As a follow up to an earlier post, fire suppression systems must be carefully designed and installed in order to deal with environmental factors that may affect the viability of those systems. In one recent case that Stark & Stark is handling, a renowned fire suppression system expert designed a fire suppression system for a condominium that is located on the Jersey Shore. The sprinkler heads are not salt-air rated. This is a clear violation of NFPA 13, section 3-2.6(17) which requires that such heads be salt-air rated. Since the heads and fittings are not corrosion-resistant, the heads and the escutcheon plates that cover the heads are rusting. As a result, all of the hundreds of exterior sprinkler system heads and escutcheons now need to be replaced at enormous cost.
In this same case, the engineer designed a second fire suppression system for a different mid-rise building in the same condominium located on the Jersey Shore. The system was not designed to use any anti-freeze. The CPVC pipes ran up the inside of an exterior wall that was uninsulated. The pipes connected to metal pipes that were connected through an outside wall onto dozens of balconies where exterior sprinkler heads were installed. The sub-freezing winter temperatures have wreaked havoc with this system. The water inside the CPVC pipes froze and the pipes cracked. Once the weather warmed up and the temperature rose above freezing, the water inside the CPVC pipes slowly leaked out units and the below were flooded. Because the leaks occurred slowly, the alarm system for the fire suppression system did not trigger. The damage continued undetected for weeks because these units are not generally occupied in the winter months. The damage to the building and the interiors of the affected units was severe. The system had to be converted to an anti-freeze system at a cost in excess of $500,000, not including the enormous damage done to the sheathing, framing , sheetrock and interiors of many units flooded when these pipes froze, burst and then thawed.
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