When is a standpipe system required in new construction?
So far, we've done an overview of the types of standpipe systems and why they are important for buildings.
But when are they required?
To find out, we first have to go to the adopted building code which tells us when these systems are required, and then we would go to the standard that applies to standpipes that tell us how to install the system.
The adopted building code could be the International Building Code, NFPA 5000, NFPA 101 or NFPA 1 if that is the adopted building code. For today, take it as an example of the International Building Code 2021 edition because the IBC tends to be the most popular in the United States today.
So, International Building Code Section 905 is dedicated to standpipe systems.
Section 905.3 then elaborates on where standpipe systems are required.
Principally, there are three drivers that mandates standpipe systems for a new building.
The first is height, the second is occupancy, and the third is uniquely hazardous conditions.
Let's first talk about building height.
Under the International Building Code, standpipe systems are required throughout buildings whenever the building is four stories or more below grade, where the highest story’s floor level is more than 30 feet above the lowest level of fire department access, or where the lowest story is located more than 30 feet below the highest level of fire department access.
Why these cut offs?
It's all about fire department response to a fire. How many floors, how much distance do firefighters have to travel before they can actually reach the fire?
If the journey is too long and arduous, it is really difficult for firefighters in full gear to be carrying enough hose to get water from the truck all the way to the building into the fire. When buildings are particularly tall or particularly deep, then it becomes really important to allow firefighters to get water in these areas that are further away from their trucks.
Note that and the language of the code says it's the highest story above the lowest level of vehicle access. Here we are measuring the most conservative measurement, where a fire truck response at a lower level and has to fight a fire at the high aside of the building.
While that may seem trivial, I recently had a project that was staggered in this manner and had a steep difference in grade from one side of the building to the other, and we had to evaluate just exactly this measurement.
The second driver for requiring standpipes is occupancy. Group A occupancies with an occupant load over a thousand people that are non-sprinklered require standpipes, with open air seating being an exception.
Group A occupancies are assembly occupancies that can include banquet halls, casinos, nightclubs, restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, libraries, lecture halls, arenas, skating rinks, stadiums and other places generally where people gather in significant quantities.
Under the International Building Code and NFPA, the perspective is that the lack of sprinkler systems with a high occupancy building is a particular challenge for firefighters.
The last driver for standpipe systems being required in new buildings is uniquely hazardous conditions. Situations that need particular help for manual firefighting also require standpipes. These conditions could be large stages, underground buildings, helipads and helistops, marinas and boatyards, and even extending standpipes up onto landscaped roofs when the building already has a standpipe. One common one that I've come across with like commercial buildings is the requirement for stages. Stages can pop up in high school theaters or in churches. The difference between a stage and a platform is very tightly defined by the International Building Code, and whenever there's some kind of elevated feature, I have to be careful to check whether it meets the definition of a platform or stage. If it's a stage and it's over 1000 square feet, IBC would tell us that each side of that stage needs a hose connection.
When we're talking about the design of standpipe systems, the conversation usually ends here. There are requirements for a permanent fixed standpipe system within our building. But then there's also temporary standpipe systems that helped firefighters when a building under construction is involved in a fire.
The International Building Code Chapter 33 addresses safeguards that are required during construction. When standpipes are required for building, temporary standpipes are required for use during construction that are live and ready for firefighters during construction. They are required to be installed before the building gets up 40 feet above the fire department access and the standpipe has to rise within one floor of the highest point of connection as the building progresses. In my experience, these temporary standpipes tend to be a part of the phasing plan for construction, but I have had some jurisdictions that do require a plan that shows the temporary standpipes and its phasing.
When are standpipe systems required?
Standpipe system can be required due to height, due to occupancy, or do to uniquely hazardous conditions. in order to answer this question we first check the applicable building code, find the section on standpipes and where they are required, and check our project against those written requirements.
I'm Joe Meyer, this is MeyerFire University.
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