Design Considerations for Buildings Without Sprinklers

In New Zealand, while sprinkler systems are a common fire safety feature in high-rise and high-risk building, there are instances where buildings might not have them due to various reasons such as compatibility issues or cost constraints. In such cases, architects and engineers must consider alternative measures to ensure the safety of occupants and the protection of property.

Under the acceptable solutions for fire C/AS2, sprinkler protection installation becomes a requirement
when certain criteria are met. They are:
1. Height of building exceeding 25m (with certain criteria)
2. Occupants require care or detention
3. Height of capable storage in a warehouse exceeding 8m (with certain criteria)
4. Educational accommodation buildings

C/AS2 is a prescriptive compliance document that provides designers with speed and relative simplicity but reduces design flexibility.

If sprinkler protection in a building meeting the criteria above is undesirable for whatever reason, it may be possible to design the building and achieve building code compliance using the Verification Design method. This process, however, often comes at the cost of increasing other fire safety measures such as fire ratings and detection systems. Examples of these are as follows:

1. Adequate Ventilation and Smoke Control
Proper ventilation and smoke control systems are essential in buildings without sprinklers. Designers must ensure that the building allows for ventilation – either naturally or mechanically.

2. Early Detection Systems
In the absence of sprinklers, early detection of fire is paramount. Installing advanced fire detection systems, including smoke detectors and heat sensors, can provide timely warnings to occupants and emergency services.

3. Fire Exits
Access to fire exits requires further attention, as the growth of a fire, if unsuppressed by sprinklers would result in untenable conditions more rapidly. As a result, more fire exits are often required.

4. Compartmentalization
Additional fire rated walls & ceilings are often required to enclose rooms where vertical fire & smoke spread would otherwise threaten occupants in adjacent rooms.

For any queries, please contact Dallen Chan, BEng (Hons), MEngSt (Fire), Fire Engineer CoveKinloch New Zealand Ltd on 022 122 4752 or