New York City is known for its demanding building codes, especially with respect to fire protection systems, given their critical role in providing safe conditions for occupancy. If you plan to install a new sprinkler system or require alterations to an existing one, keep in mind that the NYC Department of Buildings will only let you proceed if you work with qualified professionals:


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The NYC Building Code also requires that sprinkler systems be inspected by an authorized Special Inspector, who must personally witness all the required tests before project delivery. Many RDPs in New York City hold this qualification as well, which means they can assume both roles in a project. If the filing RDP and the special inspector are two separate individuals, the inspector must have the RDP’s approval. The only restriction for selecting the special inspector is that he or she must be completely independent from the contractor carrying out the job.

This article will provide an overview of the professional qualifications required to work with sprinkler systems in New York City.

When Do You Need a Registered Design Professional?

The need to hire an RDP depends on whether the project is a new sprinkler system installation, or an alteration to an existing system. New installations always require filing by a Professional Engineer or Registered Architect, with no exceptions. However, the following sprinkler system alterations are exempt from filing as long as their budget does not exceed $35,000 over a 12-month period:

  • Part replacements that are necessary for system operation.
  • Changes where the type of sprinkler system is not altered.
  • Piping relocations that do not affect operation of the system.
  • Sprinkler head rearrangements: A maximum of 20 sprinkler heads can be rearranged if the area is classified as light hazard occupancy, restaurant service areas in Group 1 ordinary hazard occupancy, and mercantile areas in Group 2 ordinary hazard occupancy.
  • Sprinkler head additions: A maximum of 5 additional sprinkler heads for an existing system.

Any alterations to existing sprinkler systems that exceed these budget, time and scope constraints must follow the normal filing and permitting procedure to be carried out by an RDP. However, sprinkler head replacements can be carried out without filing and with no budget and time constraints, as long as the sprinkler type, orifice sizes and deflector positions are preserved.

In any case where the project requires filing by an RDP, administration of the work becomes his or her direct responsibility. In the case of sprinkler systems, the work will be completed by either a Licensed Master Plumber of Fire Suppression Contractor, but the filing design professional must be in control of the project.

Sprinkler System Installation: Qualified Contractors

All sprinkler system installations and alterations must be carried out by a qualified contractor, regardless of whether the project requires filing by a Registered Design Professional. The project can be carried out by either a Licensed Master Plumber or Licensed Fire Suppression Contractor, but subject to the following guidelines:

  • If the sprinkler head count is 30 or less, either an LMP or an LFSC can perform the work.
  • An LFSC must carry out the project if the sprinkler head count exceeds 30.

Only a licensed contractor can request the work permit for a sprinkler system project, through the DOB’s online E-Permit system. The platform requires prior registration, and the permitting process is as follows:

  • Completing the online work permit application.
  • Payment of any pending project fees.
  • Identify the responsible Special Inspection Agencies.
  • Requesting a waiver of penalties, stop work orders or violations.

Of course, the system will only allow an application if the LMP or LFSC completing the application has his or her license and insurance active and without overdue payments.

As a project owner, you can only hire an LMP or LFSC for sprinkler system jobs. Directly hiring a Journeyman Plumber or a Journeyman Fire Suppression Piping Installer is against the law; although these professionals are registered with the NYC Department of Buildings, they are only allowed to work under the supervision and guidance of a licensed contractor (LMP or LFSC).

Becoming a Licensed Master Plumber or Fire Suppression Contractor

To become an LMP or LFSC, it is first necessary to meet four basic requirements:

  • A minimum age of 18.
  • Being able to read and write in English.
  • Being fit to perform the authorized work.
  • Good moral character, ensuring that the individual remains in good standing to meet the duties and responsibilities that come with a contractor license.

The NYC Department of buildings provides five options to meet the experience requirements in each case.

 

No. Licensed Master Plumber (LMP) Licensed Master Fire Suppression Contractor (LFSC)
1. Seven (7) years of experience with plumbing systems under the supervision of an LMP. At least two (2) years of experience must be obtained as a Registered Journeyman Plumber, and all the experience must be within ten (10) years prior to application. Seven (7) years of experience with fire suppression piping systems under the supervision of an LFSC. All the experience must be within ten (10) years prior to application.
2. Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or any other appropriate engineering field, and at least five (5) years of experience in plumbing systems under the supervision of an LMP. At least two (2) years of experience must be in NYC, and all the experience must be accumulated in the seven (7) years prior to application. Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, fire protection engineering or any other appropriate engineering field, and at least five (5) years of experience in plumbing systems under the supervision of an LFSC. At least two (2) years of experience must be in NYC, and all the experience must be accumulated in the seven (7) years prior to application.
3. NYS-licensed professional with three (3) years of experience with plumbing systems, under the supervision of an LMP. At least one (1) year of experience must be in NYC, and all the experience must be within the five (5) years before application. NYS-licensed professional with three (3) years of experience with fire suppression piping systems, under the supervision of an LFSC. At least one (1) year of experience must be in NYC, and all the experience must be within the five (5) years before application.
4. Experience option #1 with a difference: only two (2) years under direct supervision of an LMP are required if the rest of the experience was accumulated with an NYC agency where the work was directed by an LMP. Experience option #1 with a difference: only two (2) years under direct supervision of an LFSC are required if the rest of the experience was accumulated with an NYC agency where the work was directed by an LFSC.
5. If the applicant has worked for a government agency, private inspection agency or any other DOB-approved agency where the main activity was inspecting for compliance with the NYC Plumbing Code, 50% of the experience counts towards the seven (7) years required to become an LMP, up to 2.5 years. The rest of the experience must be accumulated under the guidance of an LMP. If the applicant has worked for a government agency, private inspection agency or any other DOB-approved agency where the main activity was inspecting for compliance with the NYC Plumbing Code and laws regulating fire suppression systems, 50% of the experience counts towards the seven (7) years required to become an LFSC, up to 2.5 years. The rest of the experience must be accumulated under the guidance of an LFSC.

Other than meeting the requirements above, all applicants must approve an examination with a minimum score of 70 percent, and must also receive a positive assessment after a background check.

Fire Suppression Contractors: Additional Information

Although there is only one type of LMP license, LFSC licenses are divided into classes A, B and C. The work allowed under each license type is the following:

  • Class A - All fire suppression work.
  • Class B - Sprinkler and standpipe systems.
  • Class C - Fire extinguishing systems.

If you are applying to become al LFSC, keep in mind that you can only apply for license classes in which you have accumulated the required experience. All three categories include sprinkler systems, so the specific license type of an LFSC is not a limitation if the project deals exclusively with sprinklers. However, keep these limitations in mind if your project involves fire suppression work other than sprinklers.

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