Greater Manchester & Cheshire

Our innovative Handforth sprinkler system gets Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s seal of approval

Three high-rise towers in Handforth have been made significantly safer for residents, thanks to an innovative sprinkler installation from social landlord and building owner Onward. 

The three residential buildings – Jubillee Court, Woodstock Court and Stanley Park Grange – have all had state-of-the-art sprinkler systems installed in homes and higher risk communal areas, as part of Onward’s ongoing work to improving fire safety for all its customers across the North West. 

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, which highlighted the safety benefits of sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings throughout January, have hailed the quality and success of Onward’s retrofit project – with sprinklers and other fire safety measures recently installed. 

Sprinkler systems can be a vital tool in suppressing fires within buildings, by activating in isolated areas and dousing flames when temperatures reach a certain level. They are extremely successful at preventing fire deaths and reducing injuries from fire. Sprinklers give people a greater chance of evacuating a building during a fire, as well as providing protection from fire damage. 

While sprinklers are normally installed during a building’s initial construction, to allow for extensive pipework and dedicated water provision, Onward looked to a best practice example in Staffordshire to retrofit the Handforth Towers. By adapting the building’s existing dry risers into wet risers, Onward could run sprinklers to every floor, without requiring major construction works. 

Onward installed the sprinkler systems one building at a time, between January 2019 and late 2020, at no cost to customers or leaseholders in any of the buildings. The unobtrusive sprinkler system, supplied by GTM Fire Protection, was part-financed through £36k funding from Cheshire Fire Authority. 

To ensure residents would be satisfied with the completed building works, Onward first installed sprinklers into a ‘show flat’ within each block, so that customers could see how pipework would be hidden behind suspended ceilings and inconspicuous pipe housing. Onward has also invested in backup power and water supply systems at all three towers, as well as installing new fire doors to all homes. 

Michael O’Flaherty, Senior Compliance Manager at Onward, said:  

“We’re really satisfied with the installation of sprinkler systems at Jubilee Court, Woodstock Court and Stanley Park Grange, which will provide extra protection and reassurance to our Handforth residents.  

“Working closely with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and Cheshire Fire Authority, we’ve proactively made a number of improvements within all three buildings that will help identify and suppress any fires, as well as alerting residents to any dangers. 

“We’re grateful to all our Handforth residents for their understanding and support as we completed these important safety works, allowing us to install advanced sprinkler systems into 97% of homes and higher risk communal areas within the three buildings.” 

Head of Prevention and Protection at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Lee Shears, said:  

“We have been working hard to highlight how sprinklers work to prevent small fires from spreading for a number of years now, so it’s great to be able to work with partners such as Onward who have the foresight to retro-fit sprinklers in its high-rise premises. 

“Sprinklers work to extinguish fire at source and are the equivalent of having a firefighter ready and waiting in every room. They suppress fire before it has a chance to take hold and spread which, in turn, saves lives and limits the damage it causes to buildings and property. 

“By retro-fitting sprinklers systems, Onward has ensured the safety of any tenants living in these three high rise buildings, while also reducing the impact fire has on people’s lives and their personal possessions. These building will also be a much safer for our firefighters to work in, should a fire ever break out in the future.” 

Cllr Bob Rudd, Chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, said:  

“Cheshire Fire Authority has been committed to the fitting of sprinklers in high rise buildings since 2013. Our members have been liaising with local housing associations and companies to promote how these systems work in stopping fires at source.  

“We have offered financial support for retrospective installations of sprinklers and we proactively endorse the installation of sprinkler systems in domestic, industrial, educational, commercial and residential premises to help keep people living and working in Cheshire safe.”