Feb 2019

Changes to the 2019 edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems

As the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states, "NFPA 13 is the industry benchmark for design and installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems. NFPA 13 addresses sprinkler system design approaches, system installation, and component options to prevent fire deaths and property loss."

All NFPA standards are revised and updated every three to five years, in revision cycles that begin twice each year. Normally a standard's cycle takes approximately two years to complete. NFPA 13, because of its use and popularity, is updated every three years. In contrast, FM Global standards are updated on an as-needed-basis. FM Global Data Sheet 8-9, Storage of Class 1, 2, 3, 4 and Plastic Commodities is updated often because as fire tests are conducted, new test results provide prescriptive design criteria. In most cases, NFPA 13 lags FM DS 8-9 in protection criteria. For example, FM DS 8-9 provided protection criteria for many years for Uncartoned Expanded Plastic (UEP), while NFPA 13 just added criteria for UEP.

This article will focus on the updates and changes to the recently released 2019 edition of NFPA 13. It underwent a major re-organization to improve usability of the standard. In addition, changes were made to address references, to delete redundancies, to provide clarification, and for other various reasons.

Some of the significant changes are summarized below.

  • Class IV commodities have been reclassified with cartoned and uncartoned plastic (expanded or unexpanded).
  • New in 7.1.5 and 8.16.6, a vent is needed on all new wet systems; it is used to remove trapped air to prevent corrosion.
  • Galvanized pipe and fittings are no longer required for dry and pre-action systems.
  • Round ducts wider than 48 in. that need sprinklers underneath need to be intermediate level or rack storage type, so the sprinklers are not cooled by the ceiling heads.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8, System Types and Requirements is basically the same as Chapter 7 from the 2016 edition.

  • (8.2.6.6.5) Where an air compressor is the dedicated air supply, it shall be installed in accordance with NFPA 70, Article 430.
  • (8.2.6.6.5.1) The disconnecting means for an automatic air compressor shall not be a general-use light switch or a cord-and-plug connected motor.
  • (8.3.1.2.1 Actuator Supervision) Effective January 1, 2021, removal of an electric actuator from the pre-action or deluge valve that it controls shall result in an audible and visual indication of system impairment at the system releasing control panel.
  • (8.5.7.1.1) This section has added sprinkler placement under skylights for under 32 sq. ft. (assume flat ceiling). Over 32. sq.ft., use the pitch of the skylight.
  • (8.15.24) Cloud ceilings are covered in Chapter 8. The definition of a cloud ceiling can be found in 3.3.5.1 which states, "Any ceiling system installed in the same plane with horizontal openings to the structure above on all sides. This does not include sloped ceilings."
    • Automatic sprinkler protection is required to be installed below the cloud. Certain criteria in 8.15.24 allow for omitting automatic sprinkler above the cloud ceiling.
  • (8.15.25) Automatic sprinklers are not needed in revolving doors.

Chapter 9

Chapter 8 in the 2016 edition had a great deal of information that was not well organized. Users looking for installation requirements or combustible concealed space requirements were forced to review non-related information to find what they were looking for. The new chapter is divided into several chapters with an improved and more logical organization. For example, the new Chapter 9, Sprinkler Location Requirements contains much of the introductory information contained in the former Chapter 8, while Chapters 10 through 15 contain installation requirements for individual types of sprinklers.

  • (9.3.6.1) Sidewall spray sprinklers shall be installed at the bottom of each elevator hoistway not more than 2 ft (600 mm) above the floor of the pit.
  • (9.3.6.2) The sprinkler required at the bottom of the elevator hoistway by 9.3.6.1 shall not be required for enclosed, noncombustible elevator shafts that do not contain combustible hydraulic fluids. (9.3.16 Vestibule) Sprinkler protection shall not be required within an entrance vestibule of noncombustible and limited combustible construction that does not contain combustibles and is 150 ft2 (13.9 m2) or less in area.

  • (9.5.4.1.3.1) Insulation used to measure sprinkler deflector distance shall be batt insulation or insulation that withstands 3 lb/ft2 (0.13 kg/m2) uplift force.

Chapter 11

  • (11.1.6.3.1) Inside hose allowance for combination standpipe and automatic sprinkler systems for fully protected plants, is not required to be included in the design for Class 1 and 3 standpipe systems.

Chapter 20

The new Chapter 20, General Requirements for Storage is a renumbering exercise of the former Chapter 12, while the rest of the storage chapters (Chapters 21 – 25) have been completely revamped and are now organized by protection method:

  • Chapter 21, Protection of High Piled Storage Using Control Mode Density Area (CMDA) Sprinklers
  • Chapter 22, CMSA Requirements for Storage Applications
  • Chapter 23, ESFR Sprinklers
  • Chapter 24, Alternative Designs
  • Chapter 25, Protection of Rack Storage Using In-Rack Sprinklers
    • This chapter has been re-organized for rack storage. The approach for determining protection of storage should make this task much easier and finding information much more efficient.

New tables summarizing excessive clearance requirements

Chapter 22

  • 25.2 K-Factor design criteria have been added to the CMSA design criteria tables based on testing from UL.

Chapter 25

As previously stated, Chapter 25, Protection of Rack Storage Using In-Rack Sprinklers has been re-organized into a rack storage chapter. This approach to determining protection of storage should make this task much easier and finding information much more efficient.

  • New requirements for in-rack sprinklers in combination with ESFR ceiling level design.
  • New criteria for exposed expanded group A plastic.

  • For a 2-hour air pressure test, there cannot be a loss of more than 3 psi for dry or pre-action systems.

These are just some of the major changes in the 2019 edition of NFPA 13. For all changes please refer to the roadmap in the back of NFPA 13. It provides a cross reference from the 2016 section to the 2019 section. For more details, please contact Risk Logic. Our staff of Fire Protection Engineers has an excellent understanding of NFPA 13 as well as FM Global DS 8-9 and their differences and similarities.