Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on July 2, 2018.

History Repeats

Historic Glasgow art school building is gutted by fire for the second time in four years


On June 15, a ball of bright orange smoke and flames lit up the night sky in Glasgow, Scotland, as a historic building owned by the Glasgow School of Art was razed by fire. The 110-year-old Mackintosh building, designed by and named after famed Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was still being refurbished following a fire in 2014. Reports indicated that fire sprinklers hadn’t yet been installed in the restored building, even though the project had been going on for years.

The blaze was so large that it took more than 120 firefighters to control, and crews remained on scene for more than three days. A spokeswoman for the construction company contracted to perform the Mackintosh’s restoration after the 2014 fire said that, while there were no operational fire sprinklers at the site, a fire safety plan was in place. “It included a smoke and heat detection system, round-the-clock security, and fire patrols by a team of three guards,” she told The Guardian newspaper.

Still, in a statement sent to the newspaper, the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association advocated the use of fire sprinklers during construction projects like this one. “It should be realized that sprinklers can be fitted in buildings throughout construction on a temporary basis, as there is a considerable risk from fire during this period,” the association said.

NFPA 241, Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations, is an important tool for mitigating the fire hazards of construction sites, which are at risk for fires. A 2017 NFPA report found an annual average of nearly 8,500 fires in buildings under construction or being renovated or demolished in the United States from 2010 to 2014. It cites activities such as hot work and cooking and heating equipment used by work crews among the top causes of fires at construction sites. As of late June, the cause of the Glasgow blaze had not yet been determined. Additional information on NFPA 241 is available online.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: AP/Wide World