Health, Safety & Environmental

Why Sprinklers Should Be Mandatory in a Car Park

After a fire eruption at the King’s Dock multi-storey car park in Liverpool, Joe Anderson, the Mayor of the city, questioned whether the existing building regulations are fit for purpose. The fired reached temperatures of 1000oC; it destroyed more than a thousand vehicles inside the car park and damaged the building itself, causing a financial impact of over £50 million.

The absence of sprinklers in the building only made the situation worse, with people claiming that if they had installed them, the vehicles and the construction could have been saved. According to the UK Fire Statistics, between 1994 and 2005 there were 162 car park fires, in which a fixed fire suppression system was present. In 100 of these cases, automatic sprinklers extinguished or contained the fire and in only 1% of these situations they failed because the fires were to small to activate the sprinklers.

Although the car park met current Building Regulations, the lack of focus on property protection led to £20 million being paid out to insurance customers and £15 million going to the construction cost of the building. However, if the impact it will have on the city is taken into account, the total cost of the fire will be a lot larger. The 1,600 spaces that charged £15 per day used to bring a potential revenue of £24,000, which is now lost. If it takes 18 months to reopen, then that means potential lost earnings of approximately £13 million.

The installation of a sprinkler system in the car park would have costed between £600k and £950k, which is significantly lower than the cost of the fire. Despite the evidence of the effectiveness of sprinklers in car parks, the regulatory guidance for building safety does not make them mandatory. These regulations only look into life safety and do not take into account the impact a fire has on the wider economy.

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