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NFPA 13 Versus 13R

Friday, January 26, 2018
Sprinkler Head

When planning a new construction project, it is important to understand the fire sprinkler code requirements. When it comes to constructing residential facilities, knowing the difference between National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13 and 13R requirements in the early planning stages could be the difference to reducing your fire protection budget or preventing unexpected design changes. While NFPA 13R is commonly regarded as a residential code requirement, there are in fact some residential types of buildings which must be designed around NFPA 13 regulations. Ahern’s code experts are committed to sharing our knowledge with you up front.

NFPA 13 protected buildings are considered ‘fully sprinklered’ to provide both life safety and protection to the facility and its assets. This means there is fire sprinkler coverage throughout the entire building, including unoccupied spaces (attics, closets, etc.). Comparatively, NFPA 13R facilities are ‘partially sprinklered’ to provide life safety and a moderate level of building protection. In other words, NFPA 13R requirements provide for a level of protection that allows occupants to escape a building in the event of a fire. Conversely, NFPA 13 provides protection to not only get people out to safety, but also to control or extinguish the fire – saving the building and its contents.

While each facility should be reviewed individually for exact code requirements, below are some general distinctions for NFPA 13R, as well as facility classifications for each code standard.

  • NFPA 13R commonly allows for the elimination of fire protection in attics, closets, and bathrooms
  • NFPA 13R allows for a lower water discharge demand from the sprinkler system, leading to smaller pipe sizes
  • NFPA 13R allows for a shorter duration of water supply than NFPA 13. This is advantageous in situations where water storage tanks supply the sprinkler system, as a smaller tank can be used

Typical facilities for NFPA 13 or 13R designed sprinkler systems

(Note: there are exceptions to some of these facilities that may require alternative code be followed)

Commonly Use NFPA 13 CodeCommonly Use NFPA 13R Code
Hospital patient roomsHotels and motels
Nursing homes and CBRF facilitiesApartment buildings
Fraternity and sorority housesLarger single family homes*
Multi-story residential** 

*Typical single family homes are protected according to NFPA 13D
**Most states recognize NFPA 13 for buildings with more than 4 stories, and NFPA 13R for single-level through 4-story facilities

As your fire protection provider, Ahern can answer any questions on code requirements. We’re also experts at designing your system in accordance to the correct codes right off the bat to keep your projects on track.

Since 2010, 99.8% of Ahern’s fire protection designs have been approved by regulatory authorities the first time.

Contact us to learn more about code differences, to schedule a lunch ‘n learn, or to discuss your next project.

Other articles that might interest you:

Successful Project Management of an ESFR Sprinkler System

Sprinkler Systems in Mixed-Use Buildings

Should You Have a Sprinkler System in Your Home?

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