Fire Destroys Iconic Roof and Damages Sustainable Bus Station
Iain Cox, Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA), comments on a huge fire at a bus station in Slough to the west of London.
Firefighters were called to a fire at a bus station in Slough in the early hours of October 29th. The devastating blaze spread from a bus to the station’s roof canopy which was largely destroyed.
The fire broke out shortly before 2am but when firefighters from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service arrived to tackle the blaze within three minutes of the alarm, the roof canopy was well alight. Thankfully there were no reported injuries in the fire. However considerable resources including an aerial ladder platform were used by the fire and rescue service to control the blaze with crews on the scene for over nine hours. It was later reported that one bus was completely destroyed and three others were damaged. The fire-hit building is closed for the foreseeable future and police have since opened an arson investigation.
The impact on the local community and environment was significant with local road closures, residents forced to keep their windows and doors closed due to harmful smoke and a number of measures employed to minimise the impact of pollution to the local environment. The diversion of bus services from this major interchange has resulted in additional pressures for Thames Valley Buses and will result in disruption for passengers in the longer term.
Tom Readings, Group Manager at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS), explains how his team had to double the number of engines to extinguish the blaze. “The fire spread across the roof and was pretty extensive. It is really heavily damaged, unfortunately. Losing community infrastructure is sad because it’s a really nice building that someone has invested a lot of money in. So, it’s a real shame for the community in Slough”, he says
Built in 2011 as part of £450 million Heart of Slough project, and replacing a dark and unpleasant Brutalist bus station and car park, the eye-catching highlight of the newer and more modern Slough Bus Station was its long span, waveform roof. The station was also built with sustainability in mind and designed to BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standards and while its design divided opinion, it became a landmark building in the town.
When you look at the devasting consequences of fire, you begin to realise that a building’s sustainability does not account for its immunity to fire. Sadly, the aluminium and plastic construction elements of the bus station were involved. It will now require significant rebuilding and the materials and resources required to do this will incur significant financial costs. It will be interesting to see if the new building takes account of these emissions and losses in its future sustainability claims. Sadly, this is unlikely.
Fire is a likely event in the life of any building. It has an undeniable impact on sustainability as this event shows through its economic, environmental and social impact on the community. A fire event can be designed for and limited to prevent large costly fires through a combination of strategies. It is an event in the life of a building that claims of such sustainability should anticipate.
One of the most effective methods to defend against such fires is the use of sprinkler systems which contain and control fires before the fire and rescue service arrives. They therefore minimise the wider impact of unmanageable fires, reducing costs to business and the economy as a whole. Importantly, by limiting any fire damage, they allow businesses and infrastructure such as this to resume operations quickly, often within hours of the incident.
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