Exterior Fire Suppression Systems for Balconies

EVstudio is currently working on a project in the Lo-Hi neighborhood of Denver that will add 300 rental units along with retail and parking within walking distance of downtown.
All of the rental units will have a balcony with a wood deck to fit the character of the neighborhood and to add to the marketability and amenities offered by the complex.

Since this is a large multi-family project using wood decks, the IBC calls out the following information:

“IBC 2009 – 1406.3: Balconies at Type III and V construction are permitted to be of Type V construction and not required to have a fire resistance rating where sprinkler protection is extended to these areas.”

Wall_SprinklerAs Denver is in a climate zone that can experience rapid and multiple freeze/thaw cycles and because it is always a bad idea to expose any piping containing water to freezing temperatures, there are some considerations that must be taken into account for exterior fire sprinklers.

There are two primary sprinkler types that are typically used in construction; wet and dry. Both systems use a fusible link (a piece of material that melts at varying temperatures) to open the sprinkler head. Wet systems immediately release water, but are prone to freezing. Dry systems use pressurized air to fill the system and as soon as the fusible link is melted, the pressurized air is released from the system and water is usually available to the sprinkler head within about 60 seconds. Dry systems are only used when absolutely necessary because of their higher installation and maintenance costs along with the fact that the whole system has to be dried out if it is ever triggered.

For these reasons, there is a hybrid fire sprinkler head that can penetrate through the side of a building or residence that is “dry” or insulated for the exterior portion, but can connect to a wet sprinkler system located in the building interior. This offers the advantage of the lower cost of a wet system while avoiding the risk of freezing.


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