Last week I introduced a new Thrust Block Calculator and explored some of the concepts around the design and function of Thrust Blocks.
Here's the new expanded thrust block calculator. With similar inputs as before, we're now able to calculate the thrust block volume required, as well as determine the height and width required for the thrust block.
Toolkit is Here
Well it's here! The MeyerFire Toolkit is past a beta version and ready for you.
To celebrate here's the latest version I've created and free access that runs through the end of September. You can download the complete Toolkit with installation instructions below:
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"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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As promised I've been busy developing all of the tools available from this site into a downloadable software package, where you can quickly run calculations, save, and print your work. I'm calling it the MeyerFire Toolkit.
Here's the info page about the MeyerFire Toolkit.
The Toolkit is a downloadable software package with an assortment of basic tools for the fire protection professional.
I have the software to a point now that I'd love to gather feedback from you - if you're interested.
If you'd like to beta test the software (try it out and poke around for free), please just reply to this email or shoot me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org letting me know you're interested. I'll send a link for a trial version of the software.
While it would be great to get a gauge on where the software is now, I'm far more interested in where it can go in the coming months and couple years. I've been very encouraged by the interest and support to date and I think what these tools are now hardly scratches the surface of what could be developed to help fire protection professionals like you work faster and smarter.
If you'd like to give it a try, all I ask is that you let me know your thoughts about it - usefulness, ways it can be improved, your level of interest - anything that might help build a better resource going forward.
See more about it all here: MeyerFire Toolkit. Thank you!
SFPE Releases 2018 Required References
This week the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) released the required references for this fall's Principles of Engineering (PE) Exam. Interestingly enough, NFPA 72 is back on the list of required references after being removed for the 2017 exam.
Changes to Weights of Topics for 201
One other important update from last year's exam is the weighting of problems overall. SFPE has adjusted the number of questions dedicated to each topic, which has been a point of focus to modernize the exam for SFPE's Professional Qualifications Committee.
The 2018 Fire Protection PE Exam incorporates changes in topic weighting to better match industry expectations.
Thoughts on Adjusted Exam Weighting
If you plan to take the exam this year, what does this mean? Not much in the big-picture. The bulk of the content is still very closely related to what was in the exam before. The weighting of the questions isn't a firm barrier but more of a loose goal for each year's exam anyways.
I believe the most noticeable difference might be the number of special hazard questions, which has been reduced by half to now make up only 5% of the exam.
Fire Protection Remains 3rd Toughest Exam for First-Timers
Of 24 different PE Exam disciplines, Fire Protection remains one of the most difficult for first-time test takers to pass.
Why is this? Primarily, it's because the Fire Protection PE Exam covers such a variety of topics (active systems, smoke control, fire dynamics fundamentals, and life safety) that any one individual is unlikely to have depth in. It can be easy to underestimate the exam when taking it for the first time.
Pass Rate for Repeat Examinees Improves
If there's reason for hope, the pass rate for repeat-test examinees was the highest in 2017 that it's been in recent years, at 48%. The interest in obtaining a Fire Protection PE has also grown, up to 266 examiness marking a 23% growth in just two years.
Weekly Exam Series Returning
The best source for extra problems and practice is also returning this summer. The Weekly Exam Series incorporates 20 weeks of 10-question, 1-hour mini exams that simulate the pace and difficulty of the actual exam. If you don't pass with this tool you'll get it free the following year.
I'm excited to add additional practice to the Weekly Exam Series this year - for no additional cost, you'll be able to take unlimited 1-hour mini exams on-demand. These mini exams are only limited by the total bank of questions, but will offer flexibility and simply far more opportunity to practice questions than available before. This new feature begins in July.
See more about the Weekly Exam Series here.
After having a difficult experience taking the PE Exam several years ago with a lack of great resources, I decided to do something about it and begin providing resources that created a better experience for examinees.
See all the resources (good and bad) I've found on the PE Tools page and free daily practice on the Daily page.
I just wanted to take a quick moment and thank you for the great response to this three day launch of the Sprinkler Database.
If you haven't checked it out already - the deal for the Sprinkler Database is here.
I look forward to continuing to create helpful tools to help you do exceptional work, and the launch of the database is one way that helps me keep those efforts going.
Have a great weekend and a Happy Easter, thank you!
We prefer wet-pipe sprinkler systems over dry-pipe systems for a handful of reasons: lower cost, no pipe slope requirements, potentially less points of drainage, can locate inspection & testing at the riser, less maintenance, testing and inspection requirements, no power needs, less noisy, and much less potential for corrosion.
However, when dry systems are needed, there's several issues to consider for the end-user.
For owners who are not associated with the intricacies of design and maintenance of dry systems, the most frequent compliant we hear about is with the noise associated with the dry system air compressors.
Dry-pipe systems are fed with pressurized air by a compressor. The compressor run-time frequency and duration is directly attributed to the amount of leakage in the system. Some people directly attribute the leakage of the system to the quality of installation due to the final tightness of fittings.
Air injected into a leaky system develops two problems. The first is increased potential for corrosion as fresh air naturally contains water moisture and oxygen, the two ingredients for corrosion. Air that feels comfortable to us offers sufficient products to encourage corrosion, and leaky systems tend to fail with corrosive issues much earlier in their lifetime.
The second issue is noise. While it sounds trivial, noise isn't for the employee whose cubicle is next to the riser room.
If leaky systems cause issues, why don't contractors prevent or fix leaky systems?
Fixing Leaky Systems
Once a system is installed and pressure tested to meet minimum standards, finding points of leakage is very tedious and time consuming. Just finding a few leaky fittings requires inspecting every joint and adjusting connection points. Needless to say, if a system isn't installed with tight fittings it becomes a very time-intensive and costly proposition to fix.
Lessening Leakage and Noise in Design
As a designer I naturally have less impact on the quality of installation than I do of the design, and there are several ways to help lessen the impact of leakage and noise.
Leakage requirements could be mandated to be leak less than prescribed code minimums. I've found this route doesn't exactly make good friends of contractors.
Noise can be reduced in a number of ways. First is to use tank-mounted air compressors in lieu of riser-mounted air compressors. Tanks act as a pressurized reserve, where they can reduce the frequency which compressors run in order to supply the system. Mounting to the tank also vibrates the tank, and not the piping network that runs through a building. Vibration on the pipe network requires absorption by the building, which contributes to higher ambient noise. The base of the tank can be isolated with vibration isolation (often rubber pads), again helping to reduce vibration transmission to the building. The downside to tank-mounted compressors is an increased cost and needs for additional floor space.
Another important consideration is where the compressor is located. Often the allotted space for risers are determined architecturally, but upfront coordination and planning to help prevent locating dry riser rooms next to normally occupied spaces can have major benefits. If the dry riser room must be near occupied spaces, consider requesting insulation within walls or acoustic panels to help absorb sound.
Quiet-Series Air Compressors
Lastly, one of my favorite products to hit the market in the last couple years offers a major solution to the noise issue. I'll start by saying I don't have any family or friends that work for General Air Products. They have not reached out to me to offer any money (although if you're out there General Air I'd be happy to share an address for a check). That disclaimer aside I really love the Q-Series (Quiet Series) General Air Compressors for fire sprinkler systems.
The Q-Series air compressor model can be tank-mounted and is significantly quieter than standard air compressors. The noise for the Q-Series have reduced noise by 20 dBA from the previous 80 dBA of standard oil-less compressors. For drywalled, carpeted rooms the effective sound from the Q-Series compressor is only slightly higher than ambient noise levels of a typical office.
The video above (by General Air) shows the difference in compressor noise. Needless to say it would be great for applications in hospitals, schools, offices, hotels, retail, nursing homes, and other areas sensitive to noise. We've found these to be a great solution to a common and intrusive issue of noise with dry risers near occupied spaces.
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.