In January, suppression expert Bob Upson presented a webinar on frequently asked questions concerning standpipe systems out of NFPA 14 with NFSA's online teaching platform. If you work with standpipe systems regularly, I'd highly recommend it.
One of the topics he discussed was a brief history of how both the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 14 (Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems) have changed over time between requiring standpipe hose connections on intermediate floor-level landings to floor-level landings.
By floor-level landings, typically you would have a hose connection 3-5 feet above the floor level immediately at the landing upon entering an exit stair.
To get to a hose connection on an intermediate-level landing, you would enter the stair and walk down a single flight of stairs to get to the next landing (typically opposite of the main floor level landing).
I was interested in exploring this code history in a little more detail - so below is a compilation of the last 20 years of the IBC and NFPA 14 and where standpipe hose connections have been required by each code edition within exit stairs.
A summary of the code history of intermediate-floor-level landings versus floor-level landing requirements for standpipe systems across both the IBC and NFPA 14. Click to enlarge.
It's important to note that while code prescribes one location (floor level or intermediate-level stair landings), every single code instance allows the opposite location to be used with approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction.
Next week I'll break out the implications for these requirements with some visuals and things to consider when designing for floor-level landings of intermediate-level landings.
What challenges do you experience when designing for floor-level or intermediate-level landing hose connections? What advice would you offer? Comment and be part of the conversation here.
This week’s 2019 NFPA Conference and Expo in San Antonio is the first professional conference I have attended. I couldn’t have imagined how positive and productive just three days here would be.
A special shout-out and thank you to Engineered Corrosion Solutions (ECS) for offering to host me in booth 460 and for all the encouragement and support along the way. Last year they offered to carve out a space in their both for me to set up shop, and I greatly appreciate that opportunity!
As a complete rookie to the conference experience, here are my top takeaways from attending my first one:
1. I'm Fortunate to be in the PE Space
In the first two days alone I’ve met a good handful of people that stopped by to talk about their PE experience and share feedback from buying the prep guide or online prep series questions. All of the interactions were overwhelmingly positive.
I genuinely relish these experiences – it’s one thing to know fundamentally that the prep guide and online resources are helpful, but it’s a humbling experience to shake hands with people who’ve tried 4 times to pass and didn’t until they went all in with the prep material I’ve helped curate.
Those that pass can attest passing is all about time and intentional focus, and it's all in the individual taking the test. There's no material that can pass a test for someone, but I'm so thrilled every time to hear from those that have succeeded and am happy to help however I can.
It’s hard to say how much I appreciate those of you that I’ve met this week that stopped in to share your experience. I really do enjoy celebrating your success and accomplishment.
So great to discuss ideas with those who are passionate about the industry. This is the ECS booth at the Expo.
2. It's a Great Opportunity to See Former Colleagues
Conferences like these are great ways to pull together people from all over the country (and world). Catching up with former friends as well as my former boss is time well spent re-connecting.
3. Alumni networks are alive and well
Speaking of reconnecting – for those who studied fire protection at Oklahoma State, WPI, or Maryland – the conference is a great meeting ground to connect with other major players in the industry. I attended the University of Maryland’s top-secret and exclusive dinner for the first time and met some fun, fascinating and really outstanding people. I’m not allowed to talk about the sacrificed animals or secret handshake to get into the dinner, but if you ever get a chance to attend one of your alumni meetups I’d very much encourage you to do so.
Dr. James Milke speaking at the University of Maryland Alumni Dinner.
4. The Fire Protection Ecosystem
The main theme of the conference has been the improvement of fire protection and life safety through the ecosystem – essentially each person within industry plays to different roles and certainly has different strengths.
“The more connected we are, the more effective we’ll be at protecting the world together.” - Keith Williams, UL President and CEO and Trustee, NFPA Board of Directors.
The emphasis is that the better connected we are and the better we understand our strengths and our roles – the better we’ll be able to move the industry forward as a whole. While a fairly high-level concept, I’ve thought about this a lot and the website and emphasis on access and sharing of knowledge is exactly where I feel I can help support this effort.
Main theme and entry to the conference hall in San Antonio.
5. Developing Platforms for the Right Knowledge at the Right Time
One of the fundamental questions about the Ecosystem is how do we create the platforms that foster getting the right knowledge at the right time, in the right environment. In the NFPA-lens I’m sure that discussion is about availability of standards and how that’s developed, marketed, and distributed.
In a similar sense that’s exactly what I’ve concerned myself with over the past few years. We know that the generation who’s grown up with google (and didn’t have to wait for Jeeves to answer everything) desire and are often better at grabbing information instantaneously. What are those platforms that can help foster quality information in real time? It’s an open-ended question but it’s something that I’ve heard through many organizations that are looking to help transition information for the new way the industry works.
6. Chris Logan is One Cool Dude
As a parent of young kids we read these books on “Pete the Cat”. If you’ve ever read them you’ve probably wondered like me what 7th grader is now a millionaire by writing and illustrating these books about a savvy and all around groovy cat named Pete. I don’t understand how they’re popular, but my 2-year old and 4-year old love them and of course Pete is one top cat in a world of dogs.
Back to the topic at hand – I think of Chris Logan as a real life version of Pete the Cat. If you don’t know, Chris created the Fire Sprinkler Podcast out of Ontario less than a year ago and it has really become a major success. I was very fortunate to grab drinks with him at the conference and he described exactly my feelings about the industry our impact – we’re not the expert but we are happy to bring together quality people in the industry to at least start the conversation.
If you haven’t tuned in to some of his podcasts, you might consider it. I see Chris’ trajectory with his podcast project as becoming a very big deal (even more-so than it already is) in the coming years.
Had the pleasure to get to know Chris Logan with the Fire Sprinkler Podcast -
a very sharp and passionate voice for the industry.
7. Lots of Great Things Coming
Without being too shady, there are a lot of projects I’m excited to work on with the website and in collaboration with some organizations that could happen in the very near future.
While some of these concepts we discussed for just the first time, I’m optimistic that there are very good things in store that can have a relevant and positive impact for you and I. Thanks for reading and taking part in the journey!
Hope your week in fire protection is going well.
Standpipes within stairs can be an important item to coordinate with the project architect, as the fix for the lack of coordination can be extremely difficult to accomplish in the field. This week I'm breaking down an enlarged floor plan detail for a standpipe hose connection within a stairwell.
Avoiding the Egress Path
The image above shows the clear span that's required to maintain clearance. How do you know the radius of this line? Just take the width of the stair, set the center of your arc to the edge of the stair, and draw your arc from one end of the stair to the other. This is an extension of the required egress of the stair to turn on the landing and move the other direction.
Is it possible and allowed to locate small parts of the hose connection within this clear span? There could be a basis for it.
In design I try to avoid any controversy by locating both the standpipe and those valve entirely outside of this egress path. Doing so may require a little extra space on the landing, but it is far better than finding out after the stair is constructed that you're short on space.
A traditional new-construction stair will likely have support for the stairwell landing incorporated into the stair enclosure, or contain a beam across the landing where the landing meets the beginning of the stairs if it's a concrete stair. These new builds don't present too much of a challenge to coordinate with structure.
However, for retrofits or stairs that do not simply jog back and forth, beware of beams that could run where you'd like to locate the standpipe connections. Core drilling a 4-inch to 10-inch hole through a concrete beam will not make you good friends with the structural engineer.
The hose connection is required to have 3-inches of clearance on all sides of the handle. (NFPA 14 2013-19 4.7.5)
It's not enough to just stick your hand and start turning the valve, we have to remember that it's the firefighter's thermally insulated and rigid gloves that must turn the hose valve while the building is literally on fire. Giving 3-inches of clearance just feels like a minimally-nice gesture to thank your local first responder.
Lastly, don't forget about the drain riser.
If the standpipe includes pressure-reducing valves, these valves require testing and it's required to have a way to connect directly to an oversized drain riser that can handle the testing. This can be done with capped outlets on the drain riser that can accept a hose connection for testing.
NFPA 14 provides guidance on sizing the drain riser in this scenario: 3-inch drain riser for 2-1/2-inch pressure reducing devices, a 2-inch riser for 1-1/2-inch pressure reducing devices, or sized large enough to handle the full flow from the largest pressure reducing device. (NFPA 14 20037.12, 2007-19 7.11.1)
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Hope your week is going very well.
This week I'd like to open a short series on standpipes. Today's article is a basic overview of some basic requirements associated with standpipes used for fire suppression.
Basic components of a standpipe for fire suppression.
Standpipes are used to support manual firefighting efforts by delivering water to hard-to-reach areas of a building. The intent of a standpipe system is to avoid having to distribute and connect hundreds of feet of hose for a single interior attack by firefighters.
Hard-to-reach areas of a building aren't confined to one direction. Buildings which are very tall (highrises) or are deep underground, or are very wide by nature could all have portions of the building which would be difficult to reach.
Applicable Codes & Standards
In the US, the International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) are often the first stop for standpipe requirements. While the two codes mirror each other, the International Building Code requires standpipes based on:
Once it has been determined whether a standpipe system is required or not, the IBC and IFC defer to NFPA 14 to prescribe how the system is to be installed.
Class of Standpipes
Standpipes can be classified in several areas. The first is the class of standpipe, which relates directly to the hose connection type and the intended user. Based on 1-1/2 inch hose failures and the associated testing that goes along with them, 1-1/2 inch hose stations are much less common today.
I've found many situations with sprinklered buildings where hose stations have been removed as they are no longer required and are a burden for testing and maintenance. Here are the standpipe classifications, with Class I being by far the most common in the US today:
Types of Standpipe
The other defining description for standpipe is when water is delivered, and at what relative pressure. Types of standpipes include:
Components of a Vertical Standpipe
Standpipes are not always vertical standpipes, but for multi-story buildings they are the most prevalent and are the topic of discussion this week.
Standpipe Hose Connections
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Joseph Meyer, PE, owns/operates his own Fire Protection Engineering practice in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.