SFPE Discussions

Sprinkler System Designs

I am working on a retirement home project comprising a reasonably large two storey building for older people and after completing a C/AS2 fire safety report recommended to the client that it could be worthwhile having a sprinkler system designed. That way tenderers can price on a known item, and it surely would help the design process in identifying issues/conflicts. Hopefully in the longer term it would result in a cost saving. To me it just makes sense. Tossing this idea around with contractors I discovered a marked lack of enthusiasm for this approach. While a documented design would assist in providing a level playing field for tendering, it was considered that it would not help during the construction process as the design would be unlikely to represent the real situation. Redesigns were likely during the build.

What experiences have people had with this issue? It must have happened before. Would really appreciate experiences and knowledge - bearing in mind that this is a provincial situation, which may be different to the big city.

Thanks for your time.

I would recommend having the sprinkler system designed properly. There are a small number of competent independent designers around. Very few sprinkler contractors have competent designers on board. For the sprinkler design to be effective there would need to be good architectural design,building services design and structural design. Without a coordinated building services design you could run into problems with sprinkler system redesign during construction.
Alternatively screen your sprinkler contractors to make sure they have their own competent designers.
The advantage in designing the sprinkler system during the developed design stage is that you should get a coordinated reflected ceiling plan of all services - you have your arguments at the design stage.
Another advantage is that you can reserve space for main pipe runs, get decent valve room space allocation, get valve room drains and waste requirements designed in. You can also avoid architecturally ugly compromises if things are tight.
Some sprinkler design firms/individuals can be retained to provide construction design services if construction coordination is required.

Thanks Robert I really get that. It seems though that there is a lack of confidence with contractors that the designer will get it right. In your experience is this feeling justified? Or is it a provincial contractor feeling a bit intimidated?

There is a history of consultants preparing sprinkler layouts for tender purposes that bear no resemblance to the final installed systems.
That said - the band of a few experienced sprinkler designers, that have generally come from the main sprinkler contractor organisations, are capable of designing sprinkler systems that can be effectively and economically installed to their plans.
On the other side of the coin, there are some inexperienced sprinkler designers in sprinkler companies that are providing real headaches for their clients and the certifiers.
For my money I would choose a reputable independent sprinkler designer with a track record, or engage a sprinkler company with a reputable designer. A lot of small sprinkler companies contract out their design work with mixed results. If the contractor is tight on money then coordination could be dropped off the designers scope of work.
A lot of large companies are using these experienced sprinkler designers as a matter of course. The savings in “getting it right” far out weigh the costs of incorrect design and getting it wrong, particularly in storage occupancies. In some instances the sprinkler system can dictate aspects of the design of the building, including structural design (probably not in your case).
The other point is - how much control do you want? If you if tender design/build then you get what you are given that meets compliance with the specification. Any variations - you pay.
One hybrid arrangement is to just give a compliant sprinkler head layout and let the contractor design the pipework. There is a risk with this arrangement that you also may not get what you want - the sprinkler installers may not be able to get the pipework to some sprinklers.

Thanks heaps Robert. Good reinforcement. I shall research sprinkler system designers and approach.
Really appreciate your help.

Hi Tim
Suggest you contact Geoff Hemsworth at Central Fire Design
027 479 2352