Understanding BS 9251:2014
BS 9251:2014 is a document published by BSI Standards, Limited, which came into effect on 31 October 2014. It is a code of practice for fire sprinkler systems for domestic and residential occupancies, not to be confused with BS EN 12845:2004 which is the standard that applies to commercial and industrial properties, hospitals, schools, theatres and offices.
The domestic/residential standard superseded a prior standard, known as BS 9251:2005. The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), Building Research Establishment (BRE), Fire Rescue Service and other industry organizations made up the committee responsible for creating the new Standard.
The Standard – created by a committee of industry professionals from many different resources – is intended for the use of system designers, engineers, architects, surveyors, contractors, installers and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs). It is important to understand that the Standard is a “best practices” document. By that, I mean its word is not law. Indeed, to quote its “Use of This Document” section:
“As a code of practice, this British Standard takes the form of guidance and recommendations. It should not be quoted as if it were a specification and particular care should be taken to ensure that claims of compliance are not misleading.”
It also notes that it is impractical for the Standard to cover all circumstances.
That said, the Standard provides excellent guidelines for all parties involved in specifying and installing a fire protection system. It also serves to provide to tower block owners, registered social landlords and private homeowners some basic guidance by which they can judge the capabilities of those quoting, designing and installing fire protection systems. All of us in the industry should be familiar with this document to some degree.
Amendments to the Original Standard
The Standard outlines the fact that systems installed in accordance are “primarily for the purpose of reducing risk to life, and are expected to prevent flashover (i.e., total involvement) of the room of origin of the fire and thus provide increased time for occupants to escape or be rescued.”
For those familiar the original Standard, established in 2005, there are several significant changes, as quoted from the Standard below.
New categories of buildings, based on occupancy risk:
- Single family dwellings, such as individual dwelling house; individual flat; individual maisonette; transportable home
- Houses of multiple occupation (HMOs)
- Bed and breakfast accommodation
- Boarding houses
- Blocks of flats 18 m or less in height and with a maximum total flor area of 2400 m2
- Blocks of flats greater than 18 m in height
- Small residential care premises with 10 residents or fewer
- Sheltered and extra care housing
- Residential care premises with more than 10 residents
- Dormitories (e.g., attached to educational establishments)
The Standard also redefines/provides:
- The building height limit
- Variations in sprinkler head density
- Increase in sprinkler head spacing
- Expanded guidance on preliminary work and consultation
- Expaned guidance on water supplies
- Additional measures for vulnerable people and multi-occupancy premises
It also further emphasizes the continual consultation with AHJs throughout the entire process.
A Standard to Which We Can All Subscribe
Much has been said and written over the past several years about the need for fire protection systems in homes and tower blocks throughout the country, and the demand for laws or revised laws has been strong.
BS 9251:2014 is a positive step to satisfy those demands. It offers a cohesive prescription of best practices. Any individual or organization in the fire sprinkler industry would do well to become familiar with it and use it as a reference in the work that they do.
Incidentally, the new Standard does refer to CPVC systems, along with copper and carbon steel. Download the Guide to CPVC Fire Sprinklers to learn more about CPVC fire protection systems.