EXAMPLE: SPRINKLER REQUIREMENTS FOR BUSINESS OCCUPANCY?
Let's start with a four-story business occupancy, with a basement, under the 2021 International Building Code.
We should first check for local code amendments, but in this example let's assume there are none.
BUILDING CODE DIRECTION
The building code is only going to tell us when sprinklers are required.
It only takes one section to require sprinklers, but pay close attention to where the code says sprinklers are required.
In some cases, especially mixed-use separated buildings, sprinklers may not be required throughout the entire building.
IBC CODE PATH
Back to our four-story building.
We first go to the IBC Section 903.2 looking for a Group B Business occupancy.
We see here that Section 903.2 jumps from Group A, Assembly, to Group E, Education, occupancies.
So there is no prescriptive requirement for sprinklers in a strictly a Group B occupancy.
However, we are not done yet.
We now read through the remaining portions of Section 903.2.
BASEMENTS WITH LIMITED OPENINGS
If our basement in this building contains a story with limited openings, sprinklers could be required by Section 903.2.11.1.
If there is in occupant load of 30 or more located 55-feet or more above fire department access, based on height, then sprinklers would be required throughout the building under Section 903.2.11.3.
This is not even a highrise provision; the building could still be considered midrise and require sprinklers based on height.
CHECK CHAPTER 4 AND IFC 903.2.11.6
If neither of these situations apply, we then need to check the Table 903.2.11.6, Chapter 4 of the IBC, and Section 903.2.11.6 of the International Fire Code.
These include special occupancy requirements.
As an example – if our building contains an atrium or smoke protected seating, sprinklers may come into play.
CHECK WITH ARCHITECT
If we still are without any requirements for sprinklers, now would be time to check with the architect to be sure they are not using any benefits for a fully-sprinklered building.
Buildings without sprinklers have more conservative restrictions in many areas including of the building code, including building height, building area, number of allowable stories, egress components, fire-resistance ratings, draftstopping, and other elements.
It is not always easy to determine, just by looking at a code summary, if the architectural team is using allowances for sprinklered building.
Some code plans are clear, but not all are.
If the design depends on code allowances for a sprinklered building, then sprinklers may be needed just to support the design itself.
Confirming this with the design team would be the best way to get confirmation on the approach.
If this is part of a plan review, look for references to sprinklered buildings in the code summary portion of the documents.
To wrap up, any one code section can mandate sprinklers.
Start with local amendments, then IBC Section 903 for the occupancy,
If sprinklers are not required based on the occupancy type, check for special occupancy requirements in the rest of Section 903.2, check Chapter 4, and the special occupancy requirements out of the International Fire Code.
If none of these sections require sprinklers, check with the architect that no code allowances are being used.
If all those roads do not require sprinklers, only then would sprinklers not be required for a building.
I’m Joe Meyer, this is MeyerFire University.
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