Faced with building an entire community – jobs, parks, schools and residences – from the ground up, developer Brookfield Residential took an innovative approach to address an issue that could have ended the project before it began. The selected location in Alberta, Canada, was too far from the nearest fire department to be considered safe in the case of fire. Brookfield’s solution? The new community, Livingston, became the first residential ground-up community in Calgary to install fire sprinkler systems in every home. The community had its grand opening in March.
Over 10,000 homes will be built in 10 years as a part of this community, and all the residences, as well as small occupancy commercial areas, will be sprinklered.
Setting the safety standard
Calgary is an oil hub and one of the larger cities in western Canada. While an affluent city, the area has had hard times financially, so a new development is a welcome addition.
British Columbia has its own charter and has written bylaws requiring mandatory sprinklers. Since the early 1990s, Vancouver has required all new residential buildings to have sprinkler systems. The rest of Canada, however, does not have the same laws and municipalities can’t create bylaws that override provincial laws. Any residence sprinklered outside of British Columbia is done voluntarily, or as some acceptable request in lieu of another mandate on site.
However, Livingston is the first community to voluntarily install residential fire sprinkler systems above the minimum building code. The builders are not receiving any incentives, but recognized a trend in the industry and want to be ahead of the curve. In doing so, they establish themselves as experts in the field and recognize the added value for the community and buyers.
“There’s no real financial incentive,” said Sean Pearce, a consultant working with builders Brookfield Residential on the project. “I think the hope is that we start to adopt the models that the United States has enacted, but are not yet in place in Canada.”
Jessie Seymour, Sr., Manager of Strategic Marketing of Brookfield Residential, considers the fire sprinklers to be an investment in safety. “For the homebuyer, it is a testament that our focus is on safety within the community. We believe that this will eventually, and hopefully, become the standard in Calgary.
“This pilot project in Livingston adds an extra layer of safety,” she said. “This is an investment in safety.”
Saving lives and property
In 2013, a study was conducted by Fire Chief Len Garis and Dr. Joseph Clare at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbosford, British Columbia, to study the impact of sprinklers on life safety and fire spreading. It was found that, in the time studied (October 2006-October 2011), 91.3 percent of the 9,481 residential fires occurred in buildings without sprinklers in British Columbia. These fires were responsible for 99.3 percent of the deaths that occurred and 94.1 percent of the injuries.
The same study also found that the death rate per 1,000 fires increased by 13.7 times in the absence of fire sprinklers.
Edwards has said that Livingston will include more than 11,000 homes in seven neighborhoods, 12 parks, six schools, 20 percent open space and an anticipated 1 million square feet of commercial and institutional space, providing more than 7,000 jobs. Brookfield Residential is responsible for the townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes with rear detached garages.
Sprinklers cut the risk of dying in a home fire by 80 percent, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Home fire sprinklers also protect firefighters, maintain structural stability and prevent flashover, allowing fire crews to conduct search-and-rescue operations and attack the fire. Sprinklers save property as well as lives, reducing the average property loss per home by about 70 percent in a fire.
According to a Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation, it costs about $1.35 per sprinklered square foot to install a fire sprinkler system. For the average 2,600-square-foot house, that comes to about $3,500 – less than carpet upgrades and whirlpool baths.
An affordable solution
In order to affordably and safely install the necessary sprinklers, the builders purchased BlazeMaster® Fire Sprinkler Systems, which exceed global performance and manufacturing standards for CPVC fire sprinkler systems, making it the most specified nonmetallic option in the world. BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems are listed for use in light hazard applications. BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems are immune to pitting and corrosion, have excellent flame and smoke characteristics and lower installation costs than metallic systems.
“Having reviewed much of the installation, working with people at NFSA and AFSA, and understanding the different ins and outs of residential sprinklers, using licensed sprinkler fitters became a priority to make sure it was done properly,” said Pearce. “BlazeMaster is the best alternative to get the quality of installation we wanted; there really were no other options,” he said. “Steel is too expensive and time consuming. BlazeMaster can be installed faster than steel, lowering the cost of installation, which is critical when you are looking at residential sprinklers.”