When are Fire Sprinkler Systems Required?

Dec 10, 2019 | Sprinkler Systems

A primary concern of commercial building owners is protecting against fires. Fire not only endangers your tenants, employees, or customers, but also puts your property, merchandise, equipment, and livelihood at risk. Fire sprinkler systems are one of the first lines of defense against fires because they provide a necessary level of safety for people and property. Fire sprinkler systems activate in the presence of high temperatures by releasing water where the temperature increase occurred. Although a fire might have already started by the time a fire sprinkler system is activated, they prevent the fire from spreading and give enough time for people to evacuate the building. For these reasons, fire sprinkler systems are now mandatory in certain buildings. Keep reading to better understand why and in what cases you are required to install a fire sprinkler system.

fire sprinkler systems required

What Regulatory Body Mandates Sprinkler System?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the main organization that sets the standards for fire safety including fire sprinkler system requirements. The U.S. Congress passed the Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990 which stipulates hotels and motels that accept government funds must meet fire safety requirements. However, the majority of rules about fire sprinkler systems come from local jurisdictions and municipalities. Check your local fire codes to understand the fire sprinkler system requirements.

When did Fire Sprinklers Become Mandatory?

The backbone of fire sprinkler regulations that are now known as NFPA 13 goes back to the late 1800s when a group of professionals gathered to discuss fire in New York City. NFPA 13 covers fire sprinkler installation and provides owners and managers a set of standards to meet fire safety requirements. These sets of standards are updating, especially in residential settings.
In 2006, the NFPA added a requirement that all newly constructed one and two-family homes must include fire sprinkler systems and this has been retained in subsequent standards. Some states have also passed this requirement into law, while others, including PA, have passed laws prohibiting a statewide mandate of fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed one and two-family homes. On October 1, 2018, however, Pennsylvania transitioned to the 2015 series of International Code Council (ICC) building codes with the exception of Philadelphia. Moving forward, fire sprinkler requirements for single-family detached homes and semi-detached homes were still exempt from the requirements. Additionally, local jurisdictions are prohibited from enacting ordinances that require the aforementioned homes to install sprinkler systems. New townhomes, however, require fire sprinkler systems to be installed.

What size Building Requires a Sprinkler System?

According to NFPA 13, all newly constructed commercial buildings that are 5,000 square feet or larger are required to have fire sprinkler systems. In addition, any remodels that add square feet to an existing commercial building so that its footprint is 12,000 square feet or more mandates installation of a fire sprinkler system. NFPA also states that any townhomes with more than two units per building require an automatic fire sprinkler system. The sprinkler system should be designed to meet NFPA 12-R requirements which include coverage of garages, balconies, and breezeways. Buildings more than 55 feet tall are also required to have an automatic fire sprinkler system installed.

Who can help Install Fire Sprinkler Systems?

Only a qualified professional with the help of local authorities should install a fire sprinkler system. You want to ensure your fire sprinkler system is not only the right kind of sprinkler system for your property but that it is also designed and installed to provide the most coverage possible. Keystone Fire Protection Co. has NICET certified fire sprinkler system designers and technicians who are experts in best practices and procedures of installing fire sprinkler systems. When installing a fire sprinkler system, our expert engineers develop a layout and work with the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) or Fire Marshal to guarantee the system meets local codes. Keystone Fire Protection Co. is a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors and the American Fire Sprinkler Association. Contact Keystone today to learn more about designing and installing fire sprinkler systems.


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