9th Edition Code Change: Sprinklers on Glass to Achieve Fire Ratings

It’s become a relatively common place occurrence for designers to utilize sprinklers on glass windows in place of a fire rated wall that is required by the International Building Code or 780 CMR, the Massachusetts State Building Code. Under the 2015 International Building Code (IBC), which is adopted as the basis of 780 CMR 9th Edition, the compliance path to utilize sprinklers on glass in place of a fire-resistance rated wall has changed and may be more challenging than it was in the past to get them approved.

Section 703.4 of the 2015 IBC states that automatic sprinklers are not permitted to be utilized when determining the fire resistance of a wall assembly in accordance with the ASTM E119 or UL 263 fire test standards. The section continues to clarify that while it is not permitted by Ch. 7 of the IBC, such wall assemblies may be approved under Section 104.10 and 104.11 as an alternative method where approved by the building official. The Tyco WS Window Sprinkler is a common product designers utilize on a glass wall in place of a traditional fire rated wall. This product does have test data illustrating that it was tested in accordance with the ASTM E119 test and achieved a 2-hour rating with heat-strengthened or tempered glass although specific design limitations apply. It is critical to provide the necessary product data to the building official for their review and approval. The change to Chapter 7 of the IBC does not explicitly prohibit use of this product or similar ones, but puts the path to approval through Chapter 1, where evaluation and the documented approval of the approach is at the discretion of the approving authority.

It’s worthy to note that this requirement does not apply to atrium boundaries, as there is a separate exception specifically for atrium walls that allows the use of a glass wall with sprinklers spaced 6-feet on center that are designed to wet the entire surface of the glass in accordance with Section 404.6 of the IBC. This exception is not subject to the requirements of the language in Ch.7 because it is located within the special use and occupancy section of the code and exists for atriums because of the other protection features required to be provided, such as smoke control systems. This exception cannot be utilized for walls located outside of an atrium.

Do not hesitate to give us a call if you need help evaluating if you can utilize a glass wall assembly with sprinklers on your project.