"Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking." - William Butler Yeats
This site is built to start a discussion.
You see, I'm not a 30-year industry veteran, standard committee member, or organization technical expert. I'm perhaps a mediocre engineer, average illustrator, novice website developer and author. Perhaps the thing I'm best at is Microsoft Excel, but as the son of two accountants - that's just in my blood.
The only real unique angle I have is a combination of those items that I've used to compile these online resources.
In the end, though, that might be all it takes to start the discussion.
What is Wrong
I've seen fire protection that could be better and you probably have too.
I've seen design documents where fire protection is completely not-addressed, where even a "provide sprinkler heads throughout" would have been an improvement. There's bad installations, a lack of resources to review drawings & calculations, and educational resources that exist but aren't great.
Who We Are
Fire protection is a niche market.
You don’t need me to tell you that – far and away the majority of designers and engineers in the industry are comprised of small design outposts. It’s not the Jensen Hughes of the worlds that make up most of the industry – it’s the mom and pop contractors, freelancers, MEP firms, insurers, building owner’s engineers, and small fire protection consultants that make up the majority of fire protection design, installation and review in the US and abroad.
How do I know? I interact with these people all the time. People that are far smarter and more experienced than myself. The resources I’ve just started to share are not new – they’re just shared publicly across corporate borders for perhaps the first time.
You may already know - in fire protection we're the lone-gunners.
Mechanical and electrical engineering are massive industries. For every newly licensed fire protection engineer, there are 14 newly licensed electrical engineers and 17 new mechanical engineers. And that’s despite the tremendous growth we’ve seen in fire protection engineering in the last couple decades.
We're already on a small island compared to those disciplines.
We do have something that those massive fields don’t – we have the fire (pun intended). Fire protection designers, engineers, installers, and reviewers in my experience are far more passionate about this field than the average mechanical, electrical, plumbing or structural engineer.
We’re a niche market and I'm told constantly a "rare breed" (I think that's a compliment...). Being niche in addition to understanding the importance of what we do is part of what makes so many people in fire protection so passionate about our careers. It's the niche market and that passion that makes the community aspect of what we do so important.
I had lunch with a new colleague I admire last week who had previously worked in other fields and he specifically mentioned that the community within fire protection is a major differentiation for our industry.
Importance of Independence
I’m not a product manufacturer, I’m not a tiered membership organization, and I’m not a design standard. Believe it or not unless you’re one of about three people following this blog I’m also not a competitor to you or your company.
Independence on the part of this website may be the most important perspective I can create to offer something meaningful for the industry.
Why? Because if there’s something that the industry could use, I want to create it. If there’s a better, faster, leaner way of helping people like us do fire protection better, then this website is built to be right at that intersection.
The tools here are not limited to representing one manufacturer's products.
The articles here are not so high-level that you can read three full-page spreads and have nothing to apply to your workflow. I don’t write with the hope of sounding sophisticated.
A Rising Tide Raises All Ships
I’ve been asked before about why I’d consider sharing tools and resources I’ve used, when it’s essentially "training the competition".
As mentioned earlier; I’m really not a competitor. But more importantly, how much better could the industry be if there are greater numbers of people who are passionate, sharp, and involved in fire protection?
If we’ve all witnessed a lack of concern for fire protection, how could offering up the small things we learn as we go not help us all out in the end?
I still come across architects who had yet to work with or weren't familiar hiring a fire protection design team. How much better could the industry be served if fire protection were considered early in project development the way mechanical, electrical, structural and plumbing design is?
How much better could fire protection be if bid documents contained water supply information, well-established design criteria with the building owner’s involvement, and basic coordination such that the sprinkler installer isn’t the bad guy when he installs a main?
How much better could building owners be served if sprinkler contractors didn’t have to take on so much risk with bidding empty documents?
How much better would it be for review authorities if someone else was looking out for code compliance, and they didn’t have to be the bad guy every time?
Our past culture of minimal fire protection involvement early in project development doesn’t have to be our future.
With a basic set of competent specifications, contractors can actually give building owners what they want while making profit even in competitive bid scenarios – all while review authorities can receive better documents and better results.
Getting there isn’t a matter of mandating FPE involvement, forcing continuing education or ramming more requirements on the industry. In my opinion doing better fire protection is getting knowledge and tools into the hands of people that can use it. The more tools and help we can create, the better we're all served in the long run.
The Future of MeyerFire
This website is here for the long run.
I have been so thrilled to meet and hear from such a variety of sharp and passionate people after developing this basic website. My hope is that this website is a conduit that helps bring people to the industry, help share knowledge and help share resources that little by little move us all forward and up.
It's all about the movement towards better fire protection.
The tools posted here are literally about 3% of the ideas others have shared and I have down in writing for future development. There's so much to create and share, and it's just getting started.
This summer (July 11th) will see the launch of the Toolkit, which is a printable, savable, downloadable software package incorporating all of the tools on this website. For Weekly Exam users, July will also have an on-demand practice exams, offering unlimited runs of questions you've faced but with different inputs & solutions to extend your prep ability.
Later this summer and into the fall I'll be working towards new design tools & resources to add online and to the toolkit, while also helping support the ongoing community in the MeyerFire Daily space.
Between following the Blog, the Daily Questions, beta testing the new software package that will debut two weeks from today, or using the PE Exam Tools, thank you for being a part of the movement towards better fire protection.
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Shop drawings (or installation drawings, fabrication drawings, or working plans) are a cornerstone of the fire protection industry. Prepared by or under the installation contractor, this design package contains the most important details concerning the design of fire sprinkler systems.
NFPA 13 has specific requirements to what is required for a shop drawing submittal. It is enforceable by the Authority Having Jurisdiction anywhere that NFPA 13 is used as the reference standard.
Below is a basic checklist for items that are required to be indicated in a shop drawing package, with references to whichever edition of NFPA 13 is being used.
There's many items required to be included in a set of shop drawings beyond just the basic design parameters.
Don't Be A Jerk
Unfortunately I have seen these references abused - an engineer rejecting submittals for not including a graphic scale, for instance, which does nothing to improve the technical content of the submittal but does adequately upset every person involved in a project.
It is a rare submittal that achieves and includes every single aspect of the checklist (how often do you see a full-building section, for instance?). However, if you're a review party, review engineer, or shop drawing designer/engineer, this re-organized checklist with references may help clarify expectations for the design package.
Shop Drawing Checklist
When using this tool, select the edition of NFPA 13 used in the red box on the right-hand side. The references and checkboxes will autopopulate based upon your selection.
Don't see the tool below? Click here to see it.
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Based on the feedback and response about an earlier article about Sprinkler Requirements in Bathrooms, it only makes sense to extend a roadmap for navigating requirements concerning sprinklers in closets.
For such a simple topic, this work took two weeks and will still require further exploration in the coming weeks.
The premise for determining whether a closet requires a sprinkler would intuitively be fairly easy, as the question implies a yes/no black and white answer. The development to get to where we are currently, however, is governed by experience and studies into the risk/benefit posed by providing sprinklers in closets.
Does providing a sprinkler within a closet improve building protection and aid in better life safety? Yes, in most (or perhaps even every) circumstance.
While in concept determining whether a sprinkler is required for a closet would typically be a straight-forward cut-and-dry process, the code path to determine whether it is required or not is dependent upon multiple factors.
However, there are also competing objectives for standards such as NFPA 13R (Low-Rise Residential Occupancies) and NFPA 13D (One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes), which is to create affordable systems with a life-safety objective in lieu of property protection.
Attempting to create affordable systems is not inherently a bad thing; it only creates less friction between the building owner paying for or deciding to install a sprinkler system.
Why Not All Small Closets?
Why is a 10 sqft apartment closet any different than a 10 sqft closet in a motel? They could be constructed the exact same.
The difference is in the totality of the situation: NFPA 101 and by extension NFPA 13 recognize that "inherent ignition sources and combustible fuel load" are very different for different occupancies. In general, where closets can more easily accumulate high fuel loads (longer-term living situations), the less likely a sprinkler will be allowed to be omitted.
NFPA 101 - what about the IBC?
NFPA 101 outlines specific allowances based upon occupancies to determine closet sprinkler requirements. The International Building Code does not address these same areas, rather deferring those requirements to NFPA 13, 13R, or 13D.
What if both IBC and NFPA 101 Apply?
Many healthcare applications find that the IBC is enforced by a local jurisdiction while NFPA 101 applies due to healthcare credential requirements of CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). Typically the most stringent requirement would be the guiding direction in these instances, but it would be prudent to work with code authorities to resolve these conflicts where they arise.
2016 Edition Changes
The 2016 Edition of NFPA 101 offered a handful of changes specific to closets. You'll see in the breakout below that this flowchart only applies to the 2016 Editions of NFPA 13, NFPA 13R, NFPA 13D, and NFPA 101. With so many changes between the editions, I'm planning to recreate this chart with prior editions for reference.
The chart below is a visual summary of the decisions that lead to various sections of code. Despite the simple yes/no nature of whether a sprinkler is required in a closet or not, you'll notice the complexity of the decision tree within NFPA 101. Click on the chart for an enlarged version below.
Flowchart for 2016 closet fire sprinkler requirements
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Joseph Meyer, PE, owns/operates his own Fire Protection Engineering practice in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.