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Successful Project Management of an ESFR Sprinkler System
By Project Manager, Ahern Fire Protection
Developers continue to want to increase storage height and want more flexible warehousing options. This increasing demand for a flexible option in fire sprinklers has driven us to utilize ESFR (Early Suppression Fast Response) sprinklers in many new warehouse applications. There are two major advantages of installing ESFR sprinklers. One, they eliminate the need for in-rack sprinkler protection, which is a major cost impact in a sprinkler system. Two, they are very flexible in what commodities can be protected with a given sprinkler system if designed appropriately, which allows for new tenants to come and go within the building and not need major modifications to the system to accommodate their needs.
From a general contractor’s prospective, when going with an ESFR sprinkler application, several factors will lead to a more organized, more upfront coordination effort in order to have a successful construction project. Due to the typically larger demand for water pressure in an ESFR sprinkler system, a fire pump may be needed. This may initially add cost to the sprinkler system, but with the elimination of in-rack sprinklers, it will provide more flexibility in the future as tenants come and go. The fire pump must be separated from the rest of the building by a one- or two- hour fire-rated enclosure. Reliable power must be present, and the pump room will take up some building space for the valves and piping associated with the pump if designed into the building structure. This must be designed into the building at design time to allow the mechanical trades to design the systems appropriately.
With in-rack sprinklers, the concern for an incidental discharge of a sprinkler due to contact with a forklift during loading and unloading of racks is greater given the locations of the sprinklers in the racking system, which typically causes damage to property and storage goods which can quickly offset the additional costs of the system.
Racking design must be coordinated in advance to ensure they are placed to have draft curtains located over aisle ways if standard response sprinklers are adjacent to ESFR sprinklers. ESFR sprinklers must be separated from standard response sprinklers with a noncombustible draft curtain that is 2 feet tall. The storage configurations must not include solid shelves or combustible open-top cartons or containers in order to incorporate ESFR sprinklers.
ESFR sprinklers require more coordination efforts due to obstructions to the discharge pattern of the sprinkler. ESFR sprinklers operate under the concept of getting large water droplets to the fire plume without being broken up on the fall from the sprinkler to the fire. Therefore, structural elements to the building, HVAC ducts, conduit, cable trays, and any other mechanical elements need to be placed in strategic locations to avoid obstructing the ESFR sprinkler. This will involve every mechanical trade as well as structural and architectural representatives. Getting everyone involved at the conception of design for a meeting to discuss these items will greatly reduce the conflicts later on in the project. Follow-up meetings will be necessary to define the requirements of ESFR sprinklers to ensure locations of mechanical equipment are placed where they will meet the requirements of the applicable code.
Utilizing an ESFR sprinkler system can have a positive impact on the flexibility and usability of a particular building and reduce risk of incidental property damage. A properly coordinated and planned facility will ensure happy clients and occupants of storage buildings for years to come, and should be a consideration when developing plans for your next structure.
Inquire about ESFR sprinkler systems by contacting Ahern today.