On every project containing fire alarm design I come across the same question repeatedly - does this unit require a duct detector?
In short, there's two prevailing standards that determine whether duct detection is required. The first (and most common in the United States), is the International Mechanical Code (IMC). Section 606.2 identifies areas where smoke detection is required for the purpose of mechanical unit shutdown.
The other prevailing standard is NFPA 90A, the Standard for Installation of Air Conditioning and Ventilating Systems. I'll address those requirements in a later post.
Back to the question at hand - there's essentially six different scenarios a mechanical unit can fall into under the International Mechanical Code. These do not include the requirement for multi-level duct risers over 15,000 CFM, but rather whether an individual unit requires detection at the unit.
Here is a quick cheatsheet summary concerning those scenarios:
If you review or design fire alarm systems regularly, take a look and let me know what you think.
If you know someone who might also benefit from cheatsheets like this, send them a link or tell them to subscribe here.
Hope you find this helpful and have a great rest of your week!
Design-specifications have had a tradition and sometimes contemptuous past in the world of fire protection design.
Sometimes called “design-build spec”, “performance-specification”, “delegated design”, “deferred submittal documents”, “scope drawings”, or “design-spec”, these all mean relatively the same thing; the engineer is not providing a working submittal of how a fire suppression system should end up in the field.
Back in 2008 advocacy groups from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technologies (NICET) adopted a joint position on the role of the Engineer and the Engineering Technician as they relate to fire protection systems. A summary and full-length document are here.
The position statement does a good job of identifying the relationship between engineering documents and a working shop drawing submittal. It maintains that the role of the Engineer is to support the proper protection of the public’s health and safety. A licensed Engineer is required to understand a broad sense of fire protection beyond just suppression, and also has specific state requirements for licensing and authorization.
While the position statement does a good job of identifying roles and defining the relationship between an engineer and a technician, real-world experience says that many “design-build specifications” fall short on good practice.
I’ll save my frustrations on the lack of quality engineering documents for another day (it is not a regional issue). There is a ton to explore on that topic.
I will however offer up what I like to use as a practical checklist for design-build specifications. Not all owners want to pay consultants to flush out all the details of a system. I get it. But if an owner is paying for anything at all, then the documents should address basic requirements and cost-impacting elements of design.
If a set of plans just outlines an area and says “per NFPA 13”, then someone isn’t doing it right.
This cheatsheet is a collection of the items I’m looking for when I help contractors bid jobs. It’s a shortcut to all of the items that have a design and cost-impact to a job.
If you, as a consulting engineer, address every single one of these items clearly and within code, then pat yourself on the back my friend, you are a gift.
If your documents don’t address each of these items (yes, including flow test information), consider making it a part of your regular practice. None of the items on this list are major time consumers, but by accounting for them you’ll allow better bidding from contractors and much less contention after bids are due.
Please, please: don’t loft up vague project requirements to contractors and hope for the best. Invest in being a knowledgeable and quality practitioner of this great industry. It'll more than pay itself back to you.
What are your thoughts? What type of bid documents are you used to seeing? Join the conversation and comment here.
Awhile back I researched and built a translator for various versions of NFPA 13.
It's built to quickly find where a code section has migrated between different editions of the standard. There's a free version here which connects the 2016 and the 2019 Editions of NFPA 13.
Based on feedback and the positive response to that tool, I've just finished a similar edition translator for all of the published versions of the International Building Code. It covers Chapters 1 through 11, 15 and 30. Here's a quick video of how it works:
If you're interested in giving this a try, you can get it as part of a 30-day trial for the MeyerFire Toolkit here. https://www.meyerfire.com/toolkit-trial.html.
It's been busy around here tinkering with new tools since I went on my own in October of 2019. I am not by nature a programmer, but as the son of two accountants I'm pretty sure Microsoft Excel is just in my blood.
I've gotten lots of positive feedback from users on the Toolkit and I'm happy to announce this week some major improvements aside from the new IBC translator:
1. A La Carte Tools Coming
Some users aren't designers or engineers and would only use one or two tools. I get it. In the next couple weeks I'll be breaking out individual tools and pricing them for less, separately. The first one offered this way is the Water Supply Analysis tool that will be up this week.
2. Instant Activation Codes
One of the biggest frustrations I've had on the development side is with quirky activation code servers. They drive me nuts. Over the past month I've dramatically simplified the process, so that new purchases automatically get clear activation codes exactly 2 minutes after their purchase. Clean and simple and it's working much better than before.
3. Toolkit Going to $195 in February
With over a half-dozen new tools, the price of the Toolkit is going up to $195 starting in February. If you're interested but haven't bought yet, pick up a license now and you'll lock in your $150 subscription.
4. New Licenses Are Multi-Device & Sharable with Coworkers
Lastly, based on the biggest piece of feedback I've gotten, with the $195 price-bump starting in February a single license will allow multiple installs, so that you can use on multiple devices and with members of your company.
If you have a design staff with multiple users, it only makes sense that you're able to use and share files with coworkers.
If you have a single-user license now and want to upgrade, shoot me an email at email@example.com and we'll get the upgrade set up. Should you want to learn more about the Toolkit, you can do so here.
Hope you have a great rest of your week!
Now that I live with one hand in creating shop drawings and the other in consulting, I don't come across this question quite as often as I had. In general, people don't call unless they know they need fire protection help.
When I worked for MEP firms, I came across this question all the time. As in evaluating this on every single project.
"Does the building code require a fire sprinkler system?"
The adopted building code is the first stop in determining whether a fire sprinkler system is required or not (not standards, such as NFPA 13). In the International Building Code, this is generally Section 903.2 for fire sprinkler systems.
You'd first determine your building occupancy (from Chapter 3), then go to 903.2 to see if your facility's footprint is large enough, has enough occupants, or meets the other nuanced criteria to bring in a fire sprinkler system. I have gotten caught ignoring the special applications - in my case a windowless basement that didn't have enough openings which drove sprinkler requirements. We got sprinklers in, just later in design than I would have liked.
This cheatsheet below is a summary of the requirements among various occupancies and other drivers for fire sprinkler systems, according to the latest IBC (2018 Edition).
It is worth noting that local code adoptions, insurance requirements, or the International Fire Code can also introduce the need for fire sprinkler systems.
As you may know I'm a fan of cheatsheets, so I hope you find this helpful. If you think it'd be beneficial to also cover other IBC editions, let me know in the comments here and I can get that moving too.
Thanks & have a great week!
Oprah had an annual favorite-things list. I've always thought that would be fun to do - except I can't offer everyone a Pontiac G6.
Sorry about that. My wife says the kids need to eat.
I will however continue to make lists of my own. This one isn't necessarily a "favorite-things" but rather interesting topics and tools I plan to keep an eye on for 2020.
A Long-Awaited Computer-Based PE Exam
The Fire Protection Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam (PE Exam) will finally become computer-based in 2020. This has been discussed for many years and will bring Fire Protection in line with several other disciplines and the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE Exam).
Likely a much bigger change to the 2020 Fire Protection PE is replacement of the treasure-trove of references (over 9,000 pages) into a single exam reference guide which is being developed by SFPE. This single resource will be all that is allowed in the exam room. While the exam focus and content should be relatively consistent from past years, preparation for 2020 will be a different challenge than in years’ past.
Around here, I’ve already been contacted by numerous people seeking the publish date on both the 2020 MeyerFire PE Prep Guide and the PE Exam’s Reference Book. The 2020 MeyerFire PE Prep Guide will follow the official reference book by a month (which is rumored to debut sometime in Spring 2020). I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the official reference book will be early enough to give everyone ample time (including instructors) to study and absorb it.
At least for 2020, the Fire Protection PE will only be given on a single-day (October 22, 2020). Going computer-based might someday afford year-round testing availability like the Mechanical PE Exam is starting this year. That will certainly be another interesting change when it happens.
The Fire Protection PE Exam's joining the twenty-first century with its first computer-based exam in 2020.
Viking’s New Window Sprinkler
Viking just released a new listed Specific-Application Window Sprinkler. Use of window sprinklers have long been a strenuous and often misapplied technology, but the new Viking lineup could offer additional options in this space. I'm very interested to see how the new sprinkler gets used in the market.
The brand-new window sprinkler is only the second entrant to a complex & niche application.
If you haven't checked lately, it's already in our live Sprinkler Database.
Have you seen it? I have. Nitrogen inertion is becoming more and more commonplace each year.
This year is the first I’ve seen a project specify a nitrogen-inertion system upfront with a dry-pipe sprinkler system. Finally!
As an industry I feel like we're all slowly learning and educating owners on the major cost-savings these can have, but until recently I've yet to see them specified on a project. It's good to see other consultants getting traction with owners on the topic.
Projects under the United Facilities Criteria (UFC 3-600-01) allow a hydraulic c-factor of 120 in dry systems with nitrogen included, which are now mandatory for dry systems. This is a great benefit I hope the NFPA 13 continues to consider adopting. It can be difficult enough to convey to owners the cost/benefits of avoiding corrosion in sprinkler systems with a higher upfront cost, but if we get a hydraulic kick-back for inclusion of nitrogen systems then the conversation could be made substantially easier with owners. Depending on the system size, a hydraulic benefit might help contractors to voluntarily provide nitrogen systems and save on pipe sizing throughout.
New & Better Tools for Revit
I live entirely in BIM (Building Information Modeling), so I’m always on the lookout for great Revit families, tools and workflows.
The past couple years have really ramped up the race for fire protection tools in BIM, including Victaulic’s Revit Add-In, AutoSPRINK’s RVT lineup, HydraCAD for Revit, and a few others. I’m very encouraged that there is finally interest in this space and that the developers in it seem to be doing very well.
Revit Add-In productivity-boosts have made even small projects like this home design
I completed in 2019 possible at a very reasonable time and cost.
I just started using the RVT platform in 2019 and have found major productivity boosts by doing so. If you use Revit and haven’t checked out these platforms, 2020 might be the year to check them out.
Why This Site Exists
I don't (usually) just write to entertain myself. I put together this site to help start the conversation on fire protection.
If you're relatively new around here - I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Joe. I'm no an end-all expert in the field, just a normal guy who loves being in fire protection. I worked for and learned under a couple engineering consultants before starting my own practice in 2019 where I now write, build tools and design full time.
This site is all about bringing together experts from the different corners of fire protection to discuss and share best practices. We're all about improving your workflow and your knowledge with resources and ideas - plus giving a medium for you to share your expertise to everyone's benefit.
Thank you for hangin' around and I look forward to sharing in a great 2020 with you!
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.