Although the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the resumption of Phase 2 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, it has already become evident, during the inquiry process, that fire sprinkler systems can help save lives, particularly in high-rise blocks, says Encasement.
Even before the publication of the Phase 1 report in late 2019, pro-active HA and local authority landlords had already started the process of implementing major programmes of fire protection upgrades, including the widespread 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 is 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.
Therefore, it is crucial 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 vital 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 is 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 Encasement’s 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 is 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 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, with no compromise to the quality or integrity of the installation, which can also lower costs.
Ultimately, 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 are already playing an important role and Versa boxing solutions can make a contribution in terms of effectiveness, ease of installation and economics.