During the MCFP Virtual Conference series, expert Lee Kaiser, covers commissioning fire systems. In the video below, watch as Lee dives in-depth on how to commission a fire system based on NFPA3 and NFPA4 standards.
Commissioning Fire Suppression Systems and Sequences of Operation
My intent here is to teach a number of things at once, and you'll see how it all comes together, and what's the sequence of operation? I defined this at the beginning. The sequence of operations is something that describes the relation of inputs and outputs to a fire alarm or suppression systems. It could be an input/output matrix that's a table-based form or it could be a written sequence; either one meets the intent of the code.
NFPA4, a new document we haven't talked about, defines a sequence of operations as a matrix, narrative, or table of system input and output responses that illustrate the interactions of interconnected fire protection and life safety systems. It describes that system of inputs and outputs.
When we think about commissioning fire protection systems, there are two documents that come to mind, and we've got copies of those here. We've got NFPA3 and NFPA4. They're companion documents and NFPA3 is the standard for commissioning of fire protection and life safety systems. NFPA4 is a new document standard for integrated fire protection and life safety system testing. They used to be together but now they're separate documents.
NFPA3 was developed in 2012 as a recommended practice, so a lot of consulting engineers make money offering commissioning services so generally they follow the recommendation. If you're on the mechanical side, you probably follow Ash Ray, the commissioning guy for HVAC systems and building automation systems. If you're on the electrical side, you have some information. Is it Nema? I'm not sure who has electrical standard but at that same time as those other industry associations were writing documents, NFPA realized that we needed to have something for commissioning of life safety systems, and so they wrote NFPA3.
Today, in the 2018 version of that; it's in it's third edition and used to be part of the chapter on testing the systems. Now that lives by itself as NFPA4, the standard for integrated fire protection and life safety system testing. This is how we test systems that are integrated. So not only the fire protection system where we have NFPA72 to test the fire alarm piece, but if they were interconnected to another building system that performs a life safety system function, then we do integrated testing and we follow NFPA4 to make sure those systems work correctly.
For commissioning, a documentation process, NFPA3 describes it. It's a documentation process that provides confirmation that building systems function according to the intended design criteria. We look at the design criteria and establish that we meet design criteria in a pass/fail manner and if it doesn't meet that criteria, we've got some information in our commissioning plan, on how to make those fixes.
For the testing, the intermediate tests are what we've been discussing and the integrated systems tests include multiple life safety and building systems with multiple contractors. NFPA4, as you start to read it, talks about building an integrated testing team led by an integrated testing agent that leads this, just like how we may have special inspectors for smoke control systems. An integrated testing agent is going to lead this team for the integrated testing. It's going to include simultaneous testing of multiple systems at once and confirms each system performs as expected. It then tests the life safety functions of those non‑life safety systems to make sure that they work.
Here's the new piece, not only is this code new, but now it's required to follow NFPA4 for certain systems. These new standards, based on 2018 editions of suppression system standards are the first time that we're seeing code-required integrated systems testing.
NFPA12 is the standard for carbon dioxide systems. CO2 systems are used as a suppression system or extinguishing system to put our fires, and they can be tied into other building systems for life safety functions and now that needs to be tested. Same with NFPA12A, the old Halon standard. It's been update, too. If we modify a Halon system, we need to follow NFPA4.
NFPA750, a code we haven't talked about, is the water mist system standard. It came out in 2018, and it's going to include integrated systems testing.
NFPA2001, the clean agent system standard, also includes integrated systems testing, so this is the first place that we're being required to also follow NFPA4 for new installations.