The Fire Protection Research Foundation releases report on water consumption for fires

Published on April 3, 2012
 
Study finds less water used in sprinklered properties versus unsprinklered

April 3, 2012 – The amount of water used during a fire when a building has a sprinkler system is less than that of an unsprinklered building, according to “Fire Flow Water Consumption in Sprinklered and Unsprinklered Buildings: An Assessment of Community Impact,” a new report released by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. As the adoptions of residential sprinkler ordinances continue to increase across the country, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) commissioned this report to assess community impacts related to water consumption. 

Water authorities have introduced strategies over the past three decades to recover costs for water consumed in sprinklered buildings. These fees are typically not related to the actual sprinkler flow, but address the fact that these flows are not metered and therefore not accounted for in conventional cost recovery systems. Fires that occur in unsprinklered properties that utilize water from hydrants, which are not metered, are typically not subject to fees. 

As a result, the study found that an owner of an unsprinklered building received the full benefit of unlimited water through the public water system during a fire without an increased cost, while the owner of a sprinklered building pays for the water used for commissioning, inspection, testing and maintenance (CITM) of the sprinkler system.

“As the number of sprinklered buildings increases over time in communities, we must make sure that that the incentives for providing built-in fire protection aren’t offset by financial disincentives from water distribution fees – a fire in an adequately sprinklered building will always result in a more efficient use of water resources compared to a fire in a similar unsprinklered building,” said Gary Keith, vice president of field operations and education for NFPA. “It’s our hope that fire departments and water authorities will use this report as a basis for reviewing the policies in their own jurisdictions.”

The report considered standard estimates of the amount of water expected to be used in seven building types with and without automatic sprinkler protection during a fire condition, and also estimated the water used per year for CITM of buildings with systems for each building type. The building types are:

  • Residential, One- and Two- Family Dwelling
  • Residential, Up to and Including Four Stories in Height
  • Business
  • Assembly
  • Institutional
  • Mercantile
  • Storage

Fire water flow requirements for buildings in the United States are typically based on model codes and standards published by NFPA (including NFPA 1, NFPA 13, NFPA 13D, NFPA 13R, NFPA 25) or the International Code Council (ICC) as well as guidance from the Insurance Services Office (ISO).

More information about home fire sprinklers and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative®:  Bringing Safety Home project can be found on the NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.

About the Fire Protection Research Foundation
The Fire Protection Research Foundation plans, manages, and communicates research on a broad range of fire safety issues in collaboration with scientists and laboratories around the world. The Foundation is an affiliate of NFPA.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

rssimage Subscribe to NFPA RSS News feeds

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275 

Bottom blue line

Free access     NEC    Sparky the Fire Dog       NFPA Conference & Expo       NFPA Journal       Sprinklers       Wildland fires      Journal Buyer's' Guide   NEC Buyers' Guide