You are on page 1of 3


Basic Design Overview (Part 2)

HIS chapter begins with the assumption that you are by
now somewhat familiar with the building plans for the
project example, and that the initial drafting (blocking out)
of the building layout is complete. Your sheet now looks
something like the example on page 140 labeled Figure A-1.
As is the typical procedure, what you have traced for areas of
exposed construction is the architects oor plan, and what
you have traced for areas with nished construction is a close
copy of the architects reected ceiling plan.
Once the building is blocked out in scale, it is time to draw
the sprinklers and system piping on the plan. This is the most
critical engineering portion of your work. It requires a com-
plete knowledge of the applicable codes, mental visualization
of the proposed building, and a recall of your own knowledge
and instincts that you attained from all your past experience
in this area.
As was touched on in the last chapter, the architectural
plans mayinclude a preliminarysprinkler plan, complete with
many legal disclaimers. It may be wise or unwise to use any
part of this plan as your own. The preliminary plan may be
an exact depiction of what the architect and building owner
desire, or it may simply be a quick drawing made to satisfy
some municipal requirement. Often, it has been prepared by
an engineer (hired by the architect) whose real area of special-
ization is his accompanying drawings (i.e., the mechanical,
electrical, civil, and/or plumbing plans). If the quality of the
preliminary sprinkler plan does not make this possibility ev-
ident, a phone call to this engineer is always worthwhile: for
only then will you nd out if his design is diagrammatic in
nature, or if you are expected to comply with his plan with
limited latitude for deviation. In many of these cases however,
the ner points in the engineers plan may be way off the mark
of conforming to the re sprinkler engineering code. If so, a
good question to ask during this phone call would be about
what, if any, requirements in excess of the NFPA Pamphlet
No. 13 requirements are being asked for.
There are projects in which systemdesign has already been
thoroughly researched, prepared, and even reviewed. When a
commercial insurance company is very involved, as with one
of their H.P.R. clients, a pre-construction meeting is held
during the planning stages of a re sprinkler system project
to allow for recognition of the hazard, understanding of the
project requirements, and providing bid specications [1].
This will take care of all the major engineering issues after the
local re prevention bureau has their say, although the level
of preconstruction document review may vary substantially
depending on location [2]. Most re prevention bureaus are
only interested in reviewing the nal shop drawings which
you will prepare.
* * *
For our purpose in this chapter, we are assuming that none
of the above preplanning activities have taken place. We will
now move on to the task of laying out the system after rst
determining the occupancy and hazard level of the building
tenant, and whether or not any chance of pipe freezing will
exist. The answer we get is that this tenant is in the business of
manufacturing thermopane glass and aluminum patio doors,
and that the facility will be heated year-round.
Since we have established that there is no reasonable
chance of future pipe rupture caused by freezing tempera-
tures, we will immediately decide to install the most reliable
system available, which is the wet-pipe automatic sprinkler
system. Speed of operation, low installation cost, and ease
of maintenance account for the fact that 75% of all sprin-
kler systems in use are of the wet-pipe type. There is no
size limitation on wet pipe systems, except that the max-
imum area protected by any one system on any one oor
of a single re section cannot exceed 52,000 square feet
[3]. Our example building in Figure A-1 is well below this
maximum limit in size, and can be protected by a single
2001 by CRC Press LLC
We are not concerned in this chapter with gridded or looped
systems, and so will utilize the only alternative left, which is
called a tree system. In this layout conguration, the water
ows from the system riser in a direction down feed-main and
cross-main piping, and nally down smaller sized branch-line
piping to the operating sprinkler. Water discharged from that
sprinkler always comes from a single direction.
In the layout phase, we rst establish where we would like
to run our cross-main piping. In all phases of sprinkler design,
bear in mind this golden rule:
Why? Because if branch-line (normally 1

) piping can-
not be routed where you show it, an installer can correct that
without much fanfare. But rerouting the big cross-main pipe
is a different matter altogether. Not only is it expensive and
time-consuming, and not only does it affect all other down-
stream piping, but it can halt the installation completely while
the installers scratch their heads and attempt to achieve an en-
gineering solution on the job. This wastes time and time is
Again, the cross-main location and elevation is the rst
thing that you lay out. The elevation must be low enough to
cross below structural beams, which usually means: lower
than the branch-lines. Naturally, the cross-main should be
hung high enough so as not to interfere with future building
operations. The system pipe elevations should be designed so
that all or most of the system can be drained when necessary
at the base of the system riser.
When steel bar-joists support the roof of the structure,
the direction of the branch-line runs are always perpendic-
ular to the joists, for ease of pipe hanging. Hence, to feed
the branch-lines, the cross-main must run parallel to the
Specically, for optimum cost efciency, the main should
be routed beneath a single joist, hung from one side of that
joist or the other.
Look at the HVAC (Mechanical) drawings
to make absolutely certain that the joist location that you
select has the least chance of obstructional interference. And
dont select a joist (obviously) that rests directly above a
column, or the pipe will be run smack into a structural column
or I-beam. In order to avoid ductwork, it may be necessary
to offset the main once, or several times, or even change
elevation. Offsets, though, shall be minimized to reduce labor
andmaterial installationcost. Varyingdepths of I-beams must
be checked (on the steel drawings),
but the highest priority
consideration must be that there is reasonable space available
for the piping to t where it is shown. This space includes
space above the pipe as well: for example, there may be space
available to run pipe below some ductwork, but then it is
economically impractical to hang the pipe.
* * *
On concealed jobs (where all piping is concealed above
a drywall or drop-ceiling), the main piping must be hung at a
low elevation, beneath all other mechanical tradework. Many
designers routinely set cross-main elevations at 7

to 9

centerline) above the highest drop-ceiling height in these
instances. This is done because it is generally observed that
the sprinkler trade, being the last of the mechanical trades to
man a job, hang their pipe on concealed jobs below all
the ductwork, storm piping, electrical cable trays, and the
like; but also that the main must lay high enough to avoid
hindrances such as ceiling speakers and recessed lighting
xtures. On tight jobs, where space available above ceiling
is at the bare minimum, it may be necessary to run the main
at an even lower elevation, being careful to route this pipe to
avoid hitting all the recessed lights.
* * *
Before you lay out your branch-lines and x their ele-
vation, you need to spot all the sprinkler-head locations.
The information youll need for this task is detailed more
thoroughly in Chapter 10, and requires knowledge of spac-
ing limitations. As previously mentioned, our example job
is of a glass-door manufacturer, an ordinary hazard occu-
pancy. The maximum head spacing for this tenant would be
130 sq. ft. The sprinklers must be positioned high enough
to fuse from a collection of heat, so factory and warehouse
sprinkler branch-line piping always run high, through the bar
joists. The pipe will run through either an A or V space
in these joists (Note Figure B-2 on page 151). To avoid run-
ning into joist bracing material, your safe bet is to space the
sprinkler lines an even number apart from one another (i.e.,

, 12

, or 14

). The spacing between sprinklers in light and

ordinary hazard occupancies is only allowable up to a 15

Once you have determined the distance frombranch-line to
branch-line, you can set the number of sprinklers on a line. In
the Figure A-2 example, the branch-lines are spaced 12

andthe sprinkler-heads are 10

apart on-center, givingyoua

coverage per sprinkler of (12


) 127 square feet. Your

distance from the sprinkler-head to a wall is not to exceed
one-half the distance between sprinklers in any direction (as
noted in NFPA #131999 ed.-5-5.3.2).
* * *
Notice that we are supplying seven sprinklers froma single
riser nipple, as opposed to six, or eight. The east half of
the building, framed by the I-beam, creates an area


) 1702 sq. ft. Since our sprinkler spacing cannot

exceed 130 sq. ft., and 1702 130 = 13.1, we know that we
will need at least fourteen automatic sprinklers to protect that
2001 by CRC Press LLC


area. Twelve sprinklers would not be enough (for
any ordinary hazard occupancy). If sixteen sprinklers were to
be designed, the heads would be spaced 9


apart, center-to-
center, giving you a coverage per sprinkler of (12

111sq. ft. But under normal circumstances a contractor would
much prefer to install fourteen sprinklers in this area rather
than sixteen, for the same reason that one would only install
one unit heater (and not two or three) in a room if just one
could adequately do the job.
* * *
To set the elevation of the piping, we need to collect the
following facts: the building in Figure A-2 has a at roof,
the underside of which is 15

high. Its bar joists are all 6

apart and 20

deep. The supporting I-beams all have a depth
of 24

We have an obligation to keep our cross-main as high as
it can reasonably be situated, to maintain clearance for the
building owner. Our main piping would be safely installed at a
centerline elevation 6

below the bottom of the solid I-beam.
This would translate to an elevation of (15



. Hanging the branch-lines to run through the center of

the bar joists is also a safe bet, so we would be inclined to
have these installed at an elevation of (15


) 14

Attention must always be given to the HVAC contractor, the
no. 1 suspect in all sprinkler installation cases of conict.
If his large airhandling equipment is to be installed on the
roof, we must be careful to avoid running sprinkler piping
below that area or areas. A basic goal of the sprinkler de-
signer is to avoid situations where eld labor must cut pre-
fabricated piping because it will not t where it is intended
to go.
Referring again to the example sketched in Figure A-2, the
re sprinkler branch-lines couldbe placed11


apart inorder
to reduce the overall sprinkler head spacing to (11


121.7 sq. ft. It may even be that this arrangement will work
well for installation, and the piping may be hung in that
fashion without eld adjustment. In fact, the only eld ad-
justment necessary for a branch-line obstruction, consisting
of steel bar-joist bracing in this case, would be to lengthen or
shorten the riser nipple (fed by the cross-main) to an eleva-
tion without obstruction for the line path. But our job is not to
take chances. Running the lines 11

apart would increase

the possibility of positioning the sprinkler within 3

of a joist
web, which is a code violation as well as a sprinkler spray
discharge interference. Making use again of the information
derived from Figure B-2, I would recommend the 12


ing to reduce your odds of running into structural members.
1. Bruce A. Edwards, Fire Sprinkler Plan Review Process, Fire
Protection Contractor, Feb. 1995, p. 13.
2. Michael A. Crowley, Meeting Hospital Fire Codes: Mission
Impossible? Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Feb. 1995, p. 57.
3. Sprinkler System Guide, Viking Fire Protection Associates In-
corporated, Hastings, Michigan, 1981, p. 10.
As a general rule, 1 1/2

to 3

fromthe centerline of the joist is the

usual spot for the pipe to hang. See Piping Methods and Details,
Chapter 13.
An installer will appreciate a note stating from which side of the
joist you intend to hang the cross-main.
The optimum location for the main piping is to cross under the
shallowest I-beam.
Such an area created by ceiling-level beams is sometimes called a
trave, or a bay.
You will never encounter a single-story building with a perfectly
at roof without pitch. This is strictly a hypothetical example.
Sprinklers may be positioned further apart only if special extended-
coverage sprinklers are used, in accordance with the manufacturers
specications for installation.
2001 by CRC Press LLC