With the advent of taller high rise buildings, and concern that some
of the current design practices do not provide the high level of
reliability needed, NFPA 201 developed specific requirements for fire pumps installed in high rise buildings in the 2010 edition.
High rise buildings that are beyond the pumping capacity of the fire
department must be self-contained and the occupants may need to be
protected in place. This makes the reliability of fire protection
In general, the new fire pump requirements in the 2010 edition of
NFPA 20 are intended to maintain the availability of the required fire
protection water flow even with a single failure of any component for
buildings where there are stories that are beyond the pumping capacity
of the fire department. These requirements include:
Auxiliary power for electric motor driven fire pumps is required whenever the fire pump serves any floors that are beyond the pumping capacity of the fire department.
Access to fire pump rooms is required directly
through an exterior door or through a two hour rated enclosed passageway
connected to an exterior door or an enclosed stairway.
Water tank(s) supplying fire pump(s) that serve floors beyond the pumping capacity of the fire department:
Must hold the full fire protection water demand.
Must be subdivided and piped so that a minimum of 50% of the total
fire protection water demand is available with any one compartment or
tank out of service.
Must have a minimum of two automatic fill valves. Each fill valve,
when operating independently, is required to refill the system at a rate
equal to or greater than the fire protection demand rate.
The water supply/fire pump arrangement must be such
that the full fire protection water demand can be met even with the
failure of any single component. This requirement can be met with a
properly arranged backup fire pump, or possibly from a tank located
higher in the building.
A requirement that fire pumps operating in series must be located in
the same room was included by the committee responsible for developing
NFPA 20, but was later removed by a floor vote at the NFPA Annual
Meeting. This requirement is likely to be revisited and included in
future editions of NFPA 20.
In the current edition of NFPA 14,2 a change was enacted
which allows "master" pressure control valves to supply whole standpipe
or sprinkler system zones. Currently, NFPA 14 has a pressure limit of
350 psi (2.4 MPa), which limits the applicability of the "master"
pressure control valves. There is a proposal to remove the pressure
limit for express risers in the next edition of NFPA 14. Currently, fire
pumps that develop approximately 250 psi (1.7 MPa) of net pressure are
available. If the proposal passes, this will likely lead to pump
manufacturers listing fire pumps rated for higher pressures, so that a
single fire pump rated for 500 psi (3.4 MPa) or more could be used to
supply multiple standpipe or sprinkler zones.
NFPA 20 was also modified to allow variable speed drivers to maintain
a pump suction pressure as well as the pump discharge pressure.
Limited service controllers have been a subject of debate for many
years. These controllers are limited to 30 horsepower (22 kW), and were
originally intended to lower the cost of retrofitting schools. Over the
years, additional requirements added to address safety and other
concerns have narrowed the distinction and cost differential between
limited service and full service controllers. Over the past few code
cycles, a proposal to eliminate limited service controllers from NFPA 20
has been rejected by the NFPA 20 committee by a narrower margin each
cycle, until it finally passed in the current (2010) cycle. However,
limited service controllers were restored the 2010 edition by floor
action at the NFPA Annual Meeting. This issue will most likely be
considered again in the 2013 NFPA 20 cycle.
Gayle Pennel is with Schirmer Engineering Corporation
1 NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2010. 2 NFPA 14, Standard for the Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2007.
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The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is a professional society for fire protection engineering established in 1950 and incorporated as an independent organization in 1971. It is the professional society representing those practicing the field of fire protection engineering. The Society has over 5,000 members and 100+ chapters, including many student chapters worldwide.