New NFPA Code May Increase Installation Of Residential Fire Sprinklers

January 11, 2006


Copper Tubing is the Quality Choice Among Engineers, Installers

ORLANDO, FL— Copper tubing, long the standard in home plumbing systems, is also recommended for builders now faced with installing automatic residential fire sprinkler systems, according to the Copper Development Association (CDA).

"The benefits of copper tubing for water supply are well documented," says Andrew G. Kireta Jr., CDA's national program manager of Building Construction. "It's durable, lightweight, and it has soldered or brazed joints that are strong enough to withstand earthquakes. Copper tubing is also impervious to flame and can withstand temperatures up to 2,000 degrees, so it's a much better material for fire sprinklers than plastic or steel."

Over 200 municipalities across the USA now require automatic fire sprinklers in single-family residential construction. In addition, members of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) voted in June to require the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in all newly constructed one- and two-family homes. The new requirements are contained in the 2006 editions of the following model building codes issued by the agency: NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, NFPA 5000®, Building Construction and Safety Code® and NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code.

Local, city and state legislative bodies can choose whether to adopt this NFPA fire protection building code revision as law. If they do, all new residential construction in that jurisdiction must include automatic fire sprinkler installations.

Residential builders faced with new building code requirements, such as automatic fire sprinklers, can be assured that consumers will want only the best material for fire protection in their homes - and that's copper tubing," says Kireta.

Copper water supply pipe, which has been trusted for plumbing systems in the USA for more than 70 years, is ideal for fire protection systems as well. It is not only nonflammable, "it will not emit toxic fumes as plastic tubing can do when exposed to fire," says Kireta.

"Copper is flexible and lightweight, so it's easy to work with," he adds. "And when fires do happen, copper systems deliver clean water, even if the system has never been flushed - unlike steel systems where corrosion can cause the water to turn rusty or black."

Copper fire sprinklers already have a record of reliability in commercial fire safety. In fact, the CDA helped develop the first clife-oriented" automatic fire sprinkler systems in the 1970s. Before that, sprinklers were only used in industrial settings and were designed to protect commercial property, not life.

Fast-acting copper sprinklers, developed for high-rise hotels and residences, required less water than the conventional steel sprinklers used at the time, and were also lighter in weight and easier to install. In 1971, after a devastating fire killed 28 of its guests, the Pioneer International Hotel in Tucson, Arizona, installed the first of these all-copper fire sprinkler systems.

One thing hasn't changed over the years, says Kireta - engineers and contractors still rely on copper sprinkler systems.

For more information on copper tubing for residential fire sprinkler applications, visit the Plumbing section on the CDA website,