Dean Kirby14 hoursThursday September 21st 2017
Thousands of new university students are moving into high-rise accommodation blocks without sprinklers, i can reveal.
Records kept by fire authorities show that only a fraction of high-rise student halls and apartment buildings – those at least 18 metres or five storeys high – have sprinklers installed.
Details provided to i after a series of Freedom of Information requests show that of 70 high-rise residences at nine universities just one had a sprinkler system.
The properties were in 19 of 50 UK fire service areas and provide a “very concerning” snapshot of accommodation across the country. Other fire services either failed to provide the information or did so in too little detail to identify university buildings.
Buildings without sprinklers include chemistry departments
The figures – revealed as thousands of students arrive at university for Freshers’ Week – also show no sprinkler systems at 33 other high-rise academic buildings at a dozen universities – including chemistry and engineering buildings and libraries.
Earlier this week i revealed that just 6.5 per cent of all high-rise buildings – including hospital wards and hotels – have the devices. Close to 80 people died as a result of the fire in June at Grenfell Tower in London and sprinklers had not been fitted during the building’s refurbishment.
London Fire Brigade refused to provide figures to i, saying there was a risk it could prejudice the Grenfell Inquiry and investigations by the Metropolitan Police.
Students are now calling for all university accommodation blocks to be checked by local councils. Universities where one or more residential halls and privately-owned student apartment buildings were found to be without sprinklers, including Leicester, Loughborough, Reading and Birmingham, say their buildings are safe.
The National Union of Students said the issue is “very concerning”.
Izzy Lenga, vice president of the National Union of Students, said: “Our fears that student accommodation could be subject to the same omissions and oversights as social housing blocks have been proven to be well founded.
”She added: “Providers, institutions and local fire services need to think holistically about how a building is built and managed. Local authorities, as well as fire and rescue teams, must be properly funded and resourced so that building control and fire safety checks can be carried out.
”Fire chiefs and the Fire Brigades’ Union have called for wider fitting of sprinklers, warning that i’s research indicates that usage of the devices in high-rise buildings is “a very worrying state of affairs”.
The universities with high-rise accommodation each said student well-being was a priority and that their properties were checked for safety.
A spokesman from the University of Leicester said all those owned by the university meet statutory building regulations and are subjected to regular fire tests.