ISD Solutions External Envelope Resists Warehouse Fire at Sainsbury’s Thameside

Published on 3rd November, 2015

Warehouse fires thankfully are rare but when they do occur they can be life-threatening with the potential to cause huge business disruption. Sainsbury’s Thameside food distribution warehouse in Charlton experienced just such an incident this summer when a lorry fire outside the depot spread rapidly to engulf other vehicles and the wall of the warehouse including a number of loading docks.

The 350,000 sq ft building, which incorporates ambient, freezer and chilled storage, was constructed in 2012 as an external envelope, using Kingspan PIR composite panels, designed and installed by ISD Solutions’ Special Projects division.

Work also included a full height internal firewall separating the chilled and ambient areas of the warehouse as well as louvres, doors and other fittings. While the external walls weren’t designed to the same fire specification, additional through fixings for the panels, calculated to manage wind loadings on the building, together with vapour sealing and weathering effectively made the construction more onerous than would be required for a firewall.

In the event, the quick action of the fire service including 10 appliances and a 70 strong fire crew rapidly got the fire under control, but it was a combination of the sprinkler system and the integrity of the external envelope that resisted the spread of the fire, preventing a much more serious and costly incident

At the time Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Andrews said: “There is absolutely no doubt that in this case the sprinkler system, along with the quick actions of our crews, prevented a much more serious fire from spreading any further into the depot and causing potentially millions of pounds worth of damage to both the building and stock inside.”

Tony Wall for ISD Solutions added: “The panels needed to be removed carefully as the internal core had mostly disintegrated, however, it is a testament to the quality of the Kingspan product and fixing methods we use that helped to resist the spread of the fire. Amazingly, despite the fire’s intensity, the panels were only scorched on the inner surface and the wall above the loading docks, though extensively damaged was still intact. Reinstating the building as rapidly as possible to minimise disruption to operations was crucial for Sainsbury’s.”

Two days after the fire, ISD was in meetings with Sainsbury’s to discuss rectifying the fire damage. Time, of course, was of the essence and in just two weeks ISD was able to strip back the affected roof membrane, remove and replace the fire damaged panels and reinstate the building.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, the Incident Command Monitoring Officer at the Sainsbury’s fire, concluded that: “The building construction involved sandwich panels which can be extremely hazardous as some types allow a fire to spread quickly. The danger with this type of construction is that the fire can rapidly spread to areas within the walls meaning the spread can’t be seen from the outside. Fortunately, this panel had superior fire resistance properties and backed by the sprinkler network, we managed to contain the fire to a small proportion of the building.”

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