Win Jobs by Knowing the Codes:Use emerging technologies and updated codes to get more projects

Published On
Oct 15, 2022

One way to outsmart the competition is to know more than they do about technology and code changes. These updates may lead to less expensive, bid-winning ways to approach fire alarm system design, installation or both. The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, NFPA 72, changes every three years. Ideally, the enforced code is the one officially adopted through the International Building Code (IBC) adoption process.

Section 102.4 of the IBC states, “The codes and standards referenced in this code shall be considered part of the requirements of this code to the prescribed extent of each such reference. Where differences occur between provisions of this code and referenced codes and standards, the provisions of this code shall apply.”

It is important to know what edition of the IBC is adopted and enforced in your state. For example, if your jurisdiction is currently using the 2009 IBC, the referenced edition of NFPA 72 is the 2007 edition.

Know the recent code

The current published National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code is the 2022 edition. Knowing that your jurisdiction uses a code 13 years behind the times can be an advantage when bidding fire alarm system installations, because many of the current changes allow different technologies or installation options to be used that were not allowed 13 years ago. Approach the authority having jurisdiction to determine if they will allow you to follow the most recent published copy of NFPA 72. Typically, this is OK because the most recent code will provide the latest acceptable approaches to fire alarm system design and installation.

NFPA still publishes the 2007 NFPA 72, so it would make sense to get a copy in a searchable PDF format for your techs. Code handbooks are also available as PDFs and would be a better choice to purchase, because they have additional guidance on the code requirements.

Defeating the competition

As an example of how you can close the gap by using the most recent version of the code, compare the intelligibility requirements in the 2007 edition to the 2022 ones.

NFPA 72-2007 Section 7.4.1.4* states, “Where required, voice communications systems shall be capable of the reproduction of prerecorded, synthesized, or live (e.g., microphone, telephone handset, and radio) messages with voice intelligibility.”

The only option to meet these intelligibility requirements is to use the listed loudspeakers. This will not pose any real problem, except, for example, in a reverberant space like a large, open-area hotel lobby. If you are constrained to using the standard listed loudspeaker, you may need 15–20, depending on the space’s size.

NFPA 72-2022 18.4.1.6* states essentially the same requirement: “Voice messages shall not be required to meet the audibility requirements of 18.4.4 (Public Mode Audible Requirements), 18.4.5 (Private Mode Audible Requirements), 18.4.6 (Sleeping Area Requirements), or 18.4.7 (Narrow Band Tone Signaling for Exceeding Masked Thresholds) but shall meet the intelligibility requirements of 18.4.11 where voice intelligibility is required.”

However, also in the 2022 edition (here is where it can minimize installation costs), Section 24.3.1.2* states “Where listed loudspeakers do not achieve the intelligibility requirements of the Code for a notification zone, non-listed loudspeakers shall be permitted to be installed to achieve the intelligibility for that notification zone.”

In a reverberant space, it will be best to use line array loudspeakers. Typically, you will only need two 6-foot line array loudspeakers, compared to the 15–20 listed loudspeakers need to comply with the 2007 code. Section 24.3.1.2 did not appear in NFPA 72 until the 2016 edition.

Using the most recent edition of NFPA 72, you will save on raceways, boxes, cabling and installation labor. This one change could help win the work.

In addition to staying up on codes and standards, be aware of new products. For instance, there is at least one manufacturer of listed line array loudspeakers now available, so the change request for the latest edition of the code becomes an easier ask.

Have a copy of the code in each vehicle or a PDF version on every device. Using emerging technologies and code changes to your advantage will help you win more fire alarm system projects.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker, writer and expert in the life safety field, has been a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, as well as a former principal member of NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is the...

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