WHEN IS A FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEM REQUIRED?
SOURCES FOR REQUIREMENT:
A fire sprinkler system can be required by several different parties. The first is the building or fire code.
A code, as opposed to a standard, determines when a system is required. A standard later-on determines how something is to be designed and installed.
INTERNATIONAL BUILDING CODE
The International Building Code, or IBC, is the most common model building code in the United States.
The IBC determines fire sprinkler requirements based on the occupancy type, occupant load, size of the building, and special hazards.
Each different occupancy type will have different requirements for determining when a fire sprinkler system is required.
To determine when a sprinkler system is required for a building, we first determine which building code is applicable.
FINDING THE APPROPRIATE BUILDING CODE
In the US, building codes can be adopted at a state or municipal level. In most cases, searching online to the local jurisdiction can determine which building code applies.
It is important to check here before we get too deep in our code hunt, to look at local code amendments. Sometimes jurisdictions will require sprinklers above the model building codes, and would be the enforceable party.
If the building is existing, then the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) would apply. See a link below for a breakout on when sprinklers are required during alterations and renovations.
We then need to determine what occupancy the building is. This often is listed on code plans, life safety summaries, or the front of architectural plans. If design is not that far along, we go to chapter three of the International Building Code and find the occupancy that best fits the building.
If there are multiple occupancies for the building, this would be a mixed use occupancy. Mixed-use occupancies carry special requirements and we will get into more detail about that later. See the links below for those videos.
Once we know the occupancy type and the building code, we go to section 903.2 and look up the thresholds for requiring a fire sprinkler system that applied to our building.
If our occupancy does not require sprinklers in section 903.2, we still must check for special occupancy requirements. Both the IBC and IFC have special occupancy requirements for hazards such as airports, covered malls, high-rise buildings, high hazard storage content, underground buildings, or a host of other special situations. The end of section 903.2 and chapter four of the International Building Code address these special occupancy situations.
USING SPRINKLERS FOR CODE KICKBACKS
Use of sprinklers provides relief in other areas of the building code. If the architect uses code allowances for a fully-sprinklered building, then sprinklers could be needed just to use those code allowances.
If the building code does not require a fire sprinkler system, the building owners insurance carrier might. Insurance carriers such as factory mutual, or FM global, may require sprinklers where building codes do not. Building owners may also benefit from lower insurance premiums when sprinklers are protecting their buildings.
OWNERS MAY JUST WANT SPRINKLERS
Lastly, a building owner may just want sprinklers in their building. We know that sprinklers provide life safety as well as property protection benefits and can simply be a good idea. Just because sprinklers may not be required, does not necessarily mean they should not be avoided on a project.
We have a cheatsheet for the model International Building Code in the links below that breakout sprinkler requirements across different occupancy types. See the links below for detail.
Catch you on the next video this is MeyerFire University.
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