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Dormitory Closet Coverage
Closets in dormitories are to be treated differently under NFPA 13 than they are under NFPA 13R. Typically they receive fire sprinkler coverage under NFPA 13, but not under NFPA 13R.
In NFPA 13R, (2010) in section 6.6.3:
"Except where specified in section 6.6.4, [closets used for washers, dryers, heating & air conditioning equipment], sprinklers shall not be required in clothes closets, linen closets, and pantries within the dwelling units that meet all of the following conditions:
(1) The area of the space does not exceed 24 square feet.
(2) The least dimension does not exceed 3 ft.
(3) The walls and ceilings are surfaced with noncombustible or limited-combustible materials as defined by NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction."
There is also an exception for closets in NFPA 13, (2010), but it is only for hotels/motels as shown here from section 18.104.22.168:
"Sprinklers are not required in clothes closets, linen closets, and pantries within dwelling units in hotels and motels where the area of the space does not exceed 24 square feet the least dimension does not exceed 3 ft, and the walls and ceilings are surfaced with noncombustible or limited-combustible materials."
Some confusion may arise because the NFPA 101, (2009) Life Safety Code has a chapter 28 titled: "New and Existing Hotels & Dormitories." Hotels and dormitories have the same requirements for the life safety code, which is why they are in the same chapter there, but they are different occupancies, and are defined differently in Chapter 3. They both fall under the scope of NFPA 13R as an acceptable fire sprinkler standard, but if NFPA 13 is used as the fire sprinkler standard, then closets may meet the exception as shown above for hotels, but dormitories will not.
The key difference is that hotels are more transient in use, therefore fuel loads are less apt to accumulate there as compared to closets in dormitories, where occupancy is typically for several months.
Our office may exempt (with prior permission) fire sprinkler coverage of closets in dormitories under 12 sq. ft. particularly when they are "lockers" or "furniture". This 12-foot cut-off is based on Annex D.22.214.171.124 of NFPA 13. 2010 edition, which is for apartments. Note that closets used for dryers, gas-fired hot water heaters and similar type appliances will always require fire sprinkler coverage regardless of the closet size.
Existing dormitories are granted an exception for closets that do not exceed 24 sq ft in section D.126.96.36.199 of NFPA 13, (2010), and this is also stated in the 2009 edition of NFPA 101 in section 188.8.131.52. This exception does not apply to new dormitories. Keep in mind that a new use of an existing building is evaluated in NFPA 101 as "new", not existing.
[Last Updated 1-11-12 to reflect currently adopted codes and standards with their references. Previously updated 3-9-10 which was the addition of the last paragraph.]
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