A little background information
When fire protection systems are adequately designed according to the risk of fire, they play an important role in keeping occupants and property safe. They can also act as a fire detection system and speed up the evacuation of a building or the firefighting process.
Automatic sprinklers are one example of a fire protection system that is required by the National Building Code and the National Fire Code of Canada in certain situations. They have been tested many times by organizations and fire services to show how useful they are in keeping both occupants and property safe in the event of a fire.
Know the applicable requirements
Building architects must take into account the installation of an automatic sprinkler system when the characteristics of a building, based on its usage and dimensions, are relatively important. Subsection 3.2.2 of the NBC guides building architects in determining whether or not they are required to install automatic sprinklers.
However, determining whether an automatic sprinkler system must be installed requires more than simply referring to subsection 3.2.2 of the NBC. Several regulatory provisions can require or encourage the installation of automatic sprinklers when designing a building. These provisions pertain to the:
- construction materials and type of construction;
- construction of exterior walls;
- dimensions and types of openings in fire separations;
- construction of concealed spaces;
- dimensions of the building in relation to its usages;
- limiting distances and compartments;
- interconnected floor spaces;
- room dimensions and distances required to reach the nearest exit door;
- distances and paths to the exit door;
- access to the building for the fire service;
- water supply for firefighting;
- alteration work on an existing building;
Determining the conditions of use of a building
In addition to construction requirements that are applicable during the building design process, certain provisions may require the installation of automatic sprinklers depending on the usage of the building. Sections 4 and 5 of the National Fire Code of Canada outline guidelines on the storage of flammable and/or combustible liquids and dangerous processes and contain regulations governing the installation of automatic sprinklers in certain situations.
However, determining whether an automatic sprinkler system must be installed or not requires more than simply confirming the presence of flammable and/or combustible liquids and dangerous processes. Several conditions of use of a building can mean that the installation of an automatic sprinkler system is required. These include the:
- dimensions of work-boards;
- displays and modular units in covered malls;
- storage system layout and passageways;
- type of merchandise stored (class I, II, III or IV, plastics from groups A, B or C, palettes, distilled alcoholic beverages, etc.);
- storage characteristics (area, height, clearance, etc.);
- storage of tires, aerosols, combustible fibres or dangerous merchandise;
- storage of pressurized flammable gas outside of a fire stop area;
The importance of thorough analysis
In certain situations, building architects can determine in advance whether automatic sprinklers are required, based on the needs of the building operator. In other situations, the installation of a sprinkler system may be required at a later date due to changes in the characteristics or usage of the building.
It is vital that building architects thoroughly analyze both National Building Code and National Fire Code of Canada requirements before determining that an automatic sprinkler system is not required in a particular building. In certain situations, we recommend calling on the services of stakeholders with expertise in construction and fire protection if you need to determine whether or not an automatic sprinkler system is required.
Would you like to find out more about the National Fire Code of Canada requirements?
Technorm is currently offering 2 training sessions (in French – English sessions are available upon request) on this subject, presented by Frédéric Lévesque, P.Eng. and Director of the Fire Safety group.
- National Fire Code of Canada: Storage, handling and procedures involving flammable and/or combustible liquids (Montreal, November 22, 2018)
- Impact of the National Fire Code of Canada on the architectural design of buildings and their mechanical systems (private sessions available on-demand)