F.Y.I. Who Designs Fire Sprinkler Systems?

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1 F.Y.I. Who Designs Fire Sprinkler Systems? This pamphlet was prepared by the Engineering Department of the National Fire Sprinkler Association,Inc. (NFSA). Established in 1914, the NFSA is a non-profit trade association comprised of installers and manufacturers of fire sprinklers and related equipment and services. The NFSA serves its membership in a host of ways ranging from market development to technical publications and seminars. Subscribing memberships are also available to Authorities Having Jurisdiction (fire, building code, and insurance officials). Headquartered in Patterson, New York, the NFSA has regional offices throughout the country. Who designs fire Sprinkler systems? The basic design of a fire sprinkler system takes place through specifications or preliminary plans. This function is app carried out by a licensed professional engineer or architect in compliance with state requirements. How does the licensed design professional carry out this function? Usually either by designation of the appropriate design standard or through a statement of independent system design criteria. It is not necessary that drawings be prepared, but only that an engineering judgment take place. Does the mere specification of a design standard constitute a design decision? Yes. If the project engineer or architect designates, "This area to be protected with a sprinkler system meeting the requirements of NFPA 13D", or "Light hazard sprinkler system to be provided in conformance with NFPA 13," the basic design decisions have been made. Sprinkler systems are "pre-engineered" at the level of the National Fire Protection Association's Committee on Automatic Sprinklers, and reference to the design standards issued by that Committee are both common and appropriate. Who writes the NFPA sprinkler design standards? The majority of the members of the NFPA Committee on Automatic Sprinklers are professional engineers, assisted by other experts from the fire service, insurance industry, and similar groups with knowledge and experience in the field of system design and performance. This committee updates the sprinkler standards every few years, regularly reviewing public proposals for amendments and answering requests for formal interpretations.

2 What type of additional information can the design professional provide? Through the development of specifications and preliminary plans, the project architect or engineer can provide additional preliminary information of importance to contractors who would be bidding the work. This could include details as to occupancy and construction types, hazard classifications, and available water supplies. Special criteria regarding types of sprinklers and piping, pumps, and other equipment and conditions are commonly detailed within the project specifications. Working from the basic design decisions or preliminary plans, who prepares complete working plans? Working plans are generally prepared by fire protection engineering technicians working in the employ of a fire sprinkler contractor. These working plans are also used as shop drawings to permit economical and efficient system fabrication. Since fire sprinkler systems are pre-engineered, through reference to NFPA standards, no engineering design discretion is necessary on the part of the fire protection engineering technician. Should a situation arise which is not addressed by the design standard, it is the responsibility of the engineering technician to refer the matter to a qualified design professional. How can one be sure that the working drawings are prepared by competent technicians? Beginning in 1978, the National Fire Sprinkler Association worked with a division of the National Society of Professional Engineers to develop a nationwide program to test and certify the competence of fire protection engineering technicians working in the area of sprinkler system layout and detailing. Today the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) maintains a program of quarterly testing, and nearly 2,000 individuals have achieved the status of Certified Engineering Technician in the field of Fire Protection and the subfield of Automatic Sprinkler System Layout. How does the certification program work? The Fire Protection Engineering Technician program recognizes four levels: Level I - Student Technician Level II - Associate Engineering Technician Level III - Engineering Technician Level IV - Senior Engineering Technician

3 Each level is associated with specific work elements, the higher levels relating to work elements of greater responsibility. NICET has established enrollment and certification requirements for each level. Automatic Sprinkler System Layout is one career field within Fire Protection Engineering Technology. More recently, additional subfields have been developed in Special Hazards Systems and in Fire Alarm Systems. What do the various levels of certification mean? Under the NICET system, Level II is an entry level for a new technician. Level II corresponds to approximately two or more years of experience, although education beyond the high school level is given partial credit towards the experience requirement. A written examination is given based upon general and special work elements from both Levels I and II. Level III is the Certified Engineering Technician (CET). This is the level which indicates the technician is qualified to independently prepare sprinkler working drawings based upon the engineer's design decision. Usually a candidate for Level III must have effectively served as an Associate Engineering Technician within his or her career for three years before taking the written examination for Level III. Level IV, the Senior Engineering Technician (SET) is the highest level of technical certification, and is to a large extent an honorary achievement for those technicians with a great deal of experience and expertise. Has the sprinkler technician certification program been legally recognized? In about a dozen states, fire sprinkler contractor licensing laws contain a provision that requires contracting firms to employ at least one fire sprinkler Certified Engineering Technician. Some communities have enacted special ordinances requiring that sprinkler working plans be prepared by individuals "with an active NICET Level III (Certified Engineering Technician) Certification in Fire Protection Engineering Technology/Automatic Sprinkler System Layout." This is the appropriate legal reference to NICET Level III certification. What if there are not enough certified technicians in a given area? In cases where states have sought to upgrade technician competence requirements without mandating a minimum 5 years experience to gain Level III Certification, language has been adopted to require that the individuals "meet the examination requirement for certification at Level III in Fire Protection Engineering Technology/Automatic Sprinkler System Layout." This permits the individual to demonstrate competence in the written examination. Certification will follow once the experience requirement is met.

4 Is Level III Certification needed for residential sprinkler systems? Where technicians are involved only in preparation of working drawings for residential sprinkler systems, NICET Level III Certification has been referenced as the appropriate level of expertise, since the work elements dealing with NFPA 13D systems and residential sprinkler technology are addressed at that level. Should sprinkler system layout and detailing be considered the practice of engineering? No. Several authoritative groups have given a great deal of consideration to this question, and have agreed it is not engineering. In 1983, the Executive Committee of the National Society of Fire Protection Engineers, responding to a question from the National Fire Sprinkler Association, stated that sprinkler layout in accordance with NFPA 13 and related design standards is "not per se" the practice of engineering. The committee noted that a professional engineer "may choose to prescribe NFPA 13 as the method for fulfilling his professional decision" (to provide a sprinkler system). It should be noted that the Society of Fire Protection engineers is the group which speaks for professional engineers nationwide practicing in the field of fire protection. In 1985, the Texas State Board of Registration considered the issue and made the following ruling: The State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers has completed a study of SB.234 concerning the licensing of fire protection sprinkler system contractors. In implementing the requirements of this Act, the State Fire Marshal's Office has adopted rules that included certain National Fire Protection Association standards together with certain requirements of the State Board of Insurance. These rules also set out procedures and requirements for licensing persons skilled in planning and installing fire protection sprinkler systems in compliance with the adopted standards and to regulate the practice of these licenses. The Board has therefore arrived at the following conclusions: 1. The planning and installation of a fire protection sprinkler system in strict compliance with the NFPA standards does not constitute the practice of engineering. Any variation from these standards, that is not considered an error requiring correction, will be a violation of the Texas Engineering Practice Act if not performed by a Professional Engineer. 2. The determination that the structure of a building is adequate to support the fire protection sprinkler system as installed is the practice of engineering and must be made by a qualified professional engineer.

5 What is the industry's position relative to the role of the professional engineer in fire sprinkler system design? The National Fire Sprinkler Association has taken a position consistent with the views of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers and the Texas State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers: The role of the Professional engineer in system design is based on his designation of the appropriate Standard or statement of independent criteria through specifications or preliminary drawings. It is not necessary that these drawings be prepared, but it is quite clear that an engineering judgment does take place at the specification stage. The role of the Certified Engineering Technician is to properly utilize standards and recognize his responsibilities, capabilities and limitations inworking with the designated Standards. In those cases where no design Professional is apparent, for example, a contract with an owner to install sprinklers in a non-code mandated situation, the NFSA recognizes and recommends that a Professional Engineer com-petent in the area of fire protection be brought on board to act as the specifier. The decision as to the definition of hazard and occupancy classification, and the application of appropriate Standards such as NFPA or code conformance is properly an engineering judgment. For More Information on the NICET Programs, Write. NICET 1420 King Street Alexandria, Virginia (703)

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