Research that provides a foundation for the use of home fire sprinklers
NFPA Journal, November/December 2010
Over the past year and a half, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has conducted four research projects designed to provide data to support the installation of sprinklers in new single-family homes. The projects are varied and funded by different groups, but they share the Foundation’s research process, including a strong tie to users. These projects, together with studies conducted by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and others, provide a solid foundation for the continued and widespread installation of home fire sprinklers. For more information on these projects, visit nfpa.org/foundation.
Home fire sprinkler cost incentives
In this project, the Foundation’s contractor, Newport Partners, LLC, identified, characterized, and estimated the approximate value of sprinkler system incentives, including builder credits, reduced property taxes, and the ability to use narrower roads, that exist in 16 communities across the country.
The Foundation’s project technical panel, with representation from the California State Fire Marshal’s Office, National Association of Home Builders, NIST, and builders and sprinkler contractors, provided valuable input to put the study in the context of today’s home building.
Spacing requirements for sprinklers on sloped ceilings
NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, provides limited guidance to sprinkler contractors and the enforcement community on how to adjust tested and validated sprinkler spacing rules for the sloped, cathedral, and beamed ceilings commonly found in residences (pictured). The contractor, Hughes Associates, carried out a sophisticated modeling program, validated by full-scale testing, to develop an engineering approach to the spacing issue and to provide solid guidance for a range of typical ceiling configurations without the need to test each one.
Residential water meters and home fire sprinklers
When mandates for sprinkler requirements in one- and two-family dwellings are discussed at a local or state level, two common issues arise with respect to water supply: total water usage during sprinkler actuation at a fire scene in comparison with water usage by the fire service and conventional water meter performance during sprinkler system operation. The project’s contractor, Exponent, Inc., compiled data from jurisdictions around the country estimating water usage at a fire scene. These data, together with recent research from FM Global conducted for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (homefiresprinkler.org), promise to help inform the water usage issue. The second part of the program will study the performance of conventional residential water meters in maximum fire sprinkler flow scenarios to explore their capacity, friction loss characteristics, and overall performance.
Antifreeze in home fire sprinkler systems
Our research contractor, Code Consultants, Inc., with support from a committed project technical panel, conducted a two-part literature review and test program that explored the potential for hazardous conditions with a range of home fire sprinkler types, spacing, ceiling height, water flow, and ignition scenarios. To meet the emergency nature of the program, the study was conducted over a six-month period. The result is comprehensive guidance on safe thresholds for the use of common antifreeze solutions in a variety of home fire sprinkler scenarios. That guidance has already served as a firm basis for the deliberation of the NFPA Standards Council and technical committees, as well as NFPA’s fire safety alert on this issue.
Kathleen H. Almand, P.E., FSFPE, is the executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation.