The project involves retrofitting a new sprinkler system into existing and occupied buildings. Our role included providing building surveying services, including design, specification and contract administration services for the scheme. The existing buildings, Chichester House and Drake House, were constructed around the 1970’s utilising concrete frame construction with brick-infill panels.
Chichester House is a 5-storey building providing sheltered accommodation for elderly residents, comprising of 29no. flats and approximately 35no. residents living within the building. The latest fire risk assessment identified a risk of fire spread above the suspended ceiling within the communal areas. Whilst the risk of the fire occurring was observed to be low, the risk of harm to occupants was high should a fire occur.
As such, we co-ordinated with specialists such as fire engineers and to determine the best approach to reduce this risk. Further to discussions and advice provided to the client the installation of a sprinkler system was proposed. During initial inspections we identified the presence of a deleterious material – woodwool slab – which appears to have been used as a method of formwork for the concrete slab(s) and to provide acoustic and fire resistance properties. Due to the age of the building it is possible that the woodwool slab has since decreased in integrity and is likely now brittle, and therefore, caution will need to be exercised by the Contractor so as not to disturb the woodwool slabs during the installation of a sprinkler system. The sprinkler system is to be designed in conjunction with an external sub-consultant and installed whilst other fire safety works are being undertaken by Brentwood Borough Council’s partnering contractor.
Drake House is a 10-storey building providing residential accommodation, comprising of 44no. flats and approximately 175no. residents living within the building. The latest fire risk assessment for this building also identified the likelihood of a fire occurring being low, however, the severity of a fire would bring extreme harm to residents. Similar to Chichester House, following a review of the latest fire risk assessments, we co-ordinated with specialists such as Fire Engineers to discuss solutions to improve the ire safety to the building. As a result of investigations and on site discussions with specialists, we provided a proposal to the client for the installation of a sprinkler system to the building.
Drake House has recently had fire safety improvement works undertaken including; new fire rated front entrance doors, firestopping to communal areas, automatic opening ventilation systems and internal fire-rated decorations. Chichester House is due to have similar works undertaken, and therefore, it is likely once the sprinkler installation works begin, the fire safety improvement works will still be ongoing to this particular building. As such, a good level of collaboration will required between all parties in order to keep the project on programme and to budget.
One of the client’s challenges with the project is the need to ensure works begin on site by September 2023 due to the awarded financial grant for the installation of a sprinkler system expiring on 1st September 2023. Therefore, if works do not start by this date they will lose the funding and in turn, imposes unexpected costs on the client and their stakeholders.
In order to meet the necessary start on site date it was proposed to the client that the project could be tendered as one for efficiencies but allow for phased completion, with a mandatory start at Drake House. Once on-site, the project programme will be closely monitored and milestones set with the contractor to ensure that the project remains on track to ensure the client can be awarded the necessary funding.
The project will involve Baily Garner LLP as the principal designer and contract administrator, as well as specialist sub-consultants to assist with the design and specification of the sprinkler systems. To ensure compliance with the appropriate standards and building regulations, the contractor and/or their sub-contractor(s) will be required to hold the relevant third-party accreditation for the installation of sprinkler systems in order to uphold the highest levels of quality associated with these life safety works.