NFPA 13 Adopts Code Language on Flexible Sprinkler Hose Fittings

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff October 25, 2006

For the first time, the National Fire Protection Assn.’s NFPA 13: Installation of Sprinkler Systems includes code language that clarifies the use of flexible sprinkler hose fittings and provides applicable guidelines. The new language appears in the 2007 edition of NFPA 13 .

This clarification is welcome news for engineers who want direction on specifying flexible fittings. Proponents argue that such fittings offer perfect aesthetic uniformity and flawless center-of-tile. They also say that the fittings are much easier to install and retrofit, and also meet IBC seismic code requirements without the need for oversized rings.

Although flexible fittings have been approved for use for some time by both UL and FM, the addition of code language in NFPA 13 means that engineers and AHJs now have clear guidelines that simplify the product submittal process. Previously, some AHJs interpreted parts of the code to mean that flexible components could not be used pursuant to their installation instructions without being independently supported from the building structure. NFPA 13 now states that flexible sprinkler hose fittings supported by a suspended ceiling do not have to be independently supported from the building and should be used in accordance with its listings, including installation instructions.

The NFPA 13 Hanging and Bracing Technical Committee reviewed hundreds of pages of engineering data, including product approval standards, testing data and full independent fire and building code reviews. For example, the Structural Engineering Earthquake Simulation Laboratory at SUNY, University at Buffalo, tested and certified FlexHead Industries’ Flexible Sprinkler Hose Fittings against the International Code Council’s (ICC) seismic qualification testing criteria. This testing marks the first time a sprinkler component has been seismically certified using test criteria accepted by the ICC. This is an important milestone, particularly because most states are enacting seismic code requirements that flexible components are especially suited to meet.

Field response has also been positive. “Considering the rigorous testing this product was subjected to, the mere listing of the product for use in fire protection systems is sufficient evidence of the acceptability of the product,” observes Matthew J. Siska, P.E., Schirmer Engineering.