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Reducing The Aesthetic Impact Of Retrofit Sprinkler Systems

JodyP 31 October 2019
Reducing The Aesthetic Impact Of Retrofit Sprinkler Systems

Fires in hotels are not uncommon, and a recent incident in the West Midlands – where a hotel was destroyed by a huge fire – has again highlighted the importance of fitting sprinkler systems. However, retrofit installations can be unsightly, with the pipework being mounted onto ceilings and walls rather than being fitted in cavity spaces, which can create a design challenge for hotel owners. Pre-formed pipe boxing, which conceals the pipework, can ensure installations are discreet and aesthetically pleasing – and it’s quick, simple and cost-effective to fit. Richard Braid, Managing Director of Pendock explains more.

According to Home Office statistics for England, in 2018-19, the Fire and Rescue Services attended 613 fires in buildings such as hotels, boarding houses and hostels*. As well as causing injuries and a death (there were 60 non-fatal casualties and one fatality), these fires potentially caused severe and long-lasting damage to the properties, and to the hotel owners involved – perhaps resulting in lengthy interruptions to business, or even complete collapse. Owners might have also faced the financial burden of compensation claims, fines and higher insurance premiums.

This threat to life, property and people’s livelihoods highlights how important it is for hotel owners to invest in fire safety measures. In the summer of 2019, for example, a Holiday Inn in Walsall, West Midlands, was destroyed by a huge fire. Sprinklers were not installed in the property, despite recommendations from the West Midlands Fire Service for some to be retrofitted.

In the event of a fire, sprinkler systems are known to protect life and property. They control or extinguish fires in 99 per cent of cases. In the UK, no one has ever died in a fire within a building fitted with working sprinklers, and they reduce injuries by at least 80 per cent and property damage by 90 per cent. It’s also been suggested that it’s becoming increasingly important for property investors to ensure that satisfactory fire risk management systems are in place to protect their investments.

While there is currently no requirement to retrofit sprinkler systems in existing buildings in the UK , hotel owners will undoubtedly understand the benefits of doing so. But there are challenges to overcome. These of course include the cost and potential disruption to the hotel during the installation – but aesthetics is another consideration.

Sprinkler Pipe Boxing

With a retrofit installation, sprinkler system pipework is mounted onto ceilings and walls, rather than being fitted in cavity spaces (as would be the case in a new build property), which can be unsightly. Interior design is usually an important factor for guests in terms of their hotel experience – so any aesthetic impact needs to be minimised.

Fortunately, sprinkler system pipework can be easily concealed, or ‘boxed in’. This provides a discreet look that helps to ensure the installation is unobtrusive and complements the existing décor. Boxing in also protects the system; accidental, or deliberate, activation of sprinkler heads can have major consequences, including huge refurbishment costs.

Pre-formed, made to measure pipe boxing provides a uniform, neat finish while reducing installation time and labour costs. It effectively covers lengths of sprinkler pipework running along ceilings and walls, and fits closely around typical circular sprinkler heads. It’s simple to fit and doesn’t require painting – making it a cost-effective, quick solution. In fact, we estimate it takes half the time to fit pre-formed pipe boxing compared to fabricating a boxing in solution on site from wood or MDF.

Retrofit sprinkler system installations can help to protect hotel guests, but also the property and, therefore, the hotel owner’s livelihood. However, the aesthetic impact is an understandable consideration that needs to be mitigated. With pre-formed pipe boxing, pipework can be covered easily and cost-effectively, with minimal disruption.

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