Sprinkler Protection at Residential Bathroom - 2010 NFPA 13D

I have a large residential bathroom that has 12'0" high ceilings and multiple archways that extend 25" down from the ceiling. The contractor has installed concealed pendant heads along the central "hall" area of the bathroom, but not at the "pockets." He is arguing that these areas can be considered "compartments" and do not require sprinkler protection since they are each less than 55 SF (refer to Handbook Information for 2010 NFPA 13D Sections 3.3.1 and 8.6.2 ... attached). Is this the correct thinking or are sprinklers required in each "pocket?"

Thank you in advance!


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Original Post

I would offer a few thoughts for consideration:

1. A dropped arch is not a "wall" enclosing a space, so does not have "openings". On a definitional basis the contractor's position seems untenable. The series of arches result in what is, essentially, a ceiling surface divided in coffers (using that term conceptually). Other than the shower, which appears to have a glazed door that does 'enclose' the space, I don't see this as a series of separate spaces. This 'smells' more like someone simply trying to excuse a bad judgment call after-the-fact.

2. It is mystifying to me why any contractor would spend time/money arguing about this issue if all that is at stake are a few heads (which, given the coverage areas, could probably be low flow, limited demand, so as not to cause an upsizing to the feeder pipe). I recently had a sprinkler sub handle a similar situation for me, and all of the work was accomplished in about two hours, involving minimal time, with the only 'other' impact being minor drywall/paint patching. If, on the other hand (in this case) you are looking at ceilings that are already completed and stone-clad (for example) then I could understand the desire to avoid making late modifications.

3. Was a sprinkler plan submitted, checked and approved prior to the start of installation? If so, this situation should have been picked up when examining the plans (along with the architectural sheets showing the arches). There may be several people that have some responsibility for the planning and execution. If the time/cost of debating this issue is tallied, I sure it would be more cost effective to simply add the necessary additional features.

4. An argument could be made that the regulations are, foundationally, over-reaching in that they do not deal with 'specific' spaces based on their fire-prone, or natural fire-resistive properties individually. There should be some way to logically assess the fire-protective requirements in situations where not only is the space limited, but the surfaces/finishes are likely inherently fire-resistive (esp. in a high end bathroom where the floors, walls and ceilings may be covered with fully non-combustible materials) and where the potential fire load is minimal. Aren't we talking about a bathroom, perhaps with some towels or other minimal combustibles? Are the combustibles mounted above the height at which they would be covered by the heads in the main 'corridor' even when considering the 'cut-off' geometry? Putting aside that I have a fundamental disagreement with installing full fire sprinkler systems in single family residences, it seems that some reasonable degree of discretion should be built into the process.

5. If the primary purpose of the sprinklers is to allow time for occupants to escape from a fire situation, as well as to put out the fire itself, the bathroom hardly appears to be a high risk space. Because the space is small, an occupant would be immediately aware of the fire and/or smoke. Because the occupants are presumed awake there would be no delay in exiting. Isn't this one of the reasons that smoke detectors are not required in bathrooms? Although in the case you present, I think technically the additional heads would be required, I find the underlying rationale a bit hard to swallow. Bottom line, however, unless someone pursued a formal variance I do not know if anyone would have the ability to waive the requirement on a ministerial level.


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