Massachusetts Permitting 101 – Fire Protection Systems

The permit process can often be a challenging endeavor and one that can often impact project timeframes bottom lines. Understanding the required documentation at each step along the permitting process can help mitigate unnecessary pitfalls that are commonly felt by the applicant.

In Massachusetts, the document submittal process includes three (3) tiers of submittals per 780 CMR §901.2.1, Massachusetts State Building Code:

  • Tier I – Construction Documents
  • Tier II – Shop Drawings
  • Tier III – Record (As-Built) Drawings

Prior to altering an existing building or erecting a new building, a building permit must first be acquired from the building department. In order to obtain a building permit, Tier I Construction Documents must be submitted and approved by the building department.

Tier I Construction Document packages are required to be produced by a Registered Design Professional and must contain sufficient information to completely describe each fire protection system(s) for which a permit is requested. This information is typically conveyed via the following documents:

  • Design Drawings, stamped by the RDP
  • Specification(s)
  • Design Narrative Report, stamped by the Registered Design Professional (RDP)
    • Minimally includes the design methodology, sequence of operations, and testing criteria

Tier II Shop Drawing packages are then generated by the installing contractor and are submitted to both the building and fire departments prior to installation/demolition or alterations to systems once the building permit has been issued. Tier II documents typically include the following:

  • Design Narrative Report from the RDP
  • Shop Drawings
    • Generally includes of greater detail than that of the Tier I drawings
    • Details depicting the interface to fire safety control functions and classification of supervising station for fire alarm projects
    • Contains the installing contractor’s name, license number and license expiration date
  • Manufacturer’s Data Sheets for all equipment and material(s)
  • Calculations
    • Hydraulic calculations for water-based fire protection systems
    • Battery calculations and voltage drop calculations for fire alarm systems

Once the Shop Drawings are approved, the system(s) can be installed. The only way to close out a Tier II permit is for the building and fire officials to accept the installed system(s) which generally includes a final acceptance test with the AHJ and/or a 3rd Party present.

Tier III documents are generated by the installing contractor and are required to be submitted to the building owner. The drawings must indicate the approved, as-built condition of the system(s), which may deviate from the Tier II Shop Drawings. These documents must be provided to the building owner prior to any acceptance testing.