When can I Use NFPA 13D?
NFPA 13D is the Standard for The Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- And Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.
There are two limits that affect when we can use NFPA 13D.
The first is in the applicable building code, which guides us to the standard that is appropriate for our structure.
The second is the limits that are defined within NFPA 13D itself.
So, the first is the building code, the second is NFPA 13D.
If we go under the building code, today as an example using the International Building Code 2021 Edition, we would first go to Chapter 9 for Fire Protection, then Section 903.2 for automatic sprinkler systems and where they’re required, and look up the applicable standard based on our building’s occupancy type.
In the 2021 Edition of the International Building Code, only a Group R-3 occupancy, a Group R-4 Condition 1 occupancy, and a care facility with five or fewer individuals in a single family dwelling, would be allowed to use an NFPA 13D system.
Now this section 903.2 doesn't explicitly say NFPA 13D, but it does refer to another section of the International Building Code which is section 903.3.1.3, which lists NFPA 13D specifically.
So what is an R-3 and R-4 occupancy?
These occupancies are defined in Chapter 3 of the International Building Code.
A Residential Group R-3 occupancy is one that is not otherwise classified as R-1, R-2, or R-4, and is a building that qualifies as: not having more than two dwelling units, is a care facility with five or fewer persons, is a non-transient congregate living facility with 16 or fewer occupants including boarding houses, convents, dormitories, fraternities and sororities, or monasteries, transient congregate living facilities like a boarding house with ten or fewer occupants, or lodging house for transient occupants with five or fewer guest rooms and 10 or fewer occupants.
Well that’s a long list of limitations.
What about Residential Group R-4?
A Residential Group R-4 occupancy includes more group home settings that have more than five but less than 16 persons in a supervised environment. Think alcohol and drug rehab centers, assisted living, congregate care facilities group homes halfway houses or rehab facilities, like social rehab facilities. R-4 Occupancies are broken out into Condition 1 and Condition 2. Only Condition 1 can have an NFPA 13D system. That’s in the International Building Code. Condition 1 means that all people receiving care are capable of responding to an emergency and evacuating the building without any help. If someone requires care to evacuate the building, in other words, then an NFPA 13D system would not be allowed.
OK that's a lot of information, but what about my project?
The key here is to find the appropriate occupancy type for your building and follow the code path under which system type is required for your specific occupancy.
That is the first step in determining whether we can apply NFPA 13D to our project. The second step is making sure that we fall within the limits of NFPA 13D itself.
So, if we’re in International Building Code, Chapter 9, look at our occupancy, see what standard is required for our occupancy.
Once we’re under NFPA 13D, personally, I think the NFPA 13D committee was somewhat intentional in the title of the standard here to reaffirm its intent.
NFPA 13D in the administration chapter (which is Chapter 1) in the scope section talks about the standard only covering sprinkler systems in one- and two- family dwellings and manufactured homes and townhouses. The intent is to prevent flashover within the room where the fire starts (when that room is actually sprinklered) and improve the chance for occupants to escape the structure.
The big key for this chapter is the term “one and two family dwellings”. That means that no more than two family units. This includes buildings which are used rented leased let or hired out to be occupied. This excludes motels and hotels apartments and other residential occupancies where there are three or more dwelling units. If a townhouse is not properly separated with fire resistance rated construction so that a townhouse has three or more dwelling units within the building, then it would not be able to use NFPA 13D.
So why the limitations?
NFPA 13D is the least restrictive standard for sprinkler systems that exist in the NFPA catalog. The intent overall is to make sprinkler systems as affordable and accessible as possible so that we as an industry can begin to fight the major issue that is residential fires. Historically, the United States specifically has done a great job of reducing the overall fire deaths per capita as we more commonly build sprinklered buildings today than we ever have throughout our history. However, the remaining biggest challenge for loss of life is residential fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, between 2017 and 2019, 77% of civilian fire deaths were in residential buildings. If we are going to address the fire problem, then we will need to address protection of residential structures.
Is my project, if we go to NFPA 13R or NFPA 13, does that mean that we are now more dramatically expensive?
In my experience, probably not. NFPA 13R is not a total deal breaker for residential buildings because it also has a lot of allowances and omitted areas that help reduce the cost of the installation overall.
NFPA 13D is simply a standard that is built to help give us time to evacuate a one or two family home with the most economical approach possible.
If our project doesn’t fall within the allowances of our applicable building code or the scope of NFPA 13D, then our sprinkler system would be looking at an NFPA 13R or NFPA 13 standard.
I'm Joe Meyer, this is MeyerFire University.
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