CPVC Fire Sprinkler Retrofits can Save Buildings

Updating fire sprinklers with CPVC pipes and fittings can make all the difference
Monday, May 2, 2016

On January 23, 2014 a fatal kitchen fire occurred at a Quebec senior care home, killing 32 residents. According to the coroner’s report following the incident, part of the problem was attributed to the lack of sprinklers in an older wing of the building, where most of the victims, many of whom suffered from reduced mobility, were located.

In his report, the coroner recommended that the province make automatic sprinklers mandatory in all existing private seniors’ homes, a rule that the Quebec government enacted in 2015. Although sprinklers may not have completely put out the blaze when it occurred, the coroner suggested that they could have slowed the flames enough to lessen the impact of the disaster.

Fire sprinkler retrofits can minimize damage and save lives, particularly when upgrading older buildings that may have once been up to fire code, but are now outdated. It is easier than ever to meet newly updated safety codes and ordinances and provide a more reliable and cost-effective solution.

Meeting safety codes and ordinances

Meeting safety codes is one of the most important duties of a facility manager. Older buildings, no matter their purpose, must have the most up-to-date sprinkler systems installed to avoid a fate like the Quebec senior care home. But how can a new sprinkler system be installed without displacing occupants or delaying work?

The answer is chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) fire sprinkler systems. These were first brought to market in 1984 under the BlazeMaster® name and have become the product of choice for fire sprinkler retrofits in commercial buildings.

The Lubrizol Corp., which created BlazeMaster® Fire Sprinkler Systems and works closely with its manufacturers, recently conducted focus groups of fire sprinkler contractors. Many contractors said they prefer CPVC pipes and fittings over metallic materials for retrofits. Since CPVC pipes are UL Listed for Light Hazard applications as defined in NFPA 13, 13R and 13D, they can be used in a wide variety of light hazard settings, including hotels, high-rise apartments and condos, hospitals, college dorms and offices.

The most cost-effective, reliable option

Retrofitting sprinkler systems with CPVC products has several advantages over steel pipe. For example, the solvent cement joining system used for a CPVC sprinkler system requires only hand tools for installation. Steel pipes, on the other hand, require the use of heavy machinery that can take up a lot of space and can be difficult to move around a building in a retrofit scenario.

The permanent chemical weld created by this solvent cement joining system is strong, yet maintains the pipe’s flexibility, allowing it to be fitted onto existing decorative ceilings or threaded through tight spaces. Also, CPVC pipes and fittings allow on-site changes, unlike standard steel system installations, which must be pre-fabricated off-site.

As a result, it is faster and easier to install CPVC pipes and fittings than metallic pipes. They are lightweight (weighing about one-sixth of a comparable steel pipe, depending on size) and more cost-efficient than steel.

Contractors frequently see savings of 20 to 30 per cent in labour due to CPVC’s fast and efficient installation. In addition, contractors often can go down a pipe size, since smaller CPVC pipes’ superior hydraulics achieve the same flow rate as a larger steel pipe. Also, since CPVC pipes and fittings are easy to install and can be done one room at a time, many retrofits can be completed with minimal disruption to residents or workers who can remain in the building. This means fewer displacement costs.

Finally, and most importantly, CPVC pipes and fittings will never corrode and cannot be damaged by Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC). That means the system will remain reliable for the long term. This helps manage costs since the system will not require premature replacement due to corrosion, which often affects steel piping. CPVC sprinkler pipe was designed for a 50-plus year service life with a safety factor of two per ASTM test criteria.

As for sustainability, CPVC pipes and fittings received high grades by an ISO-compliant, peer-reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) commissioned by Lubrizol. The LCA stated that CPVC pipes and fittings outperformed comparable steel systems in 12 of 13 environmental impact categories. CPVC systems, in fact, present half the climate change impact as steel systems.

Fire sprinkler retrofits are necessary to maintain and protect residential and commercial buildings. CPVC pipes and fittings are the most reliable, cost-effective solution for contractors and building owners, now and in the future.

For more information, please visit the BlazeMaster website.


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