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Performance Based Fire Testing: Changing Storage Needs

The model fire codes are generally relied upon to provide the requirements for the protection of buildings. For warehouses and manufacturing, typically this protection requirement is based on the use of fire sprinkler protection and the required sprinkler design criteria is based on a specific hazard in a specific storage configuration. However, what do you do when a facility is considering utilizing new or more operationally efficient building components or merchandise fixture solutions that are not even considered in the code? How do you protect the facility so that you know that the result will maintain a safe and protected environment? Utilizing full-scale testing Telgian Engineering & Consulting, LLC (TEC) can develop proper and cost-effective protection solutions that will answer the requirements of the ever changing storage needs in today’s warehouse.

The Challenge

A major national retailer with facilities throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico presented existing facilities containing storage of Level 3 aerosol products on display for consumer purchase. The Client desired to utilize a new flow-through type display that would provide a better customer experience and allow for increased amount of product on display. The display would be installed in an existing standard double row rack configuration with the flow-through display fixture up to seven feet high and back storage to twenty feet. The existing rack areas are designed for a combination of Group A plastics and aerosol storage.

The Client indicated a desire to provide protection adequate for the commodities without increasing the water demand or interrupting the display feature. TEC’s detailed analysis of the existing sites indicated that they could not meet current prescriptive codes without modification to the display feature—that would defeat the purpose of the merchandising effort.

The Goal

Provide protection for aerosol products and Group A plastics in desired display and storage configurations while minimizing capital cost, disruption to existing facility, and modification of the display feature. Desired solution must be able to be implemented with existing system constraints (existing sprinkler head spacing / existing system fire flow) and provide flexibility in operations to allow continued protection of facility.

Telgian Engineering & Consulting, Performance Based Fire Testing: Changing Storage Needs

The Solution

Partnering with Underwriter Laboratories (UL), the unique challenges of the Client were examined. These included limiting water demand and limiting sprinkler renovation requirements while connecting to existing in-rack piping. Numerous sprinklers were evaluated for application rates and spray patterns. Consideration of the sprinkler discharge pattern, physical configuration of thread, pressure impact on distribution throughout pressure range, and other factors were considered. These considerations were also balanced with known existing system capabilities based on hydraulic calculations performed by TEC in order to ensure that a proposed solution could be implemented with desired results. The goal of the preliminary analysis, modeling, and testing was accomplished: prior to full-scale testing, a proposed solution was identified for the Client. At UL’s full-scale test facility in Northbrook, IL, multiple full-scale tests were conducted to examine options developed for protection of the Client facilities. The test program included evaluation of various approaches and impacts to the facility so the Owner could evaluate final options. At the conclusion of the testing, multiple options were proven as effective for the protection of the Client’s storage configurations that did not require the complete replacement of the existing systems.

Telgian Engineering & Consulting, Performance Based Fire Testing: Changing Storage Needs

The Outcome

Based on the performance based fire testing completed at UL, a cost-effective and proven protection option was developed for our Client for the protection of Level 3 aerosols and Group A plastics in existing facilities while maintaining the integrity of the desired merchandising approach. Depending on the specifics of the site, the implementation of the new criteria could be as minimal as a change of the removing existing face and flue sprinklers and installing two new sprinklers above the display. The performance-based solution, as compared to the prescriptive-based approach resulted in the following:

• Saved over 30% of the estimated construction cost

• Decreased in-facility construction time/disruption from up to eight weeks to one week

• Developed solutions for operational needs including solid shelving, increased storage height, and reducing potential for accidental sprinkler discharge

• Provided repeatable, proven, and conclusive fire test results that demonstrated the facility was properly protected

Based on the full-scale fire test program conducted at UL, and the engineering/analysis support provided by TEC, the Client is able to implement a cost-effective retrofit program in their existing facilities to properly protect the new flow-through storage racking as part of their ongoing risk management program. The Client achieved their goal and Client objectives were met.

About Telgian Engineering & Consulting, LLC

Telgian Engineering & Consulting LLC (TEC) is a full-service global engineering and risk mitigation consultancy which specializes in complex, multi-discipline public and private sector projects. TEC provides professional services related to the protection of people, property, information, and organizational mission against preventable losses.

TEC is a provider of strategic/enterprise risk management, fire protection engineering, emergency management, operations continuity consulting, environmental health and safety, and construction administration services. Our professionals are dedicated to delivering value through effective protection solutions that meet today’s risk challenges. In addition to a uniquely global perspective, we also provide in-depth knowledge of local, state, and federal compliance matters. Since 1985, Telgian has worked hand-in-hand with clients such as architects, engineers, owners, developers, risk and facility management firms, construction teams and government agencies. 

For teaming opportunities or information regarding performance based fire testing, full-scale fire testing or retrofit of existing buildings, as well as a wide range of engineering and risk mitigation solutions, contact Telgian Engineering & Consulting at TEC@telgian.com. or give us a call at 1.302.300.1400.

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