Great confusion surrounds the subject of fire suppression in buildings. It has been reported that there were plans to fit a suppression system in the Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art building but not sprinklers “due to a concern about water damage”. In point of fact sprinklers would have avoided this disaster and the news item would have been “Fire results in puddle in Art College basement”. But it is highly doubtful that any other form of fire suppression system would have done the job in such a quirky building.
As to water damage the public perception and often the perception of building professionals who ought to know better has been created by a number of Hollywood blockbusters where, for dramatic effect, they have shown all the sprinklers going off at once. They do not do this. Only the sprinkler heads triggered by the heat of fire are activated. If there is a fire hot enough to trigger a sprinkler head you need water fast. If you wait for the Fire Brigade you will get water in torrents.
It would not take much fire engineering expertise to know that this building was a tinderbox. Why were those responsible for such a precious and vulnerable treasure so badly advised? Buildings where the fabric is of exceptionally high intrinsic historic/artistic value, like this one, should be protected by sprinkler systems. This should be prioritised ahead of building new facilities.
– David Gibbon, RICS Conservation Accredited Building Surveyor
Which is worse? A water damaged artifact….or this?
Photo Credit: The Telegraph