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published: 29/1/2014
This press release is over six months old and the details may have been superseded. Please contact the Press Office for the latest information.

Study shows that, on average, fire sprinklers are a sound investment for larger warehouses

One in five warehouses in England, approximately 621 premises, will have a fire requiring the attendance of fire fighters each year. The total annual cost to the UK economy of fires in English warehouses without fire sprinklers is £232 million.

The main finding from a three-year study conducted independently by BRE Global and commissioned by the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA) has shown that sprinklers are, on average, a cost effective investment for warehouses with a floor area above 2,000 m2, with the greatest benefit arising from the reduction in direct fire losses.

The study looked at the whole-life cost benefit analysis for fire sprinkler installation in three ranges of warehouse sizes.

Key findings from the BRE study include:

  • The whole life costs for warehouse buildings larger than 2,000m2 (around half a football pitch in size) with fire sprinklers are on average 3.7 times lower than ones without them
  • Fire sprinklers were, on average, not cost-effective in warehouses with an area below 2,000m2
  • Environmental benefits from sprinklers include a reduction in CO2 emissions from fire, reduced size of fire and reduced quantities of water used to fight fire
  • Only 20% of warehouses between 2,000 and 10,000m2 are fitted with fire sprinklers. For warehouses above 10,000m2, the estimated fraction with fire sprinklers is 67%
  • If all warehouses above 2,000m2 were fitted with sprinklers, the annual saving to businesses in England could be up to £210m.

The research will be launched in the House of Commons today alongside a new study on the financial and economic impact of warehouse fires from the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Dr Debbie Smith, Director of Fire Science and Building Products at the BRE, said: “Despite a year-on-year decrease in the number of commercial fires, the estimated annual cost of these fires is rising along with related societal and environmental impacts. This project has broken new ground in terms of evaluating these broader sustainability impacts of fire in warehouses and demonstrating that, on average, sprinklers can be shown to deliver a net benefit.”

Iain Cox, BSA Chairman and former Chief Fire Officer of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:  “The findings of this study scratch the surface in terms of the return fire sprinklers bring to business. In the future the BSA intends to look at the cost effectiveness fire sprinklers have on other sectors, such as manufacturing. What is clear from the current research is that insurance alone is not enough to fully protect companies from the long-term impacts of fire. We urge the government to do more to encourage the installation of fire sprinklers in commercial premises and promote a better understanding of the positive impacts of physical resilience.”  

For further information please contact Linda McKeown, BRE, tel 01923 664569, email mckeownl@bre.co.uk or BSA media enquiries 0207 309 1014 or bsa@uk.ogilvypr.com

Update 06/03/2015 - a copy of the full report is available to download from the Business Sprinkler Alliance



Key data findings in table format

Table 1: For warehouses that experience a fire, the costs for buildings without sprinklers versus buildings with sprinklers are as follows:


“Small” warehouse

(< 2,000 m2)

“Medium” warehouse

(2-10,000 m2)

“Large” warehouse

(> 10,000 m2)

No sprinkler


No sprinkler


No sprinkler


Cost of total area damaged







Cost of injuries







Cost of fatalities







Cost of CO2 released in fire







Cost of CO2 embodied in replacement







Cost of water used in firefighting







Cost of CO2 embodied in rebuild







Cost of unemployment














Total costs







(Values quoted in 2010 prices, and based on best estimates of fire and smoke damage costs)

Table 2: Whole life costs of warehouse buildings with and without sprinklers are:


“Small” warehouse

(< 2,000 m2)

“Medium” warehouse

(2-10,000 m2)

“Large” warehouse

(> 10,000 m2)

No sprinkler


No sprinkler


No sprinkler


Total cost of fire







Cost of insurance over lifetime







Total cost of sprinklers














Total Whole Life Costs







Whole life costs ratio

< 1

3.6 to 1

3.7 to 1

(Values quoted in 2010 prices, and based on best estimates of fire and smoke damage costs)

It is important to note that these cost data are averaged results for buildings in given size ranges. If a calculation is required for a particular building, the costs and benefits, investment return period etc., should be derived from data that is pertinent to the individual case.

The lifetime of a warehouse building is assumed as 45 years.

Cost and statistical data on fire consequences, sprinkler maintenance and installation, and associated insurance values were collected from Government, industry bodies, select businesses, academic studies on fire and other publicly available and relevant sources.

About BRE Global

BRE Global Limited (incorporating LPCB & BREEAM) is an independent third party approvals body offering certification of fire, security and sustainability products and services to an international market.  BRE Global’s product testing and approvals are carried out by recognised experts in our world renowned testing laboratories. BRE Global Limited is custodian of a number of world leading brands including:LPCB for the approval of fire and security products and services, listed in the Red Books and BREEAM the world’s leading environmental assessment method for buildings, sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and has become the de-facto measure of a building’s environmental performance.www.bre.co.uk

The Business Sprinkler Alliance

The Business Sprinkler Alliance or ‘BSA’ is a coalition of fire safety professionals working to protect UK plc against fire. The BSA aims to highlight the true cost of fire and the business benefits of automatic fire sprinkler systems.Established in 2010, the BSA’s founding members include the Chief Fire Officer’s Association; the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN); the European Fire Sprinkler Network (EFSN); the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) and leading commercial property insurer FM Global. www.business-sprinkler-alliance.org

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