Fire Sprinkler Systems in Commercial Buildings
When we think of a sprinkler system, we often think of an outdoor system of hydration, watering our lawns in a residential application, or watering a golf course in a commercial application. But buildings can have sprinkler systems as well. Building sprinkler systems protect against fires.
A fire sprinkler system is a water piping system in the ceiling, connected to a water supply, with adequate pressure and flowrate, onto which sprinkler heads are attached. The system discharges water through the sprinkler heads when they detect a rise in temperature adequate to suggest a fire may be present. Historically sprinkler systems were only used in factories and large commercial buildings. Today they have become affordable enough to be used in smaller buildings and even homes.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the main organization that sets the standards for fire safety including fire sprinkler system requirements. Some requirements are up to local municipalities. However, 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.
While early systems dispersed water from every head when one head was triggered, systems today only disperse water from the head/heads that detect excessive heat. This helps to minimize water damage to areas of the building not affected by fire. This was one of the primary hesitations people had about sprinkler systems. They felt they were trading fire damage for water damage. As a result, fire sprinkler systems are extensively used today.
Worldwide, over 40 million sprinkler heads are fitted each year. In buildings completely protected by fire sprinkler systems, over 96% of fires were controlled by fire sprinklers alone.