How Can Fire Protection Engineers Help Avoid Costly Mistakes?
If you have ever been involved with the design and construction of new facilities or renovating existing buildings, you are well aware that the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Or, simply said, things don’t always go as planned. And, most of the time, the later in the process that these unforeseen hiccups occur, the more expensive it is to fix.
As fire protection engineers, we have experienced this over and over. A common example is if a building does not meet the local fire code, an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), such as a building inspector or fire marshal, can bring your project to a halt. We have helped to manage the relationship between building owners/contractors and AHJs on many projects and have seen that when a fire protection engineer is brought in early in the design process, it can help to keep a project on schedule and on budget.
Recently, we were contacted by a topnotch sprinkler contractor. After designing and installing fire suppression systems in a new food distribution center in Virginia, the AHJ did not approve of one of the many systems in the new facility. What’s more – the contractor was going to have to spend a lot of time and a tremendous amount of money ripping out and replacing the new sprinkler system and very likely was going to have to replace the brand new fire pump that they had just installed with a larger one to fully meet all of the requirements of the applicable fire code.
Not sure what to do, the contractor turned to us to see if we could develop a creative solution that would meet the intent of the code, and then negotiate approval with the AHJ. After carefully reviewing the building design and applicable codes, one of our senior fire protection engineers, Les Ingles, was able to develop a solution that fully met the intent of the code and satisfied the owner of the facility. He was also able to work closely with the AHJ to gain approval for a much less costly solution than the alternative of a “by the code” approach.
We were able to succeed in this situation because fire protection engineering and code analysis are our specialties. Also, many, if not most, of our projects require direct communication with AJHs. We know how important it is to get in touch with the AHJ in the early stages of a project so that we fully understand their interpretation of the applicable code requirements and expectations for the project. This process allows us the opportunity to fully explain the proposed fire protection systems and our interpretation of the many code requirements, as well as sets the stage for continued dialogue and fire protection solutions negotiations. In this situation, we were thrilled that we were able to help the contractor avoid a more costly solution; however, we believe that if a fire protection engineer had been involved in earlier stages of this project, an agreement on the appropriate protection systems would have been worked out prior to construction.
If you need help negotiating approval of your fire protection system design with your local AHJ, contact one of our fire protection engineers by filling out the below form:
By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.