High-Performance Material Helps Facilities Meet Latest Life Safety Codes & Ordinances
The popularity of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) fire sprinkler systems has been growing steadily in both residential and commercial applications. In 1984, BFGoodrich brought to market the first CPVC fire sprinkler pipe and fittings under the BlazeMaster brand name.Nowhere is the preference for this system seen to be more prevalent, than in retrofit situations.
Each year in the U.S. numerous commercial facilities are being challenged to complete fire sprinkler retrofits, not only as part of general renovation initiatives, but also to meet stricter codes and ordinances that now mandate the installation of life-saving fire sprinkler systems. In Chicago, for example, a city that prides itself on its life safety policies, a new ordinance (Sprinkler Installation Ordinance 13-196-205) mandates all pre-1975 commercial high-rise buildings not landmarked to install full sprinkler systems by January 2017. That’s just one market.
Across the country, all nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid must be fully sprinklered. That requirement, which was initially published in 2008 with a five-year phase-in period, went into effect in late 2013. Yet another market change worth noting is the rise in multi-family units. Major newspapers and trade journals have documented over the past two years an increased frequency in vacant downtown office buildings in major metropolitan areas being converted into residential space. This repurposing of existing buildings not only supports changing lifestyle trends, but is also creating demand for more fire sprinkler retrofits.
Complying with the latest life safety regulations can be a real challenge in terms of costs and logistics, especially for existing buildings with occupants. In earlier times, a major fire sprinkler retrofit could have forced an entire building or, at minimum, a floor or wing to shut down during installation of a fire sprinkler system. BlazeMaster pipe and fittings, however, make retrofits more efficient from both a cost and time standpoint.
Recent focus groups conducted by The Lubrizol Corporation with fire sprinkler contractors confirm a strong preference for using CPVC pipe and fittings for retrofits in a wide array of light hazard applications, such as hotels, high-rise apartments/condos, hospitals, college dorms, and various retail or mixed-use projects.
Why? Because they are simply easier and more cost-effective to use.
The BlazeMaster Advantage
CPVC fire sprinkler pipe and fittings are faster and easier to install than steel pipe. The material, which is UL Listed for Light Hazard applications as defined in NFPA 13, 13R and 13D, is lightweight—often weighing only one-sixth that of a comparable steel pipe (depending on pipe diameter). That makes it easier to move on the jobsite and even allows for sidewall installations, when appropriate. While still considered a rigid material, BlazeMaster pipe and fittings also offer greater flexibility than steel, making it easier to thread through existing ceilings and tight spaces typical of many retrofits. Older buildings, in particular, offer the additional challenge of needing to work around decorative ceilings and soffits, so the flexibility of CPVC is a real benefit.
The solvent cement joining system used to install a CPVC fire sprinkler system offers another major advantage. It’s fast, quiet, clean and simple, requiring only simple hand tools and eliminating the need for heavy equipment, oils and welding torches that can create fire risks. Yet, it’s highly reliable, creating a permanent chemical bond that is actually stronger than the pipe or fitting alone. On-site changes can also be quickly and easily accommodated by cutting pipe right on site without the need for offsite pre-fabrication which is required for most steel system installations. This helps minimize delays when unanticipated obstacles are encountered within the building.
As a result of the speed of installation, retrofits can be completed in a fraction of the time required for a steel system installation. Exact time savings depends on the size, complexity and configuration of the project. With little noise or mess, many retrofits have been completed with residents still in the building. In the case of a college dorm, for example, students continue to live and study in the adjacent room while a retrofit is underway next door. That translates into increased occupancy rates and fewer displacement costs and headaches for the building owner.
Total project cost is always going to be a consideration whether it’s new construction or a retrofit being considered. This is yet another area where a BlazeMaster fire sprinkler system offers a clear advantage.
First there is the time savings which directly translates into a cost savings. Depending on the type of project, contractors have documented a 20% to 30% labor savings when using CPVC pipe and fittings.
BlazeMaster material costs are often also more competitive than steel and certainly more stable. Additional savings can be recognized with the ability to downsize pipe sizes. Since CPVC offers superior hydraulics over steel throughout the life of the system, smaller pipe can often be specified to achieve the same flow rate.
Most important from a cost, as well as a reliability, standpoint is the fact that CPVC will never corrode and is immune to Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC). That helps to ensure the long-term reliability of the system and results in significant cost savings since piping systems will not fail (nor need to be replaced) prematurely as the result of corrosion, a common cause of steel system failures. CPVC sprinkler pipe, in fact, is designed for a 50+-year service life with a safety factor of two per ASTM test criteria.
Sustainability is yet another area receiving more focus in our environmentally conscious society. Again, CPVC receives high marks as evidenced by an ISO-compliant, peer-reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) commissioned by Lubrizol and conducted on BlazeMaster CPVC fire sprinkler pipe and fittings. The LCA proved that the BlazeMaster pipe and fittings outperform comparative steel systems in 12 of 13 environmental impact categories. Most notable is the fact that BlazeMaster systems have half the climate change impact as steel systems.
Fire sprinkler retrofits are a necessary, although often dreaded, reality for nearly every commercial application. Additional codes and ordinances can be expected in the future as life safety is becoming a recognized priority by governing bodies at all levels. Fortunately, CPVC provides a reliable, convenient and cost-effective solution for contractors, facility managers and building owners in a large array of light hazard applications.
Knurek is marketing manager for BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems of The Lubrizol Corporation.