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When Home Fire Sprinkler Systems Can Be Used In Condos

The scope of National Fire Protection Association's Standard 13D, (NFPA 13D), is for one & two family dwellings, which is typically a single home or a duplex. This is the least expensive fire sprinkler system that can be installed, and so the question often arises, "Isn't there any way that we can also use it for 3 units?…or multiple condo units?"

When units are attached, then (3) or more living units falls under "Apartments" classification in the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. Apartments would have fire sprinkler protection according to NFPA 13R, but not NFPA 13D. Section 8.2.1.3 in the 2006 edition of NFPA 101 however allows the building to be classified as two separate buildings if there is a 2-hour or greater vertically aligned fire barrier wall that meets NFPA 221, the Standard for Fire Walls and Fire Barrier Walls. This means that you could then change the classification from "Apartments" to "One & Two Family Dwellings" on each side of that wall. You could have a whole line of dwelling units, with these 2-hour fire barrier walls every 2 units, and each section would fall under the definition of "One & Two Family Dwellings." If it falls under the definition of "One & Two Family Dwellings," then it can have fire sprinkler protection according to NFPA 13D, (including Kwench, Uponor/Wirsbo, or Rehau Home System), on each section.

NFPA 221 describes the difference between a fire wall and a fire barrier wall. The fire wall requires a structural stability so that one side can burn flat, and the other side will remain in place. They can be one of (3) types: cantilevered/freeestanding fire walls or tied fire walls or double fire walls, all as described and illustrated in NFPA 221.

The fire barrier walls however do not require this structural stability, but must be continuous from the foundation slab to the underside of the roof. Any openings in the wall must have fire rated, self-closing doors, windows or fire dampers. All other openings must be sealed with a sealant of an equivalent fire-resistant rating. See NFPA 221 for a full and detailed explanation. Typically this is met with 2 layers of 5/8" type X sheetrock on each side of a wall stud.

Typically when building separation is required, fire barrier walls are used in conjunction with fire sprinkler systems, and the more expensive fire walls are used when there is no fire sprinkler protection. When in doubt about how to subdivide a building in order to reclassify each section, then see a design professional or contact the Plans Review Division of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

[Last updated 1-1-08]