Use NFPA 3 to coordinate fire and life safety projects
Information in NFPA 3
The 2012 edition of NFPA 3 was approved as an American National Standard and became effective Aug. 31, 2011. The document was developed to provide a systematic approach to confirming that the fire protection and life safety systems operate as desired by the owner and design professionals. It can also be used in conjunction with other documents to create a complete building commissioning plan. The formal scope of NFPA 3 is as follows:
“1.1 Scope. This recommended practice provides the recommended procedures, methods, and documentation for commissioning and integrated testing of active and passive fire protection and life safety systems and their interconnections with other building systems.”
Definitions critical to understanding the NFPA 3 document include the following.
1. The AHJ is the entity responsible for enforcing the requirements of codes and standards and makes the final determination on system compliance to these documents.
2. The owner’s program of requirements (OPR), also known as the program of requirements (POR), is the owner’s vision of the facility. The owner’s expectations and needs are placed in this document to assist the design professionals in developing the proper product. This document is also used in the project bid phase to normalize what each bidder provides as a solution.
3. The basis of design (BOD) is the abstract or consolidated narrative used to describe how the design professionals’ design will meet the owner’s project requirements.
4. The fire commissioning agent (FCA) is a person or entity identified by the owner to lead the fire protection and life safety team in the commissioning process. This person plans, schedules, documents, and coordinates the various efforts with the assistance of design professionals and construction team members. The FCA should have the ability to provide an objective review of the project commissioning process.
5. The registered design professional (RDP) is an individual registered or licensed to practice a particular design profession as defined by the laws or statutes in the jurisdiction of the construction. The jurisdiction may also recognize other qualifications or credentials determined acceptable.
6. A fire protection system is equipment, a collection of devices, or a combination of items that detect fire (or a by-product such as smoke) and activate an alarm or suppresses the fire, or control the fire and its by-products.
7. Life safety systems enhance or facilitate evacuation or other actions to keep occupants safe. These actions could include smoke control or fire segregation within a compartment.
8. Integrated systems are a combination of systems operating as a unit to meet a fire protection objective.
9. Interconnected systems have components or devices connected to achieve a fire protection objective.
It is important to note that NFPA 3 focuses on four main phases. Chapter 5 indicates that these phases should include, but are not limited to, the planning phase, design phase, construction phase, and occupancy phase. Each phase requires specific components to be executed for a successful project outcome.
The planning phase focuses on the project objectives and the owner-driven program requirements. The commissioning agent is selected and the scope for this agent is solidified. The commissioning plan will remain preliminary due to the early stage of the project design development. Laws, rules, regulations, and policies should be identified and verified during this phase. If the project will occur during the release of a new code edition (e.g., International Building Code), the applicable code should be verified to eliminate any design uncertainties. Then, the fire and life safety commissioning team should be selected. The contract may not have been awarded during the planning phase, but the required roles for the team can be assigned and included in the bid documents. This level of planning will reduce the opportunity for scope gap and project responsibilities.
Upon reaching the design phase, the design team should be selected and the design contract awarded. The makeup of this design team will be different for a design-build contract versus a plan and specification contract, but the overall process will remain the same. The BOD will be developed to convey the design team’s method of meeting the owner’s requirements. The BOD narrative should paint a clear picture of the future design prior to the investment of a full design. This process will help initiate dialogue between the design team and resolve any potential conflicts due to miscommunication. If integrated systems exist, concepts such as sequence of operation and the impact of these interactions should be analyzed.
The testing criteria should focused more on the actual design needs than the conceptual ideas. As the design phase progresses, equipment will be selected and operation and maintenance manual requirements will be incorporated. The training requirements for operational personnel can also be determined in this phase. Finally, the design should take into consideration and allow for the proper testing of these fire protection systems. These considerations could be as simple as including an additional control valve for isolating a section of the fire sprinkler system or as complex as revising the active and passive zones for a smoke control system.
Next, the commissioning activities of the construction phase will back-check compliance with the owner’s requirements, BOD, shop drawings, and design team requirements. The construction phase will confirm if the previous commissioning schedule is still valid or if adjustments are needed. During this phase, documentation of testing, revised testing procedures, and completion of testing will be performed. Systems will be inspected and tested according to the applicable code or standard and in compliance with the overall commissioning plan requirements. The owner or operation personnel may also be trained during this phase. After completion of installation and acceptance testing, closeout documents should be provided to the owner as required by the commissioning plan and the contractual obligations of the project.
In the past, the occupancy phase has generally not been considered a part of the commissioning phase in fire and life safety systems. However, NFPA 3 takes a different approach to this concept. This phase will document completed and outstanding acceptance testing and inspections. Tests due to changes during the construction phase will be performed and recorded here, as will seasonal tests such as stair pressurization. Training may also occur in this phase. All testing and inspections records, warranties, recommended preventive actions, and lists of required maintenance should be provided during this phase.