Sprinkler Protection of Plastics in Big Box Retail


Editor’s note: The February 2006 issue of Consulting-Specifying Engineer offers a full-length feature from author Lisa Bossert, P.E., Schirmer Engineering, on fire-protection strategies in big box retail operations ( Of Stores, Storage and Sprinklering ). Readers are greatly encouraged to click the link above to read this invaluable article.

Currently, NFPA does not recognize the use of anyn of a foam insulation boards. These products create a unique fire challenge due to their plastic composition, styrofoam-like nature, and lack of cardboard packaging.

Testing will be performed at Underwriters Laboratories and will involve the actual storage configurations utilized by the big-box retail client. The objective is to determine required design parameters for supplemental rack sprinklers in combination with ceiling ESFR sprinklers. The results of these tests will most likely serve as the technical basis to amend the codes.

Similar testing has also been performed to determine ESFR protection for flammable/combustible liquids and aerosols.Schirmer Engineering teamed with the same big-box retail client and a sprinkler manufacturer to conduct full scale testing at UL to determine a method of ceiling ESFR sprinklers and control-mode rack sprinklers to protect the paint department of the big-box retail client. Protection of the aerosols also included solid horizontal barriers within the rack structure. Schirmer then proposed and navigated the test results through the adoption process of NFPA. Resultant changes included the “Specific Protection Design” criteria within the mercantile occupancy chapter of NFPA 30B [for aerosols] and portions of NFPA 30 [for flammable/ combustible liquids].

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