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Standpipe Systems – What You Need to Know

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The requirements for standpipe systems are contained in the adopted building code and the installation requirements are contained within the referenced edition of NFPA 14, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems. There is often disagreement between the responsible design professional, the fire protection contractor, and the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) on the proper design and installation of the system. Continue reading to find out when standpipes are required.

Requirements for Installation

During the design of a building, two questions must be answered to determine the requirements for a standpipe system:

  1. Is a standpipe system required to be installed in the building?
  2. What are the installation requirements?

The requirements for a building standpipe system are contained within the adopted building code for each jurisdiction. In the majority of states and cities within the US, the adopted building code will be an edition of the International Building Code (IBC), which may be adopted in full or adopted with modifications and then becomes the state or city building code. In Nebraska, the current referenced code is the 2012 edition of the IBC, (See State Amendments). The current adopted edition of the IBC is 2012; therefore all further references to the IBC will be to the 2012 edition.

The majority of installation requirements for a building standpipe system will be contained in NFPA 14 as referenced by the IBC. Chapter 35 of the IBC contains the applicable version of standards referenced within the text of the IBC. In the 2012 IBC the applicable version of NFPA 14 is the 2010 edition. All further references to NFPA 14 in this summary will be to the 2010 edition.

When is a Standpipe System required for a structure?

The pertinent section of the IBC is 905.3, “Required Installations.” Most standpipe systems are installed due to the requirement under Section 905.3.1, “Height.” It requires a Class III standpipe to be installed throughout buildings where the floor level of the highest story is located more than 30 ft. above the lowest level of fire department access, or where the lowest floor level is located more than 30 ft. below the highest level of fire department vehicle access.

The fire department apparatus access level is defined as the fire department apparatus's actual location relative to the building, not the access level for the fire department personnel entering the building.

Other uses for which the IBC requires a standpipe system are:

  • A building that has an assembly occupancy with an occupant load exceeding 1,000
  • Covered and open mall buildings
  • Buildings that contain a stage greater than 1,000 ft. 2
  • Underground buildings
  • Buildings with a helistop and heliports
  • Marinas and boatyards
  • Rooftop gardens and landscaped roofs

If the building does not meet any of the eight criteria listed above, a standpipe system is not required by the IBC. 

Local jurisdiction can require, wall hydrants or additional hose stations outside buildings that may be hard to reach with underground fire hydrants, due to land layout, or accessibility concerns on site.

Contact Ahern for more information on standpipe requirements. Click here to see the different classes of standpipe systems.