Occupancy Groups Where Automatic Sprinklers Are Mandatory

Topics: Design, Building Code, new york

Michael Tobias
Author : Michael Tobias on September 6, 2018

New York City has a high density of tall constructions, and as a result the population density is also very high. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that the fire protection requirements in NYC are among the most demanding in the world: these systems must meet the NYC Building Code, NYC Fire Code and all applicable standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In addition, occupancy of a building before approving fire protection requirements is unlawful, leading to hefty fines.

This article will provide an overview of the occupancy classifications where the NYC Building Code makes automatic sprinklers mandatory. Keep in mind that automatic sprinklers are also mandatory in constructions with a series of physical characteristics specified in the code, regardless of occupancy classification.

Occupancy Group A: Assembly

Any building or area of a building classified as Group A must have automatic sprinklers. In the case of Groups A-1 through A-4, automatic sprinkler coverage is required for the area itself, as well as any floors between the Group A occupancy and the level where building exits are located. The requirements for each subgroup are summarized in the following table, and if at least one condition is met, automatic sprinklers become mandatory:

ASSEMBLY OCCUPANCY SUB-GROUP

When Are Automatic Sprinklers Needed?

Group A-1:
Performance arts and motion Pictures



1) Fire area above 12,000 ft2.
2) Fire area occupant load is at least 300.
3) Total occupant load of all Group A-1 fire areas in the same floor is at least 300. The exit discharge level is exempt.
4) Fire area with a multi-heater complex.

Group A-2:
Food and drink consumption



1) Fire area above 5,000 ft2.
2) Fire area occupant load is at least 300.
3) Total occupant load of all Group A-1 fire areas in the same floor is at least 300. The exit discharge level is exempt.
4) Cabarets

Group A-3:
Worship, recreation, amusement and all Assembly occupancies not classified under another subgroup

1) Fire area above 12,000 ft2.
2) Fire area occupant load is at least 300.
3) Total occupant load of all Group A-1 fire areas in the same floor is at least 300. The exit discharge level is exempt.

Group A-4:
Viewing indoor sports and activities, with spectator seating

1) Fire area above 12,000 ft2.
2) Fire area occupant load is at least 300.
3) Total occupant load of all Group A-1 fire areas in the same floor is at least 300. The exit discharge level is exempt.

Group A-5:
Viewing outdoor activities




Automatic sprinklers are required in all the following enclosed areas:
1) Concession concourse
2) Concession stands
3) Retail areas
4) Press boxes
5) All other accessory areas above 1,000 ft2

Occupancy Group B: Business

Automatic sprinklers systems are required in ambulatory health care facilities and animal service facilities. It is important to note that office buildings also fall under this category, but automatic sprinkler requirements are based on construction characteristics and not the occupancy classification itself.

Ambulatory health care facilities must be equipped with automatic sprinklers in all fire areas when their operation meets either of the following conditions at any time:

  • At least one patient who is not capable of self-preservation and is located in a floor other than the exit discharge level.
  • Four of more patients that are not capable of self-preservation, even if they are located within the exit discharge level.

Animal service facilities must always include automatic sprinklers, except if they have 24-hour personal supervision and smoke alarms.

Occupancy Group E: Educational

Automatic sprinkler requirements in educational facilities are very general. They are mandatory in all Group E fire areas exceeding 20,000 ft2, and all portions of educational buildings found below the exit discharge level. However, there is an exemption when the following conditions are met:

  • Every classroom in the building has at least one exit door at ground level.
  • The exit doors lead directly outside without going through corridors, passages or exit enclosures.

Occupancy Group F: Factory

The NYC Building Code makes sprinkler system mandatory for occupancies in subgroup F-1 (moderate-hazard industrial occupancy), if they meet any of the following conditions:

  • Fire area above 7,500 ft2.
  • Group F-1 areas located more than three stories high, regardless of fire area.

If any of the following conditions is met, the automatic sprinkler must cover not only the F-1 occupancy, but also the entire building that contains it:

  • A specific Group F-1 fire area exceeds 12,000 ft2.
  • A specific Group F-1 fire area is located more than three stories high.
  • Combined F-1 fire area across all floors and mezzanines is above 24,000 ft2.
  • Anywhere required by the New York State Labor Law.

There are also specific requirements in the case of woodworking operations and repair garages. Woodworking operations where there is fine combustible waste or materials must be equipped with sprinklers if their area exceeds 2,500 ft2. Repair garages are subject to the requirement if they meet any of the following conditions:

  • At least two stories high, and with a repair garage in a fire area above 10,000 ft2.
  • Single-story buildings with a repair garage in a fire area above 12,000 ft2.
  • Group F-1 fire area where commercial trucks or buses are repaired, if above 5,000 ft2.
  • Buildings where vehicles are parked in the basement and there is a dedicate repair garage for them.

Occupancy Group H: High Hazard

Since dangerous materials are handled in Group H occupancies, automatic sprinklers have been made mandatory for all subgroups in this occupancy classification. Buildings that contain high-hazard occupancies must be fully covered by automatic sprinklers if Group H is the dominant use, or if there is any Group H-5 occupancy regardless of size.

Occupancy Group I: Institutional

Automatic sprinkler systems are also mandatory in all Group I occupancies, and mixed-occupancy buildings must be fully covered in Group I predominates. However, automatic sprinklers systems can follow the simplified requirements of NFPA 13R or 13D if the classification is I-1 (housing or persons with special needs).

Occupancy Group M: Mercantile

Mercantile occupancies must be equipped with sprinklers under either of the following conditions:

  • Fire area above 7,500 ft2.
  • Fire area of any size when it contains a stair or escalator that is not enclosed and connects at least two floors.
  • Any Group M occupancy with high-piled storage or rack storage.

In addition, automatic sprinkler coverage is required for entire buildings that contain Group M occupancies meeting any of the following conditions:

  • A specific Group M fire area exceeds 12,000 ft2.
  • A specific Group M fire area is located more than three stories high.
  • Combined Group M fire area across all floors and mezzanines is above 24,000 ft2.

Occupancy Group R: Residential

In general, all fire areas in residential buildings must be equipped with automatic sprinklers. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Detached one- and two-family dwellings.
  • Multiple single-family dwellings, better known as townhouses.

It is important to note that the exception only applies if these buildings are not more than three stories high, and means of egress are built separately for each dwelling.

Occupancy Group S: Storage

Storage occupancies have different requirements depending on whether the area in question is classified as S-1 (moderate hazard, flammable or combustible materials) or S-2 (low hazard, non-flammable materials).

In S-1 occupancies, automatic sprinklers become mandatory when the fire area exceeds 500 ft2. The requirement expands to the whole building containing the S-1 area under any of the following conditions:

  • A specific Group S-1 fire area exceeds 12,000 ft2.
  • The building is above 1,000 ft2 and S-1 is the dominant occupancy.
  • A specific Group S-1 fire area is located more than three stories high.
  • Combined Group S-1 fire area across all floors and mezzanines is above 24,000 ft2.
  • There is a tire storage area that exceeds either 500 ft2 in area or 7,500 ft3 in volume.

In S-2 occupancies, the minimum fire area that requires automatic sprinklers is increased to 5,000 ft2, given the lower risk involved. In the case of enclosed parking garages, automatic sprinklers are required regardless of area, but garages for R-3 occupancies are exempt. Automatic sprinklers are required for the whole building if it exceeds 5,000 ft2 and the dominant occupancy classification is S-2.

Conclusion

Determining when an NYC building requires automatic sprinklers can be deceiving unless you are well-familiarized with the occupancy groups and NYC Building Code requirements. The best recommendation is to get professional assistance as soon as the project starts. This not only ensures compliance, but also helps you optimize the automatic sprinkler system cost with smart design decisions.

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