid a repeat of the Grenfell tragedy. Fire sprinkler systems have an important role to play and Versa boxing solutions can make a contribution to that process in terms of effectiveness, ease of installation and economics.