While we typically have a fire sprinkler consultant on the design team for our projects, there are some key things that Architects must know about the systems that can influence design. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has a variety of requirements for different types of projects. This post specifically discusses projects with sleeping areas such as residential, healthcare, hospitality or dormitory types of buildings.
NFPA 13 is a “fully sprinkled” system where NFPA13R is a “partially sprinkled” – a watered down version of the full NFPA13, pardon the pun. Note that the fire protection industry regularly uses the term “sprinklered” which has always struck me as grammatically incorrect, so I prefer to use the term “sprinkled”. You will see both terms throughout the building industry.
The first question is: Where can NFPA13R be used?
While there are always exceptions to the rule, and you should always consult your Architect, fire protection consultant or building official, NFPA13R can typically be used in most hotels and motels, apartment buildings, townhomes and condominiums 4 stories or less, and larger single family homes (most single family homes would actually qualify for an even more reduced requirement in NFPA13D). Meanwhile, the full NFPA13 would be used in hospital resident rooms, nursing homes, dormitory style housing, and multi-story residential over 4 stories.
Why is this important? Because NFPA13 requirements can add significant cost for additional protection that is not required by NFPA13R. In a 13R building, attics, closets and bathrooms typically do not have to be sprinkled. 13R also allows for a lower level of water discharge than 13, which results in smaller pipe sizes. 13R also requires a shorter water supply duration than 13, which can reduce the need for storage or pumps.
In most cases, you can avoid sprinkling floor and roof cavity space in a 13 system if the cavities are filled (typically with insulation). This can result in significant cost savings, but there are a lot of details involved and things to look out for. Especially if you are mixing uses, like multifamily over commercial retail or office, or podium buildings with structured parking.
If you have any concerns, please contact us and we would be happy to help you with your project!