BIM4H Sprinkler System – Final GFS

BIM4H Sprinkler SystemBy Richard Freer

Below are recommendations that we, as BIM4Housing, are putting forward as the findings of Sprinkler System experts.  We do not claim these findings to be definitive, but we would hope that they would provide ‘accountable’ and ‘responsible’ persons with some of the detail they would require to ensure that risks are mitigated.


The structure of this set of information is designed to be consumed in various ways by different stakeholder groups doing different things. Therefore, information mentioned in one section may be repeated in another, so they can be applied to a particular activity.

Also, we have sought to organize the information to make it more machine-readable so, although the lists could be reduced by combining similar items, this would make them less easily used in applications.

Despite the need to edit and contextualise, we have tried to retain the authentic voice of our experts throughout. This is especially so in the Appendices, where no colloquialism is left unturned.

Terms of use

This document is not intended as an end-result, but as a snapshot of a dynamic, on-going piece of work being developed by Subject Matter Experts who represent the different interest groups.

We hope it is helpful but is not definitive because, as we have learned from our collaboration, no one knows everything. It should therefore be used to supplement other sources of information, all of which should be validated by a responsible person applying it to a project.

Comments and additional contributions are welcome and a panel of volunteer experts will review suggestions to assess/validate them and augment the guidance as required.

It will be available for free at but should not be printed and used offline, because the information may be updated and be no longer valid.



We have six Working Groups of experts who understand the individual Stakeholder needs of Development, Design, Construction, Manufacturing, Operations and the specialist Advisors who support the whole process. Each Working Group determines the problems they are experiencing that could be alleviated by better information, often from a different Stakeholder group and they collectively establish Workstreams to collaborate and share knowledge to come up with practical solutions.

They have established Workstreams for MMC, Data Standardisation, Sustainability and Fire Safety and the latter has, in turn, established Round Table workshops that bring together SMEs who really understand specific asset types.

(See Appendix 2 for Structure Diagram)

Fire Safety Methodology

It was determined to take individual fire-critical assets and examine impacts and influences through their lifecycle. A series of online discussions were held, along with one-on-one calls and an email gathering of views and inputs.  This culminated in a series of Roundtable discussions, each with a clear focus and targeted output.  BIM4Housing’s expert team was enhanced by guests from the GTI, along with other fire safety specialists throughout.

Phase 1 defined the over-arching questions that need to be answered, for each asset type, to deliver the BIM-plus solution necessary to the effective functioning of the Golden Thread in terms of Fire Safety.

The questions defined are:

  • What risks does the asset mitigate?
  • To what risks is the asset, itself, susceptible?
  • What information is needed about an asset, to ensure it performs as required?
  • What tasks/method statements/procedures are required to ensure the asset is installed, commissioned, inspected, and maintained properly?
  • What level of competency/training needs to be in place?
  • How should product changes be recorded?

Phase 2 sought to answer those questions, offering a definitive guide to the delivery of The Golden Thread through the effective management of required information.

Phase 3 seeks to build on our ongoing learning and experience and include further assets in our process.

Sprinkler System Methodology

The output from a Roundtable (17th September 2021) was collated and contextualized and combined with further subject matter expert input.  Significant participant engagement was achieved prior to the event.  The resulting report was then peer-reviewed.

What is a Sprinkler System?

A fire sprinkler system is an ‘active’ fire protection method, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flowrate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected.

Although historically only used in factories and large commercial buildings, systems for homes and small buildings are now available.

Fire sprinkler systems are extensively used worldwide, with over 40 million sprinkler heads fitted each year.

Even though Fire Sprinkler Systems are a Life Saving System and are not designed to protect the building, 96% of buildings that had fires and were completely protected by fire sprinkler systems were controlled by the fire sprinklers alone.

A glass bulb type sprinkler head will spray water into the room if sufficient heat reaches the bulb and causes it to shatter. Sprinkler heads operate individually.


It was determined to look to ‘codify’ risks to enable teams to coalesce around tackling a problem, run scenarios to simulate what might happen and how collaboration can reduce the risk of them happening.

Two other GTI Working Groups, H&S and Standards, have been working with NBS to extend Uniclass to carry a more detailed set of risks and, those identified here, can form part of that.  

Clearly, it is not desirable for the ‘Accountable Person’ to be absolved of responsibility for not anticipating a risk, simply because it was not on the list of suggested risks- which should be considered a ‘steer’ not an absolute. However, without that list, it becomes impossible to define and deliver the information needed.

What are the component elements of a Sprinkler system?

  • Sprinklers
  • Pipework
  • Alarm flow switch
  • Water supply – water mains, booster pump or a pump and tank
  • Deflectors
  • Pipework Materials
  • Pipework Supports
  • Valve types
  • Primary Electric Pumps
  • Secondary Diesel/Electric Pumps
  • Zonal Alarm indicators
  • Zonal Test Pumps
  • Drain down pipework/valves
  • Dry system plant/change over arrangements
  • End of line test points
  • Bells – water flow alarms
  • Sprinkler head

Are there any dependencies on other systems?

  • Generator systems
  • ATS electrical
  • Fire Alarm / interfaces
  • Sump and drain systems
  • Ventilation for diesel pumps (Combustion / Fresh air)
  • Open plan offices where the spacing is an issue
  • Water supply
  • Dry Systems gas supply

Q1a. What risks does a Sprinkler system mitigate?

  • Knocks down flames and cools the room
  • In a third of cases extinguishes the fire
  • Reduces overpressure so that smoke does not spread as readily
  • Fire load growth
  • Fire load size
  • Fire temperature suppressed
  • Structural failure temperatures
  • Property loss
  • Loss of life for persons in and amongst the property
  • Loss of fire services attendees’ lives.
  • Prevention of spread between buildings
  • reduces fire spread as well as that of smoke, CO2 and other pollutants that can be released in a fire.

Q 1b. To what risks are Sprinkler systems susceptible?

  • Being turned off
  • Cover plates of concealed sprinklers may not release if they are painted over
  • Wrongly placed deflectors
  • Incorrect hydraulic calculations
  • Undersized drainage systems for drain downs, i.e. floods the sprinkler room.
  • Undersized power suppliers for Star Delta start
  • Undersized power suppliers for rotor locks
  • Undersized generator supplies for both the above scenarios
  • Diesel pump ventilation system not sized and incorrect
  • Diesel pump flue arrangement failure
  • Battery failure on the diesel pump
  • Poorly maintained zonal alarm valves, pumps, control panels
  • Poorly maintained fire alarm interfaces
  • Incorrect power supply fuses and ratings
  • Wrong compartmentation of the floor valve riser cupboard within the FFL shaft. Should always be horizontal and vertical. Not vertical only.
  • Corrosion of pipework, poor water quality
  • Vandalized
  • Replaced valves that look different and are operated incorrectly
  • inspect dry pipe systems for corrosion after 10 years. Use an endoscope or ultrasound
  • CPCV pipework compatibility with fire stopping products
  • Human error
  • Failure to isolate flats

Q2. What information is needed about Sprinkler systems to ensure they perform as required?

  • Location (inc xyz)
  • Manufacturer
  • Model number
  • Installer
  • Zone it protects
  • Connection points
  • Activation strategy
  • Heat rating of sprinkler heads
  • Pump power rating
  • Manufacturer’s O&M manual and assurance of adherence from your contractor / operative.
  • Design calcs; is it housed (i.e. in boxing); does it have cover plates?
  • Maintenance regime.
  • Test results, commissioning certificates.
  • Installation date
  • Expected life
  • Planned to be replaced on “Shelf Life” basis- assessment of condition from maintenance or a planned review – or ‘run to fail’
  • Call outs breakdowns / remedial works (to determine an appropriate replacement date)
  • Water supply
  • Any modifications.
  • Fault finding procedure
  • Fixings (components) to keep in place
  • Mastic quality (good or bad)

Q3. What tasks are required to ensure Sprinkler systems are installed, commissioned, inspected, and maintained properly?

(It should be a given that any work on fire safety critical assets should always be undertaken by competent people, probably 3rd party accredited. However, that person must be supported with any information that they might need to reduce the risk of an important step being missed and to provide an auditable record of what tasks were completed. This is common practice in M&E maintenance, where the industry has developed a significant library of standard procedures and tasks lists, along with roles/competency required.

An air-conditioning unit is maintained by a qualified air conditioning engineer, but the engineer is also issued with a check list for them to record what was done.

A similar industry-wide check list for installation, commissioning, handover, maintenance, and recycling could be agreed.)

Industry-standard maintenance instructions – extract from BESA’s SFG20.

Q4. What level of competency/training needs to be in place?

(Industry training courses are critical, but they must be complemented by additional knowledge-transfer from people with many years real experience.

Individual manufacturers have product-specific training which complements the more general training. Such training resources need to be provided in all cases where a product is used – both for new build but also as part of the long-term H&S/O&M information, ideally held as machine-readable data in the Asset information model to ensure maintenance teams have easy access to critical information.)



  • Manufacturer-specific installation, commissioning, inspection, maintenance/repair, replacement and recycling requirements should be retained to inform future maintainers of the manufacturers’ recommendations.
  • Mandatory awareness training should be in place for all people working on site and carrying out maintenance in buildings
  • Training for the operational team should be required on Standards (BS, CEN etc.) plus to give a basic understanding of how to read drawings, commissioning certs and O&M’s
  • BSI Flex 8670 focuses on the competence of individuals and expects that organisations use this core criteria as part of their management of competency (planning, monitoring, reviewing etc.). This also enables the capture of the skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviors necessary to the undertaking of a defined role, function, activity or task.

Q5.  How are the changes from one product to another recorded?

(If information is not updated, it isn’t information anymore. It is misleading and, possibly, down-right dangerous. If the systems and processes to keep information current are not trusted, then the value of even correct information is compromised.

Robust Change Management requires an information baseline against which the different states – current, proposed, final and ongoing change – can be measured and reported.

The baseline information should contain the required performance in a machine-readable/actionable form and the Change Management process should enable that to be compared with:

  1. the actual performance of the designed solution (probably generic)
  2. the performance of the chosen product against the generic
  3. the performance of an alternative (value engineered?) product
  4. the record of what was used/installed.)

 Requirements and Suggestions

  • A schedule of safety critical elements for the building, to include products specified
  • Baseline against which to compare proposed alternative products (Some designers have expressed reluctance to propose (not specify) a specific manufactured product that will satisfy their design due to liability, procurement rules and fees)
  • This schedule would be “Locked” at a specific design stage, after which changes to products specified should not occur except for exceptional reasons
  • A formal change management system is required to ensure that any unavoidable changes are validated by a ‘responsible’ person e.g. original designer and/or fire engineer
  • There is a well-established change management process in construction called Technical Submissions in which requested changes from the specifications/recommendations, that were created by the designers (and selected manufacturers), need to be formally reviewed and approved. Design-and-Build procurement has affected that process and it should be reestablished in a way that the performance of a proposed product, and its constituent components, is easily compared with the proposed alternative and, if agreed, it is recorded as a Technical Deviation
  • Validation of changes would include verifying that the new product met all the requirements for the application with no detriment to the overall design, the details of which should be recorded (Changes in the product may be made between design and procurement, procurement and installation, handover and ongoing maintenance)
  • More onus needs to be on the client during the collation of Information Requirements and the updating of design models into ‘as installed’ content suitable for Asset/Facilities Management
  • Full Disclosure of the product is needed at handover so that after Work Stage 7, if a manufacturer goes out of business or products change the record is there in perpetuity
  • Asset database must be kept up to date with core data for new installs. Installation documents should be held in a centralised digital location. Once BIM/COBie level data is manageable within the asset management system then this will be used as the main source of data.
  • BIM, CAFM, Asset and Housing management systems must inform the change management process
  • H&S files for each building (cradle to grave) must be supplied, recorded, and be updated with notification of changes and the implications.
  • Warranty information of the existing and the proposed products should be provided to allow proper consideration to be made on the selection of an alternative or replacement. If a product has a shorter life than another, this information should be available to inform selection. Given some of the products will be in locations that are difficult to locate, the longevity of a product could have safety implications.
  • Compliance systems should be informed with the information from the AIM (Asset Information Model)
  • Asset tagging (barcode) systems and processes should be considered as forming part of the change management process.
  • Procurement should be included in the process, recording what was purchased and feeding that into the BIM process to locate where they were installed, or which products they are replacing.
  • Specification or design brief for the business (performance and or product) should be recorded in a machine-readable format to enable validation against the Golden Thread.
  • Record the compatibility and compliance of any ancillaries and confirm they comply with the test data? (Ironmongery, door access control systems, vision panels, vents)
  • Any adjustment, repair, addition to / removal of product, ironmongery or fittings must be recorded and should only be undertaken by a licensed / accredited contractor (this includes and modification to an existing asset)
  • The asset information needs to enable comparison but the original performance spec of the sprinkler and the related information such as Fire Strategy and Cause and Effect should form part of that Technical Deviation process. The FMs must be able to update the Asset Information Model with machine-readable data of the newly installed product
  • Recording who has worked on/replaced the component and their entitlement/competence to do so (an MEP consultant, for example, is not the designer and will sometimes get the rules confused)
  • Evidence that the component’s performance in relation to the part it plays in the system has been considered and is warranted
  • Manufacturers must provide a component list (e.g. ironmongery on a door) so if anything breaks, a direct replacement can be used.
  • Removal of certain products/materials must be undertaken by people who are on an approved list, certified by an accreditation body and should require advance notice to all certification holders, with signoff to ensure traceability.


Additional Participant Input Question 5

Notes: from the PCSA

We have found that the MEP Consultant will have drawn an allowance for the Sprinkler System for the system to be tendered to the market. However, this will not sufficiently resolve the design to avoid negatively effecting the architectural or structural design at a very late stage. The information typically does not take in to account the following items:

  • The correct sprinkler head space allocations and setting out so RCPs can be fixed.
  • Coordination with other services as the allowances are indicative rather than actual.
  • The correct riser size allocations for the drain and isolation valves arrangements
  • The correct system high/low rise hydraulic design
  • The correct water storage requirements
  • The correct embedded ground floor slab drainage locations and size.
  • The correct incoming water utility size because of the storage
  • The correct wet or dry system requirements
  • Design approval from Building Control is achieved very late.

These items are not sufficiently developed on the MEP Consultants drawings, as only the sprinkler specialists, generally have the expert knowledge of all the relevant Technical Bulletins issued by Fire Protection Association (FPA) in order to achieve a clean certificate under the Loss Prevention Council Boards, Loss Prevention Scheme 1048 (LPS 1048)


BIM4Housing Structure



Alan Brinson                                     Eurosprinkler

David Peacock                                  TÜV SÜD

George Stevenson                           ActivePlan

Joanna Harris                                   Sodexo

Paul McSoley                                    Mace

Paul Oakley                                       ActivePlan

Paul Wooldridge                              Haringey

Pauline Tuitt                                     L&Q

Sarah Stevenson-Jones                  Swan Housing