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IBC Should Look Closer at Schools' Sprinkler Requirements

The current International Building Code states that a new school or addition can be up to 20,000 sq. ft. without meeting a fire sprinkler requirement, however a 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse/storage building must meet sprinkler requirements. Despite proposals to lower the sq. ft. requirement for schools, the past code changes were defeated and there have been new proposed changes.

At a state level, Illinois has amended its sprinkler law to require new school buildings or additions 7,200 or more sq. ft., affecting one or more area, to install a fire sprinkler system. Automatic fire detection or manual alarm systems are required in areas not requiring sprinklers. Regardless, attention/action to reform the existing IBC in relation to schools is needed.

I differ with the argument no hazard exists. Loss suffered by a community as a result of a school fire, the danger faced by children, and the devastation shared by children and adults should incite lowering of the 20,000 sq. ft. mandate.

It is disturbing that we must install fire sprinklers to protect warehoused lettuce but we are not required to do the same for our children.

The industry should lower sq. ft. requirements for fire sprinklers in schools. It is time for change. Unless we act there will be no progress. Our children deserve the protection.


Richard A. Piccolo is president of B & F Technical Code Services, Inc. With more than 30 years in the building code and fire industry, Mr. Piccolo is a Master Code Professional, a Certified Building Official, a Certified Fire Official, a Certified Property Maintenance Inspector, a Certified Building Inspector, a Certified Plans Examiner, an Illinois Certified Fire Inspector and a Certified Firefighter III. He has helped write building and fire codes for the state of Illinois as well as a number of municipalities.
B & F Technical Code Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 957648
2401 W. Hassell Road., Suite 1550
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
  Phone: (847) 490-1443
  Toll-Free (800) 232-5523
  Fax: (847) 490-1476