BIM4H Sprinklers inc Components & WetDry Risers ROUNDTABLE
GEORGE regarding sprinklers. What we’re trying to do here is to steer the process so that, we recognise the sprinkler is a complete system, but knowing what the individual products and materials are that go to make that up is an important thing, particularly for maintenance purposes. The other thing with this is looking at what information we might need about each of these elements. So valves, for example, in themselves would have a data requirement in terms of how do we look at what that valve replacement needs to be in terms of its dimensions or connection points or whatever.
We can draw that out from aligned information about these. The other thing I would say generally is that in terms of guidance and standards and the like, we obviously want to ensure that we're working to standards and it's a given that the people that are doing the design and the installation need to be competent, and also the maintenance. But what we're trying to do is drill beyond that and say if there's information in the guidance can we extract that so that it becomes explicit to somebody that is maintaining that particular sprinkler head at that particular location.
RICHARD Has anybody else got anything that they think should be added on to that list?
ALAN Well, actually I was just saying something should be taken off. The deflector is a part of the sprinkler, you can’t remove it or replace it, it’s just part of it. RICHARD So it’s intrinsic. It's not something that would be replaced or maintained as of its own right? ALAN No.
GEORGE Don’t take it off, just make a note against it. I’m not challenging at all what Alan’s saying, but if we could just keep it on. We don’t want to be taking stuff off yet. The idea of this as well ,Alan, is that we're producing a master list, but then people can consume it in different ways according to what they do. So might it be that you inspect a deflector? ALAN yes, you would inspect to see if it’s been bashed or anything like that. RICHARD So in that case, it actually should be on our list, shouldn't it? GEORGE Yeah, I think so, but with that consideration. ALAN If you inspect a sprinkler. I mean it's very big, you could hardly look at the sprinkler and not deflect.
PAUL McSOLLEY Alan, it was me that put it on the list, when you look at the the right term for a sprinkler head, is it a sprinkler head Is it deflector head, It's probably worth all of these things just getting the definitions right. That'd be my thought, you’d be absolutely spot on.
ALAN Yes, it's a sprinter and you'd want to check, you look at the sprinkler to see has anybody bashed it has anybody painted it, is it covered in anything, just does it look in decent condition. If it’s a glass bulb operated sprinkler is there liquid in the bulb. This doesn't happen very often, but they can get cracked and then you lose the liquid if it’s lost the liquid you haven't got a functioning sprinkler. It won't operate. GEORGE is a deflector the same as a…head?
ALAN No, it’s just part of it, you’ve got the frame and then attached to that you have the deflector. GEORGE So what’s the sprinkler head? ALAN People call it a sprinkler or a sprinkler head, I don’t know why, they’re interchangeable those terms. It’s a sprinkler.
ALAN This is quite a long list, not all of these things would be in every system. This is for housing isn't it? So it's unlikely you'd have a diesel pump for example. But fine, I mean you possibly might if it’s a very big building.
PAUL WOOLDRIDGE I think there's a couple of sort of bullet points down from each of that list. So when we talk about switches and about alarms, whether we want a motorised bell etc, there's some deviation from each one of those on the list so that list will grow. I think it's fairly comprehensive as an opening list.
RICHARD Let’s move down to the next bit: are there any dependencies on other systems? We got generator systems, electrical, fire alarm interfaces, sump ventilation, spacing in open plan offices, water supply and dry system gas supply.
ALAN I think under the standard we’re using in the UK 9251, you don’t, unless I've got this wrong, this change, but normally you don't have a dry system. You'd have those in places where you expecting a risk of frost, so in housing you wouldn’t normally have a risk of frost meaning all your other water would be freezing up too. It says open plan offices, that’s fine, but is this about housing? GEORGE No, no. ALAN It’s not? because then I could say an awful lot about warehouses and factories and is that relevant? I don't know.
GEORGE What we're trying to do here is do something for the Golden Thread, and the Golden Thread is involving high risk buildings, but also and those buildings could include…PAUL McSOLLEY Mixed use, I looked at it from the basis of mixed use. I work for Mace and most of the stuff we do it’s got residential, commercial, cinemas, it’s a mixture of all of it. I think that was one of the big questions of early adopters, Alan, the HSE said how do you deal with mixed use developments. Or how don’t we deal with them, you could say in some respects as well. ALAN It’s something that comes up a lot in standards meetings, I can tell you.
PAUL McSOLLEY Yeah, I can believe it because we’ve got some diesel pumps on buildings, one's got an undersized generator, which I won't talk about because people have missed out TB210. But it's just that you look at it when you go there, there's like a mixture of all of it coming up so. ALAN Yeah, you’re right, if you’ve got a back-up power supply then how is that done, things like that.
RICHARD Question 1a: What risk does a sprinkler system mitigate? It's quite a comprehensive listing we've got there from people already.
GEORGE So when we were asked to do this for the health and safety executive, what they’ve been clear about is that they want us to look at things through the prism…it’s not the individual assets themselves, but the specific risk that that particular asset is mitigating. So what this is intended to do is to really look across the piece at what the risks are: what risk does a fire door protect against, an AOV etc. I’m interested in looking at what we've got here from sprinklers because in many cases the other asset types that we've been working with are fairly standard that we've got things, but sprinklers are slightly different.
The second thing that we're doing with this is also relating it through to, we've got another working group in GTI that's looking to map risks against Uniclass. So the objective of that is that we can therefore start to arrive at a standardised of risks with, underlying them, he detail, because then we can start to look at standardised solutions to those standardised risks.
ALAN That seems to be a little like a duplication of the work of BS9991, are you familiar with that standard? That's exactly the kind of discussions we have in there. GEORGE No, but probably some of the people that we’re working with are. ALAN BS9991 is a code of practice for Fire safety and residential buildings. And so, yes, the interaction of AOVs, alarms and sprinklers, fire doors and so on. Passive option is all considered. I think it was first published in 2011 and it’s out for DPC at the moment for the next edition.
GEORGE It's quite telling though, isn't it, that we we've got people like Paul and Sarah Stevenson-Jones and other people who are very active in the whole fire area if they're not familiar with it. But what what I think we need to do, Alan, is to try and interpret from that the basic headlines, as it were, that we can do. Because what I find is a layperson is the alphabet soup of all the different standards, and you go to one standard and then it refers you to another standard, and then another one and another one and it’s difficult to navigate your way through it. Whereas if somebody's maybe a maintenance engineer that is simply looking to address a particular issue or if you're building safety manager for example, you need to know the information you need. Then having something that's curated from that is going to be really important and that's what I'm hoping we we can try and achieve with these things.
PAUL WOOLDRIDGE On the second point, I think it should read reduces fire spread as well as that of smoke, CO2, other pollutants that are triggered within a fire.
RICHARD Moving down to question 1b which is to what risks are sprinkler systems themselves susceptible? Anybody got anything to add to that list?
GEORGE I spoke to someone recently and they were saying they were involved in one where the valve had been turned off when people thought it was switched on and it had actually been off for about six months and nobody picked up on it. ALAN Where we have any data on this the most common cause of a sprinkler system failure is just human error. GEORGE I think the explanation for it was that the particular valve that had been used actually was different in terms of how it was organised than other valves. Does that make any sense?
ALAN I don't know the circumstances here, but if it's, say, a block of flats, you might have a valve in the hallway outside each flat so you can isolate a flat. You might do. And of course if you shut one of those off, you might not notice it. If that’s what it was. if it’s a valve where the pump is that’s just very easy to…JO I think the other point is when you replace something, if you don't replace like for like, a different model comes in and it works slightly differently to the one before it.
RICHARD Question 2: What information is needed about Sprinkler systems to ensure they perform as required?
GEORGE What we're trying to achieve here is, part of what we do is BIM (that’s the whole point about BIM4housing) and what we need to do is to make sure that the elements that are in BIM models and the individual components that are in BIM models carry with them the information that is required to enable that to perform. So we've got some basic things there. Obviously the location is is quite an important thing, but also things like height, width, depth, I don't know if that that's relevant to the sprinkler system. Maybe what the size of the fittings are etc and also what material they're manufactured from. I presume that a sprinkler system is probably a composite of various different elements and what that is made of. Could it also be how its fixings are? What type of components are used to keep it in place? Would it be on hangers?
The other thing that we want to try and do here is avoid having to refer to different documents because we want all of this to be digital. So if, for example, you’ve got a schematic drawing, or a schematic plan with also some drawings, we actually want able to interpret that information so that we actually locate it within the building. So we want to be able to say that, OK, there are maybe we've got a sprinkler system that's carrying over a complete floor, we want to know which rooms the particular sprinklers themselves are in so that we can then say, OK, we've got 100 sprinkler heads to inspect, but there’s 10 in that room and 10 in that room and 10 in that room. So that's what we're trying to be able to determine.
GEORGE What about whole life? What about how long it should last? ALAN We have a lot of discussions about that. I mean, there are sprinkler systems that are over 100 years old. Typically 50 years is not unreasonable. Some components might need replacing in that time, pumps would probably not last 50 years. The sprinklers have no moving part. Regarding predefining an estimation what would you do with that information? If we say the pump's 25 years, would that mean at 24 1/2 years you'd replace it or would you just have a look at it and say actually it's still fine. I don't know, is this like the aircraft industry, I wouldn't have thought so.
JO (SODEXO) It was the second option. So WE’D put it on the plan to replace because it's now 25 years old, But we'd also look at it and assess its condition….Life cycle data because then that gets you to look at it a bit harder and puts it in the budget for the year ahead, that sort of thing. ALAN One thing that the Germans do, we don't yet, is they do a 25 year inspection, a very detailed one. Me can do some of that here too, you take samples of sprinklers and have them tested to see if they still function properly. Obviously those ones that have to be replaced. They do take an endoscope and look inside the pipe to see if it looks alright. A lot of these systems, residential ones, would use um CPVC pipe which doesn't really corrode so you haven't got so much of a problem there.
PAUL McSOLLEY I do some stuff with CIBSE as well. The question come up recently and we were talking in CIBSE about it because we've got some stuff in the guides about life cycle, but I don't think it's actually based on any sort of science. And if it is you're saying there and about 25 years cycle. I mean if you look at you know and someone putting the chat about corrosion. I think the more you empty it the more you fill it up the more you get the oxygen in there is when you're going to get the problems of it over a shorter life span. The less oxygen you're gonna get back in then the more it will be fine. It’s like the galvanised pipe issue. We've seen welding galvanised pipe on dry systems. You need to put nitrogen in it because if you don't it don't last more about 18 months.
ALAN We've dropped galvanised pipe from the next edition of commercial standard, we’re de-emphasising it just to try and encourage people to use nitrogen. PAUL McSOLLEY There’s a few bits like that going on, just on the CPC stuff as well, that's just all about the type of mastic. It's the only time you're gonna get problems with that. So yeah, so I'm not telling you to suck eggs if you know about all that sort of stuff if it comes into it, but we've got bags of data on it if you needed it.
JO I might be interested. I’m updating Guide M which has the life data in it. Sprinkler system main pump set is 20 years, the pipe work and heads is 30 years and for valves it’s 25 for wet and 20 for dry.
GEORGE Paul, you said galvanised pipe, is that the pipe that’s the integral part of the sprinkler system? PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, we had some problems on a job a while ago about literally seem order galvanised pipe and when you look at it, because when you drain it because this is all to do with data centres, when you take the water out of it and you fill it back up with air you're filling out with oxygen and if you've got around a bit of degalvanisation on the seem all the oxygen goes for that point and literally it eats its way through and it is really, really quick. So that was the problem with that. And I think at one point it was sold as a miracle cure, wasn't it? Galvanised pipe work for dry systems and they suddenly realised there's a problem with this.
ALAN It's been used a long time and there’s discussions about is this just a problem that the steel that we're using in pipes is not as good as it was 20 years ago, people don't really have it good information about that. But yeah, this is for dry systems by the way. We wouldn't have very many of those in these buildings normally they'd all be wet systems. But yeah in a dry system you galvanise it, so it's internally galvanised, you've got this zinc coating on the steel. It's a different type of corrosion to black steel, it doesn’t matter what type it is, it makes a hole in the pipe.
Because you've got this awful environment, you’ve got moisture in there, because the way you test these things, you fill them up with water, pressurise them to check they don't leak, and then you try and drain it all out. Of course you never quite do. And then you fill it up with compressed air, so you've got moisture, compressed air and you've got three times the usual oxygen concentration. So guess what? any risk of corrosion off it goes. Which is why we're trying to encourage the industry not to use galvanised pipe but to fill these systems with nitrogen. But again, you’re not going to have many dry pipe systems in a residential building.
PAUL MCSOLLEY Basically when when CPCV started going into residential developments, essentially the mastics, this all comes back down to the fire stopping conversation the other day, get the fire stopper in just to put all their general mastics in it. Unfortunately the CPVC and the Mastics they were using, it was all to do with graphite based or non-graphite based. It was basically attacking the plastic pipe work, most it was blaze master anyway. Literally it just caused the pipe work to the plastic sort of stress fracture pretty quickly.
ALAN That impacts on sprinklers you lose the pipe. The companies that make this this plastic for sprinkler systems published lists of mastics that are compatible. Unfortunately that industry doesn't seem to know about this, so it doesn't mean that the guys read it. There’s companies that do fire stopping who are third party accredited and know what they're doing, but I have the feeling that often they are not used for that kind of work. You probably find out beforehand that they’re not working when you get a leak. It was a huge problem about 2-3 years ago and they've been working on it hard. It seems to have gone quieter, so I think more people now know about them, it seems that I'm not the only one on this chat that knows about it, so that's a good start. And more people are taking care to use compatible mastic.
PAUL MCSOLLEY When you buy the pipework now I think it’s got big warning labels on it: do not use this with any old mastics. GEORGE Would somebody that was maybe doing an assessment or inspection on an existing building, would you be able to identify whether that particular mastic was the bad or the good one? PAUL MCSOLLEY Well, if it was a bad one you’d probably have known about it already. I think it's more a case of replacement. If someone comes in, does any work, and they go and gunk it back up again, you can't just, and this is the hard one in fast stopping generally, you might get FSIs on the ball with it and someone comes in as individual, does a bit of work and just goes and gunks out with any old stuff, that’s where the risk probably lies.
RICHARD Question 3: What tasks are required to ensure sprinkler systems are installed, commissioned, inspected and maintained properly?
GEORGE The question here really is whether we can, we expect people to be trained and competent, but what we're also trying to do is to have a standard set of of tasks that somebody like a building safety manager might be able to be aware of so they know that the work that's being carried out by somebody fits the bill. The other point is that, increasingly, the reason I've used SFG 20 there as an example is that companies like Sedexo, they will employ competent and trained people to carry out the work. But certainly in hospitals and the like they also issue them detailed work instructions as to what needs to be carried out.
That's not because they are undermining the professionalism or the expertise of their people. It's about embrace the situations so there's a a proper record of what's been done. What I'm hoping we can do here is what are the basic steps, or could you point us somewhere where we can get the basic steps to say how are sprinkler system should be installed, commissioned and maintained.
ALAN That is really the stuff that’s covered in the standard, isn’t it? GEORGE I don't know. That's the point, Alan. We don't necessarily have access to the standard or indeed the ability to interpret it. Do you think it’s possible to have somebody that would be able? Have we got anybody on the call who’s involved in installation?
PAUL MCSOLLEY The hard thing with this, and I mean it in the right context as well, I’m just trying to look at this from the POV of that when this all does get into BIM data eventually that it's in such a way that it makes it easier to for people to understand what it is. Because the hard bit, if you look at the deflectors and sprinkler heads, it's like having the right definition of stuff for what it actually is, getting that bit right.
GEORGE We are working behind the scenes to do that because one of the challenges is that people call things (the same thing) something different. We’ve got a data dictionary initiative with BRE called the Templater which is designed to address that, so we've got different terminologies which can then be expressed in the way that reflects the audience, but it's all tied back to the same standards. That's something that we are addressing, but the fundamental thing would be if you're an experienced installer of those things what would you do? What about commissioning? Is there a standard way that you're aware of that you that people would follow to do commissioning of the system?
ALAN Yeah, it’s maybe not spelt out in as much detail as perhaps you want. The assumption is with standards that people know the technology and it's not every last thing that's written in. GEORGE Could that be written in by somebody who’s a competent person that could contribute that, do you think? ALAN I can ask some people in this country to do that. Just to explain, my view is I cover the whole of Europe so I don't know the tiniest detail of every country, but I do work with people in different countries. Just so happens I'm British, could have been any nationality. So I do have contacts with people who do this work on a daily basis in the UK and I can ask them.
PAUL MCSOLLEY Can I just say BG70 is just being revised as well which covers a lot of this stuff on commissioning you’ve been talking about. If you’ve not seen it I can probably talk to David Bleach and get you a copy.
RICHARD Question 4 is on competency. There’s a lot already there, I believe we've gone through enough of these meetings that it should pretty much cover it. It's more a question of whether there are any particular equivalent bodies that are specific to sprinklers. Or any specific qualifications that would be specific to sprinklers.
ALAN Yeah, I believe BAFSA (British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association) has some training courses for fitters and they've also done the blue card thing as well. There’s also then the companies themselves are 3rd party accredited. I think there are maybe three organisations that do it, but really when it gets to residential systems it's largely Fire-S that does that. But if they're commercial systems, so if you've got a mixed-use building, which you say you often have, then that part would be designed perhaps to a different standard to the commercial standard and those would then be working with the BRE scheme for sprinklers. So there's a couple of…there’s Warrington and the other one is BRE with its LPS 1048 scheme.
PAUL MCSOLLEY It’s probably worth mentioning the 1048 scheme because if you look at what’s in the actual spring to standard and where it goes, it goes to the next level of interpretation which is where people get generator sizes wrong. It’s the red book.
GEORGE Alan, does your organisation represent or engage with the manufacturers? ALAN Absolutely, we’re partly funded by them. GEORGE I've got a quick question that has come up from the other sessions and that is the training on particular manufactured products. in some cases that has not been provided freely to people so therefore that creates a barrier. In some of the other groups they've basically said it that they think it should be reasonable that the manufacturer should provide the basic training alongside their products. In the smoke industry, for example, that’s exactly what they do, they provide that at no cost to the installers. Do you know if that’s the case with sprinklers?
ALAN Yeah, it is. One thing I should say is that they don't sell to all and sundry, they only sell to third party accredited installers. You can probably get hold of a Chinese sprinkler somewhere on the Internet, but the reputable companies only sell to third party accredited installers and they do training for them. The one that's really the most important is the CPVC training to make sure people know how to handle it, how to join it together and so that it doesn't leak. I used to work for one of them and I organised the training that we did. Not much of it was on residential systems because they're so simple, it was much more on the more complicated systems, to be honest. And if an installer asked for training I’m sure they’d do it.
RICHARD Question 5 is all around change management which we’ve touched on already.
GEORGE So principally what we're doing here, we're saying that both during the specification design and construction process how can we ensure that we've actually got a proper change management process in place so that if things do get changed out, then we've got a proper rigour with which that's done. But my impression is with sprinkler systems that happens less. The sprinkler systems tend to be designed by the installation company. Is that wrong, Alan?
ALAN No, that’s correct, they are designed by the installation company. That’s the hydraulic calculations, it's not complicated, but the little things that you have to know where to place them, where you can't place them, what they can cover and so on. So you have specialists to do it. And then they do the hydraulic calculations to make sure that you've mentioned the pumps correctly and so on. So how does the procurement process work if, for example, you've got a typical sort of design build contract and you go through stages?
GEORGE So how does the procurement process work? If, for example, you've got a typical sort of design and build contract and you go through stage 3, stage 4, stage 5, where stage 4 is detailed design. And obviously it depends on the form of procurement, but my impression is that it's at that point that the specialist is brought in. But are they coming in on the basis of some sort of competition or are they selected before they do the design work?
ALAN To be honest, since I don't do it myself, I'm not entirely sure, but I know that some installers talk to project teams quite early in the process because you've got little things like if you need a tank for the water well, you need to make sure you've left somewhere for it, and it's unfortunate if you forgot about that and then have to squeeze it in somewhere at the end. So just like anything else, it's nice to be in the loop early on. They have bid lists, sometimes it's just that they want a third party accredited installer and that might be enough. Other times they want to know about the company's funding, can it take on the job.
PAUL MCSOLLEY This is how I try and break it out. If you're doing purely residential
we always treat it slightly different to commercial because what tends to happen is, you talk about technical design, George. I mean you gotta break it down as BG6 does at Bisra, used to have three stages. You'd have stages 4A, 4B, 4C which is now changed to 1,2 and 3. But essentially is that even if the consultant's gone out to speak to someone, they'll have someone internally who will give it a go. But the hazard category of the building has all been predetermined in conversations, it should be with the approval authority, the Fire Brigade. Sometimes that doesn't happen anyway.
But when it comes down to the procurement of it is when the guys come on board as a builder, so we'll take a contract on his design and build so we're looking at the risk of the projects. We’ll bring a sprinkler contractor on in the procurement process sometimes via an MEP main contractor underneath of us and sometimes direct depending on the type of job or the complications, because if you look at things like the size of the tanks, hydraulic calculations, whether it's Cat A with an office ceiling or non-office ceiling because if you've got no ceiling you then got your head's above where the ceiling void would have been, the obstacle rules all been clarified now. So you need these guys on pretty early, doesn't always happen but again it's about the interfaces, George.
If you've got zonal control valves for different areas of an office floor, you've got test pumps, the power supplies never get picked up, the fire alarm supplies never get picked up, all the little power nuances. So when you look at it in technical design, what happens is that we look at the sprinkler contractor, we're going through it with them all, but then we have to go back and revise the power plans because things will change. The pump might be slightly bigger, might have been a 45 kilowatt, now it's a 70 kilowatt. So that that's the kind of habitual things that go kind of wrong in it. So if you look at it from I suppose an inquiry point of view, we have to be careful is that if you get a contractor that's undervalued what that package is potentially going to be because the original designer is not the ultimate designer of it. The pressure is to not do it possibly as right as you should do. So that's just trying to describe it in a nutshell. But residential, generally you're bringing one straight away because the residential sprinkler layout just affects the whole apartment, whatever that is what you stack with. Does that make sense?
GEORGE When you say straight away, if I'm just looking at that simplicity as work stages, what do you mean by that…do you mean at stage 3? PAUL MCSOLLEY IF any good developer in residential will bring a sprinkler contractor on for the apartments at stage three, they should do it, Before the designs finished, because it affects your whole apartment layout. Obviously architects want things lying in linear AND sprinklers don't do that in residential, they go where they've got to go. Because you can't have them to close together because one effects the other and you can't have…you know I'm not a sprinkler designer by any extent. I say to you that we learned our lesson in development (not saying what company), but you need to get them in at stage three because they just affect the whole layout of the apartment.
GEORGE For the housing associations that are on the call, are you aware of whether that tends to happen? Because from my experience, the way most buildings are procured, it's through a DMB process and I've not heard of sprinkler people being appointed before the contractor is appointed.
PAULINE I don’t have any knowledge of that coming from a housing association, I’m not on the development side, but I haven’t heard of sprinkler consultants being appointed ahead of contractors. A lot of the sprinklers work that we are doing at the moment is the retrofitting to existing rather than, well, the new builds will be done, but a lot of the work that I'm more aware of is on the retrofitting side.
PAUL MCSOLLEY The point I’m making is that if you’ve got an architect that wants everything line and linear and unfortunately you end up with a situation, the sprinkler heads end up where they've got to go because of the rules around the spacing in residential. You can't just put them close together and make them look all neat and tidy, they’re set distances because one spray affects the one next to it.
ALAN Well, they are a minimum distance apart but it's I'm surprised to hear you say that it's actually really affected the internal layout. So we we'd always assumed that with the sprinklers we were trying to come up with products that would fit around any layout. PAUL MCSOLLEY That's what we ended up doing was bringing them in early.
GEORGE Just to give you an example, Alan, one of the architects we worked with was explaining that the transition, because as you know until quite recently a lot of residential developments were not designed with sprinklers in mind. They were saying that a scheme that they were involved with recently for Westminster Council, they designed it around a non-sprinkler type of solution as it were where compartmentation was different. And then when they then brought in the sprinklers it meant that they needed to fundamentally redesign the layouts.
The good news with that was that they ended up with an extra flat per floor because of the way the spacing went. But what they were saying was that Osborne who the contractor had been quite innovative, in their view, in bringing in the sprinkler supplier at stage four. This was whilst they were in pre-construction’s service agreement, where they're negotiating the price because what the builders tend to have to do is they get appointed at the end of stage 3, beginning of stage 4. They then have a period when they're working up their final design and their final price before they actually get appointed and they don't get appointed until the end of stage five. So therefore a lot of the subcontractors like the sprinkler people don't actually get appointed until stage 5.
That then is problematic because it means that the designers or the architects who have been working up their detailed design then have to revisit it because of the sprinklers. So I think it's very apposite, what Paul's saying there in terms of the workflow.
ALAN One thing I can tell you is that if you have sprinklers in a flat, you can have an open plan flat and without them you can’t. I guess as more and more people now know that most flats are going to need sprinklers you can take that from the beginning, but I can imagine a lot of projects this was not realised. So that could be what you're describing is that they laid out the flat in a certain way: you come in your front door, you've got your corridor and every other door leads off that into other rooms rather than you come in the front door and you can see the living room and then beyond it is a bedroom, which is what people want. That’s allowed with sprinklers and enhanced detection. And if you now know you're going to be putting the sprinklers in anyway you can design like that, whereas previously you didn't.
RICHARD I appreciate that this is very important and very valuable information. And I take George's point, but if it doesn't fit in with the question, it's going to get lost. So, can I suggest we put in a supplemental question that includes all this information because otherwise it's not going anywhere.
GEORGE I agree, Richard. i think if we capture it we can put it in the notes even. RICHARD Absolutely, but I’m saying it needs to be written somewhere, we need to get something down. Because I think you're right. It is very, very important. But we need to get the points down. GEORGE I think for now we we've got it recorded. I don't mind picking up on this bit, Richard.
GEORGE The other question I’ve got on this is I saw something at the end of last week that suggested that sprinklers are going to be either mandatory or certainly heavily recommended on existing buildings, on existing blocks in housing associations. Is anybody from the housing association aware of that?
SARAH So under ADB current version, any new builds over 11 metres are required to have sprinklers. There's no reactive position at the moment around retrofit, though most providers are adopting a position of applying a similar standard across the stock, but that's not being driven by legislation so much, it's been driven by our duty of care to our residents not to have a two-tier system in place for housing stock, whereas by if you're lucky enough to live in a newly constructed building you've got sprinkler protection. But those of you who live in a building above11 metres that hasn't been built in the last three to to four years, you don't get the same level of protection. But I'm not aware that the government is moving at any point to mandate that for existing stock.
ALAN Exactly, I don't hear that either, but we do know there's a lot of retrofit going on.
PAUL WOOLDRIDGE Yeah, there is a lot of retrofit going on. Just a point that might be useful to people is that we've looked at the guidance around this and we're currently rewriting our employer requirements on the development side because there's statutory 11 metres plus, But when you get into funding and guidance around that, for instance GLA London, anything you're doing in London on the social housing side, all buildings regardless of height, all new buildings have to have sprinklers, in that sense. So the reason we're reviewing our requirements is there is statutory guidance and then if you've got developments going on which are GLA funded or other forms of funding, you've got to look at the conditions around that because there is different requirements. It would be an awful disastrous mistake to get to the point of handover or something and then realise that you're going to have a great chunk of your funding removed because you haven't complied with the guidance even though you are statutory and legislation-wise correct.
11 metres is a lower bar than the Building Safety Bill but I think the general consensus is there's a lot of work and reviews around the 11 metre rules and what buildings are encapsulated by that. I think generally from my view in the industry and people I've spoken to, in about 3-4 years-time I think building safety will fall to 11 metres, that encapsulation the in-scope sort of spec, but if it was to fall to 11 metres at the moment, the workload would be far too horrific, as well as the cost. So I think 18 metres has gone in as a reasonable rule and there's reasons why we go to 18 metres, we all know the history of that. But at some time there's got to be a levelling up and 11, it seems too much discrepancy between what goes into 11 metres plus an 18 metres plus. So whether it goes one way or the other, I think there will be a levelling out of this in a few years-time.
GEORGE So would I be right to say, just to interpret what you’re saying, the cladding, for example, that’s the 18 metre rule, but on sprinklers there's a requirement at 11 metres. PAUL WOOLDRIDGE Yes, that's correct. Building safety and cladding etc is now defined as 7 stories or 18 metres, whichever is reached first. There have been some interesting rules around measuring buildings and certainly sprinklers at the moment is 11 metres. And that’s statutory.
ALAN Approved document B is the regulatory guidance. That's England, by the way. Scotland it's all blocks of flats and Wales, it's all housing. PAUL MCSOLLEY The functional requirement of building regulations, the outside should not cause fire to spread across it. And I think as you say the approved documents or the ACOP gives you guidance on where that starts. Not to say that a building below it shouldn't be looked at in different contexts depending on what it’s situated next to, the risk inside of it. This is where it becomes a bit difficult, I'm sure the same sort of principle is on the sprinkler side as well.
GEORGE I’ve got one final question to ask on this, it’s about this whole thing about retrospective fitting. My understanding is that that is by no means straight forward. Is that right? The retrospective, the fitting of sprinkler systems into buildings that weren't originally designed with sprinkler systems.
ALAN That's voluntary unless you've changed the use of it. So if it's a, for example, an office block and you change it to flats, then it would be regarded as a new building, and there’s a bit of that going on, but otherwise they are not retrospective. But as a few people have confirmed, there is a lot of retrofitting going on because of the duty of care approach that was mentioned a moment ago. In fact after Grenfell lots of local authorities began announcing this and I started noting them down and once I got to a thousand buildings I stopped counting and that was by December 2017. A thousand buildings have been announced that they would be retrofitted and you know it's just been more since then.
I know one installer that has one part of the company that just does retrofits, and the guy that does is in charge of it, says he loves it, doesn't have to interact with any other trades because it's just him. Quite a lot of these old blocks of flats have got a big water tank on the roof, so they’ve got a tank already of water. So it's a bit more complicated, you’ve got the guys that do the new work aren't always presentable enough to present for people who live in the building already to see them, it’s different kind of people. But it's actually quite easy to do, most flats can be done in a day so you don't have to be rehoused or anything like that.
GEORGE From the Housing Association representatives on on here, what’s your experience been of managing that process, that change? What are the issues?
SARAH I think the physical part of the work is fairly simple. The complexity from our perspective is relation to the ownership model of the property and the landlord and tenant piece in relation to do we actually have statutory authority to enter in a leaseholder property to retrofit a system in a property that we don't actually own and then obviously working with residents who believe that sprinklers activated described in Die Hard (the movie) to get them to put them inside their homes is the other battle. So it's more around access to enable works than complexity over actually doing the work itself.
How it’s going is fairly mixed. We tend to be able to to win over or coerce tenants. Leaseholders and obviously the percentage of properties in any individual building that are leasehold are owned will change and their position is also informed by whether or not they've actually been exposed to a fire incident because as soon as there was a fire in a block of flats, it will be ‘why haven't you fitted sprinklers’ versus someone who's never actually been through that experience who just sees it as a financial burden. So it’s very much how enabled it is by the lived experience of the individual versus their financial position in context of other things around cladding that are happening in the sector as well, and also the provider's position on the costs.
Some people are seeking to reclaim 100% of the sprinkler installation, some have adopted the position to support the safety of the building that they will not recharge leaseholders. So obviously there was a carrot in relation to the fact that we're not going to pass this cost on to you and you're getting the benefit of the system versus you'll get the benefit of the system, but you’ll have to contribute several thousand pounds to its installation. So it is very dependent on several factors in relation to how well providers are doing, or not doing, in relation to retrofit.
GEORGE And are you finding that maybe you've got a block that's got 40 or 50 flats in it that 3 of the flats might be blockers to you doing the whole building? So under those circumstances would you just go ahead and do the ones that you've got approval from?
SARAH Yeah, I mean previous organisations I've worked in, we’ve done almost ballot situations where we set a minimum standard that we won't progress with the project unless we've got X percentage of individuals that have agreed for access. And if it's a small percentage of people who are preventing access we will simply pipe up to the door and continue dialogue and obviously ownership changes as well. So you might have a turnover of an individual and the incoming person might be more open to allowing the system to be extended into their property. There were some where I've worked previously where it was such a high percentage of leasehold owners that were against that it just wasn't viable to retrofit for 23%, for example, of the units.
GEORGE That’s very helpful to me. A question for Alan: I saw Plumis, which is a mist for suppressing fire and I think I mentioned that to you and you alerted me to some issues with that de-mist, mist type of thing. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
ALAN Well, I know the Plumis guys quite well. I've seen fire tests and had chats with them. Water mists, some people think water misters are well established technology since it's been on the market for 30 years, but in some ways it's still very immature with standards still being developed even just the basic components. Unfortunately a lot of the installers are not third party accredited, nor are their components third party tested. Plumis is actually one of the ones trying to do this properly, although their particular design their philosophy doesn't fit in with the way the standard is written that we have for water mist in this country.
Basically they have a nozzle on the wall and the standard assumes the nozzle is on the ceiling, out of the way. Yeah, it's something to be careful of with water mist and it's indicative of the government's guidance in Approved document B that it doesn't offer water mist as an alternative for flats higher than 11 metres. It does say sprinklers and that is not an accident. The same the same approach has been taken with BS9991. So water mist isn't a bad thing, but here's been some unscrupulous people in that business and it’s rather trashed the reputation of it, I'm afraid.
PAUL WOOLDRIDGE I just agree with those comments very strongly. We’ve discovered and we've been approached by a lot of contractors that are promoting these systems. My concern is a lot of them that we've seen the approaches from have closed protocol systems and the maintenance is cost prohibitive and there's no justification for putting them in. I've seen a lot of project managers on development come to me and say, look, I'm being pushed for this as an alternative to a sprinkler. I think it's far too early to start adopting these and you would need to go through each case on an individual basis with a very fine tooth comb to reassure yourself that you're meeting the correct standards and you're not locking yourself into something.
I will take the exception of Plumis and say their approach is sort of very professional. However, my overarching comments on water misting systems have been to date, which is all we can do at this time. It's too early to start looking at adopting these and I think it throws a spanner in the works for a lot of local authorities and housing associations. I think it's too early.
RICHARD So, we’re on to dry or wet riser systems. What are the component elements of dry or wet riser systems? We've got a little list there: pipe work materials, pipe work supports, valve types, primary electric pumps, secondary diesel electric pumps, drain down pipe work valves and inlet boxes and outlet boxes. Anyone want to add anything onto that list? Component elements. Keys are suggested and added to the list.
GEORGE Is the inlet box and the outlet box what I would see in a corridor, for example, where you see the dry riser coming up and maybe there's a door in front of it or something like that? Is that what that means?
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, I put I'm in there for one reason, there's the boxes that you get where you normally have a key and you open up and you go the fireman connects their hose, takes it for the stairs to the level above and fights the fire. The reason why this is so important because you used to be able to buy fire rated boxes, you can't buy them anymore. And what's been happening is that the fire strategy's been compartment in the building this way, the minute you open the door, you're into the level above, so that it depends on where they are. So they're quite a key component you need to compartment this way with them and it's been done that way. That's been a problem a lot of jobs recently.
GEORGE Crikey. So by opening the door to the dry riser, you're creating an opportunity for something to go up to the next floor, Is that what you're saying?
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, correct. It depends because it's different arrangements for this. So you've got pressure differential systems. Whatever you're doing, you've got different arrangements you can have. Sometimes you've got residential, they're in the staircase, sometimes they're not, they’re inside the corridor, rightly or wrongly. Sometimes they're inside the fire-fighting shaft. And it all depends on where it is, because the minute you go to plug in the device and sprinklers are no different, if you go to the valve to turn them off, you can't have a situation where you're open to the levels above because the minute you open the door you're breaching the compartment.
It's quite a common one at the moment because you can't buy the fire rated outlet boxes and they've got behind doors and stuff. But you still gotta remember the minute you open the door, if it's an open riser then it's not right. That's why I mentioned it.
RICHARD Let’s get on to question 1a: What risks does a Dry or Wet Riser system mitigate?
PAUL MCSOLLEY I think there was a comment earlier about the file load and someone described it a different way, which is the same thing, isn't it? I think maybe the guy from Haringey PAUL WOOLDRIDGE That was the point about it not, it’s reduced by a spread as well. I think with wet risers a significant part of that they’re designed to maintain the compartmentation of the building. So what does it mitigate? It mitigates the failure of compartmentation.
RICHARD Question 1b: To what risks are dry and wet riser system susceptible? What you said 5 minutes ago, Paul, was absolutely very pertinent to this…about opening the door and it totally compromises.
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, it’s a bit like you can’t get out of an aircraft when it’s flying, but you open…it’s like Wiley Coyote stuff. What I was gonna say earlier is obviously not being switched on. But Alan was absolutely spot on with that, they only work if they’re switched on. There’s two things I thought about earlier, one of the things to bear in mind is that CLT generally is a structure, only burns down really when you're building it. They don't tend to burn down when they're finished, just to bear that in mind because obviously there’s lost of CLT jobs going on. And one for the sprinkler one is that having things working early on are important and it comes into this as well because when you build a building on the HSE168, the wet riser or dry riser should be operational as soon as the structure goes up in the air, even before construction.
CLT is Cross Laminated Timber. It’s very good because it’s all about the integrity of the glue layer. Once the wood chars it sort of automatically extinguishes, but if you get to the next glue layer and it falls off, you’ve got fresh wood - away it goes again. That's the problem with it. So it's always about the integrity of the glue layer when you do CLT.
GEORGE So that's a risk to the dry riser or the wet riser performing?
PAUL MCSOLLEY I don't know how to pick it up, but I think the point is that when you start building a building, you don't just get to the, contrary to modern builders, you don't just flick the switch on, there’s things that have to be live at different periods of the build. So just because you're building it, there's no one living there doesn't mean you haven't got workers and the fire brigade, they've still got to be protected. So things like wet risers should be operational at certain heights, if you’ve got CLT you might need to look at temporary fire protection because the CLT relies on the sprinklers generally to stop it going up.
RICHARD I think this will be picked up, I think it’s question 3 which is about tasks which lead into methodology because I think it would come into that, wouldn't it? OK, let’s move down to question 2 which is about what information do we require to ensure that a Dry or Wet Riser system performs as required? We’ve got the basic information in there as we know. What else do we need to know?
PAUL MCSOLLEY I missed this bit earlier, obviously they've got to be able to run for the duration of the the fire, so time is an important one. The sprinkler should be sized for a certain amount of heads and a certain tank volumes that they can run for a certain period of time. Alan will know this. RICHARD So this needs to be transposed over into the sprinkler section as well then, doesn't it? PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, because this is all about if you look at the metadata that's gonna go in on things you've got the period of time it's gotta run for, the size of the tank. Wow long is it gonna last, because it will be defined in the fire strategy.
Wet risers will be the same as well, a set tank volume and time it’s got to last. So the time factor for the fire is really important, the duration of the fire, period. I know this is going to sound rudimentary, but things like time delays for pump starts are important as well. This is all the stuff about the performance that you need: time delay for for pump operation, size of the tank. We’d call it operational duration in fire conditions.
RICHARD On the importance of definitions that’s important. Part of what we’re doing on our new black box site, there is a section on resources so all of these documents you're sending through will be putting it on that section.
PAUL MCSOLLEY I can get lots of stuff. I’m just a bit conscious if this is going to the right people at the end of it because the big thing is, a good example and this is off topic, but a door handle into a cubicle if it's in the sanitary ware schedule and it's listed in the contract, it's sanitary ware. It's not ironmongery, it’s sanitary ware because the definition is quite important because obviously when it goes into the BIM world, it's gotta be defined in such a way there's traceability, that’s all.
GEORGE Absolutely, and that's something probably we’ll pick up with you separately, Paul, because what you've just said there is critical because for different purposes you you need to be able to interpret that information differently. What about flow rates? Is a Riser system designed to provide so many volumes of…
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, I think flow rates important, it’s one of the parameters. But don't get me wrong, when you start breaking all of this out and you look at a pump, the pump’s gonna have certain criteria that the pipework won’t. So you’ve just got to list it all out, so flow rates going to be one, pressure is going to be another.
JO The only other thing I can think of is the zone it protects, maybe connection points and drain down points
RICHARD Question 3: What tasks are required to ensure Dry or Wet Riser systems are installed, commissioned, inspected and maintained properly? We’ve got that SFG20 example which I think we’ve already been through.
GEORGE So is there anybody that you're aware of, Paul, that would be able to give us a bit of a steer oN the installation of Wet Risers? Would that be as part of the normal mechanical package?
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, the thing is we have to be careful, and I think you it was alluded to earlier, is that we have to think of this in the context of not just the big builders like Assa who I work for and also you have to look at in the context of the smaller builders as well that are doing the smaller work because if I asked generally how many people actually have companies that are using BIM for them in the forum, I don't suppose it's every single person's got contractors using BIM anyway. So the hard bit here is taking into account both sides of it.
GEORGE Forget BIM for the minute because we can deal with the BIM bit separately. The important thing here is really to understand if, for example, it's as part of the mechanical services package then is that normal? Or would it be a specialist that would put in something like dry risers? PAUL MCSOLLEY It’s a specialist that would do it, cradle to grave including the sprinklers as well. GEORGE Ah, so the dry risers and the sprinklers may well or would normally be let as a single package?
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, that's how we would generally do. This is why I'm just being a bit hesitant because how we procure it isn't necessarily the same as other people might procure. You might have housing associations where they're actually buying individual packages of buying a sprinkler company where as we would actually buy maybe a big, big company, T Clarks or someone like that and they’ll buy it all separately underneath. All depend on the scaling of the job. But essentially normally the wet riser the dry riser, wherever is going to be in there in the sprinklers all end up under the same package.
GEORGE Jo, could you help me with this? Could you what would, what would you in your experience, how do you think that would be? JO I’d go with one system, the whole system that you pay somebody to install, you wouldn't divvy it out particularly. PAUL MCSOLLEY I don’t think there’s people out there that get people to install the pipework and then just flick the switch and hope for the best. It all depends on the scaling of the business, we’re very big, obviously, the housing associations with a set size and how that gets procured.
GEORGE So are there any special competencies or organisations that would be looking at dry risers or I guess this is wrapped up with the sprinklers that we were talking about earlier. What if there are no sprinklers going into the building? I appreciate now it's a standard, but if you…presumably a building that doesn't have sprinklers, you'd still have dry risers going in. JO Again, that’s driven by height and depth under ADB.
PAUL MCSOLLEY I think whoever you go to the buy wet riser or sprinklers from, unless you’re really gonna go out your way to get yourself into trouble, generally they'll fall under the same sort of qualifications and specialism, that’s where it all kind of comes from. RICHARD So basically this is almost a duplicate of what we've already done PAUL MCSOLLEY I think so, yeah. It might be worth getting hold of Alan again and getting his opinion on it because he might know a bit more but that’s how I’m seeing it at the moment.
RICHARD Let’s go down to change management which again I can imagine we’re going to be duplicating across. So instead of saying anything on this list we need to add too, is there anything on this list or what we've already said on sprinklers that we need to add in here? Anything specific to dry wises that hasn't been covered under sprinklers?
Alan, on question 4 the training question, obviously we went into that on sprinklers and we understand that most people would be procuring sprinklers and dry risers together. That said, is there any specific training that would not be covered in what we've already said about sprinklers? GEORGE Do you agree with that anyway?
ALAN No, I can remember an installer complaining to me that exactly that is not what happened, that the risers were separately purchased and complaining that they were not hydraulically correctly designed and so on. The standard BS9990 for all of these things is not written by people who know about hydraulics, it’s largely written by fire officers. So there’s a view that perhaps it needs an update.
GEORGE That's an interesting point. That is a risk, isn't it? What you're saying there is that the…could you just repeat what you’ve said.
ALAN Well, they're fairly simple. It's just a pipe just going straight up through a building. So it’s not that complicated. But yes, they're saying that in these residential buildings that the guy doing the sprinkler is not the guy doing the riser, not necessarily. So I don't know if that matches what you find, Paul, or maybe you’ve not gone into that level of detail but..
GEORGE I think from the scale of the projects that Mace got involved in it may be different than the scale of…I mean what I found going through this with the housing associations is that the construction company will then let the M&E installation to a company and then they let it to other people so you end up with another level of trade or firm that's actually buying and installing materials that’s probably two or three steps down from the contractor.
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, this is this point I was making earlier, George, generally we'll only use certain companies to do the sprinkler design anyway. One of the guys we use actually does the standards for it. So I know we're always in a pretty good place with whoever we use. But you're right it's when, we've had projects where you know you've corrected but I've gone down in the simple things where you find busbar without compartmentation skills on it because the guy that's buying the busbar is four tiers down the chain.
They’ve never seen the fire strategy, they don’t know what they’re looking at, they’re just buying kit and that's probably the risk here, if you buy sprinklers from a reputable company that does all the hydraulic calculations in there with one one-size-fits-all then you know generally you'll be alright. But I think it's when you're not doing that and you've got a sprinkler contractor and someone's design, the hydraulics are boosted cold water systems where you're going to fall foul.
GEORGE Paul, would you be able to provide…you know you said you deal with a sprinkler supplier, could you let me know who that is? PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, I’ll see if they can spare you some time. And I’ll see if I can drag out part of a PCSA and send it over as well. Because if you’re doing multiple subjects you forget stuff, it’s like crazy. GEORGE So PCSA being a Pre Construction Service Agreement.
PAUL MCSOLLEY Yeah, if you’ve got a PCSA agreement, and this is all about procurement, if you're friends with the clients bring your PCSA, you can bring people in like sprinkler companies and stuff to aid the design, to supplement the MEP designer. Because as we said earlier, they don't do fire dampers, they don't do sprinklers, all of that specialism, they don't do it, the specialists do, but you can then feed it back in. If you’ve got a contract that's coming for tender where it’s two stage action, submit your best price, then agree the cost plan.
Then sometimes if the design’s really gone past stage 4, the consultants being innovated to do nothing then you’re not necessarily gonna see all of these problems that sit there. Hence the reason why when everyone talks about the tragedy at Grenfell about procurement, the way that procurement happens encourages best price fixed cost certainty over actually do you know what you're building, if that makes sense.
GEORGE So would a building services consultant ever design a sprinkler system?
PAUL MCSOLLEY That's a loaded question, that one. I think forgetting company names apart here. it doesn't matter who the services consultant is (this is just my experience) that if you're not the company that actually installs it and you're doing it from a building services point of view, you might be a sprinkler engineer but it doesn't mean you've got the amount of time to design it properly, because ultimately you're not warranting it. You're not saying if you follow my design it's gonna be correct, that’s gonna come from a specialist.
So contractually you’ve got to make sure you vet what you’ve got and if haven't got a specialist there and there’s very limited time to tender. And you've got to put it in context, some tenders, these can be £100 million jobs whose ? 1hr 42mins 13secs is 8-12 weeks. What can you find out in 8-12 weeks about a job that big? So it doesn't matter who the MEP consultant is because everyone's got, you know it’s horses for courses, some are better at certain things than others. It all comes down to understanding that it’s an imperfect world and if you're not responsible for it as MEP consultant, then you can't really design it fully anyway. And as a builder we should be vetting it and checking it, that’s the bottom line really.
To put it this way, this is how we used to operate a long while ago is that if you've got a drawing that's put in front of you and the consultant's not warranting the pipe size then just take it off. People would go away and try and install it, you know, because you have to work on the basis that the design is a big word, it's misinterpreted and approximate design isn't the actual design. So you might have a sprinkler schematic and some stuff on it for tendering purposes. It doesn't mean if you install it it's going to work.
GEORGE No, that’s the feedback I’ve had from the M&E installation companies. That's why people tend to pretty much throw away what gets it…From a BIM perspective there's this perception that the BIM model starts and then gets updated through the process. And in practice it doesn't because nobody that is actually going to rely on the BIM model for coordination and installation will want to use the original consultants model because they don't know how it's been built. There’s a misconception in the industry that people take the BIM model and then hand it over and then add to it, whereas actually, certainly from an M&E perspective, they tend to go back to first principles and remodel it.
PAUL MCSOLLEY WE have problems with architects don't zone the model out at the start, the MEP consultant puts in stuff then which you can't reference it back to where it's located - you talk about putting data in it and you’ve got no hope. So it's a big cyclical thing anyway that's going on and they don’t…they’ll put pipe work in for sprinklers but it's just literally probably at a very sort of level of detail a bit of pipe work and that is it, it doesn’t show bracketry expansion, anchoring, whatever’s going on. That’s the reality and it’s all down to…If you've never seen the BG6, George, I'll send it through to you, but it kind of explains how that phase of design goes through the MEP consultants, it’s quite an eye opener.
GEORGE I'm very pleased with the input that everybody's given. I've learned a huge amount. I hope everybody else has found it useful.