New 2016 Editions of NFPA 13D and 13R

In August, the NFPA Standards Council voted to issue the 2016 edition NFPA 13R Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies with an effective date of September 7. The 2016 edition of NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems was also issued effective on the same date. The 2016 edition of NFPA 13D Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes was issued on June 15, and is now available online.

In this column, the third of three columns on the new sprinkler standards, we look some of the changes to NFPA 13D and 13R. Much of the information in this column was taken from the presentation at the NFPA Conference in Chicago given by Kerry Bell of Underwriters Labs, Ken Isman, of University of Maryland; David Lowrey, of the City of Boulder Colorado; and Matt Klaus, of NFPA.

New paragraph 5.1.1.1

Added, to match NFPA 13, which requires that once a sprinkler is removed from a sprinkler system it cannot be reinstalled. There is an exception for dry sprinklers that are removed in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Paragraph 6.2.1

Revised with clarifications to 6.2.1(2) that pump motors must be wired in accordance with the NEC and 6.2.1(3) that pumps must be located not less than 1 ½ inches off the floor.

New Figure 8.2.5.3.3(b)

Added to clarify the positioning of sprinklers to avoid obstructions against walls in the case where the ceiling is sloped.

New 8.2.7

To provide relief from obstruction provisions in enclosed rooms with a volume of less than 400 cubic feet (that is cubic feet not square feet). This will especially help in small mechanical rooms containing ducts and other obstructions.

8.3.3 revision

Revises provisions for small closets to eliminate the requirement for a least dimension not more than 3 feet. Closets can be up to 24 square feet, regardless of the dimensions in order to omit sprinklers.

New 10.1.2

Added to clarify that when connection of the system is to a water supply main that is 4 inches or larger it is the static pressure that may be used in “comparison to the sprinkler system demand”. I am not sure, but I think this was added to help us understand that the water supply pressure Psup used in paragraph 10.4.9.1 Available Pressure Equation is the static pressure. Not sure I feel clarified.

New 12.3.2.1

Addresses replacement of residential sprinklers manufactured before 2003 which were used in a design to provide a density of less than 0.05 gpm/sf. If the sprinklers are no longer available a residential sprinkler with an equivalent k-factor may be used provided the coverage area is within the current listing of the replacement sprinklers. Prior to the 2002 edition of NFPA 13D densities less than 0.05 gpm/sf were permitted if the sprinkler was listed at that density.

New Figure A.6.2(a)

Added to indicate the minimum requirements for the water supply. The three figures from the previous editions are now shown as acceptable options.

New A.8.2.5

Provides guidance as to how to evaluate architectural features that may obstruct coverage by creating shadow areas. This information was previously in the 2010 edition of NFPA 13D, and was removed in the 2013.

New A.8.2.5.6

Provides guidance permitting shadow areas for corridor sidewall sprinklers.

New Figure A.9.1.1(f)

Provides an example of how piping can be tented under insulation to help prevent pipe freezing.

3.3.6 revision

The definition of Grade Plane has been revised to bring it into line with the definition of NFPA 5000. This is important for defining the number of building stories above grade.

New 5.1.1.2

Addresses replacement of residential sprinklers manufactured before 2003 and that were used in a design to provide a density of less than 0.05 gpm/sf. If the sprinklers are no longer available a residential sprinkler with an equivalent k-factor may be used provided the coverage area is within the current listing of the replacement sprinklers.

New 5.1.2.2

Matches NFPA 13 incorporating a requirement for materials and components to be compatible.

Nonmetallic Pipe Compatibility, 5.2.3.2

Revised to require a steel piping internally coating with corrosion inhibitors be listed for compatibility with nonmetallic pipe used in the system.

6.2.2 revision

Revised to consolidate all the areas outside the dwelling unit where residential sprinklers are permitted in to one location in the standard. No new changes here.

6.4.6.3.2 revision

Revised clarify that the small 400 cubic feet room provisions to provide relief from obstruction are not limited to mechanical equipment rooms and that these rooms must be enclosed.

New 6.5.4

Provides requirements for sprinkler protected glazing similar to the requirements added to NFPA 13.

6.6.3 revision

The provisions for small closets, have been revised to eliminate the requirement for a least dimension not more than 3 feet. Closets can be up to 24 square feet regardless of the dimensions in order to omit sprinklers.

6.6.6 revision

Has been revised to recognize that there are cases where elevator shafts use fire rated assemblies with combustible construction and still comply with ANSI A17.1 and not require sprinklers.

New 6.7.2.2.3

To clarify that the requirement for supervision of heat tracing systems calls for some form of attended monitoring, not simply a light indicating there is power to the circuit.

New 6.8.8

Requires a means to conduct a forward flow test of backflow prevention valves be provided.

6.9.2 revision

Revised to clarify that the required main drain need not necessarily be capable of draining all parts of the system (that AHJ in Frostbite Falls can be so literal at times). Of course, parts of the system where piping is trapped must be taken care of with auxiliary drains. New 6.9.5 and 6.9.6 have been added to address how trapped portions of dry and wet systems must be addressed.

A1.1 revision

Revised in a modest attempt to provide information and cautions to deal with the mistaken perception many building have about their NFPA 13R sprinkler systems.

See my column “Perception is Reality” in the April 2015 issue of Plumbing Engineer. The NFPA 13R committee has done a tremendous job. They have provided our community with a document that allows sprinklers to be provided for residential occupancies at the lower cost demanded by builders (primarily by not requiring sprinklers in combustible attic spaces), with the result that many lives have been saved.

The task ahead for the committee is to help these sprinkler system owners to understand the limits of their NFPA 13R system, that it may not save the building. That issue will surely be dealt with for the upcoming 2019 edition of 13R.

This concludes the series of columns on changes to the sprinkler standards. One more thing, have you noticed that the vertical change bars found in previous editions of the code are not present? 

Samuel S. Dannaway, P.E., is a registered fire protection engineer and mechanical engineer with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering. He is past president and a Fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. He is president of S. S. Dannaway Associates Inc., a 15-person fire protection engineering firm with offices in Honolulu and Guam. He can be reached via email at SDannaway@ssdafire.com.

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