Buildings are designed and constructed per a static set of plans, but what is within the walls does not always remain the same over the life of a building. Product lines, manufacturing methods, storage arrays, and packaging methods can all change in order to meet demand. These changes can either occur overnight—such as the change of bread trays from metal to nesting plastic in a bakery—or over time— such as subtle changes in product makeup or packaging in a manufacturing facility. However, the impact of these changes on the demand of the fire systems can be significant, and impacts the entire product distribution channel, from manufacturing, to warehousing, to distribution, including retail.
Unfortunately, the requirements that protect the new hazards per prescriptive Code can quite often require the complete replacement of the fire sprinkler system in an operating facility. In addition, the increase of fire flow demand at a site may necessitate the addition of a water storage tank and/or fire pump. This significant cost associated with protection of an “existing operation” that has operated for “many years” quite often leads to complacency with protection until a major event occurs, or the Client decides to provide the protection appropriate to the hazard.
Client presented existing facilities containing storage of various consumer goods in both low storage (up to 12 ft.) and high storage (20 ft.) arrays. The existing 12 ft. storage areas are designed for Ordinary Hazard Group II protection on 130 sq. ft. maximum spacing. High storage areas are designed for up to Class IV commodity on maximum 100 sq. ft. spacing. Client indicated desire to provide protection adequate for Group A plastic protection.
Telgian Engineering & Consulting, LLC (TEC)’s detailed analysis of the existing sites indicated that the existing sites cannot meet current prescriptive code for Group A plastics due to over spacing of existing systems (OH2 areas) and limited ability to hydraulically reinforce due to existing sizing of branch lines, mains, risers, and fire water supply loop/lead-ins.
Provide protection for Group A plastics in desired storage configurations, while minimizing capital cost, disruption to existing facility, and addition of fire pumps/water storage tanks. The 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.
Partnering with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and a major sprinkler manufacturer, the unique challenges of the Client were examined. These included low clearance in storage areas (18 inches), existing small pipe diameter systems, limited water supply based on previous classification as Class IV commodity, and existing outlet sizes of ½ inch and ¾ inch. Numerous water delivery testings were conducted, in order to identify the best sprinkler head for the application. 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, numerous full-scale fire 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, numerous 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.
Based on the testing completed at UL, a cost-effective and proven fire protection option was developed for the Client for the protection of Group A plastics in existing facilities designed for Class I-IV commodities. Depending on the specifics of the s
ite, the implementation of the new criteria could be as minimal as a change of the existing heads to a new head type. Where additional work is required, this may be the addition or up-sizing of limited mains or if less impact is desired, addition of a fire pump. The performance-based fire protection solution as compared to the prescriptive-based approach resulted in the following:
• Saved over 50% of the estimated construction cost
• Decreased in-facility construction time disruption from up to four to six month retrofit to one month or less
• Developed solutions for operational needs such as aisle storage, solid shelving, and variability in flue use
• 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, as part of their ongoing risk management program and Client objectives were met.
About Telgian Engineering & Consulting, LLC
Telgian Engineering & Consulting is a full-service global engineering and risk mitigation consulting firm specializing in complex, multi-discipline public and private sector projects. We provide professional services related to the protection of people, property, information, and organizational mission against preventable losses.
Telgian is a provider of strategic / enterprise risk management, fire protection engineering, environmental health and safety, emergency management, operations continuity consulting, 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 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.