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How does a FPE calculate the fire water demand for a building?

For example, a
Light Hazard building with 3200 s.f. Using a wet-pipe system and Density/Area
Curves in NFPA 13, I'm coming up with 150 gpm (0.10*1500) as a minimum water
demand for this building. Assuming hose streams are not required for this example.
Is it safe to tell a FPE to design a sprinkler system for this building using 150 gpm
and not go over this number as the pressure at the higher flow is too low? I'm
guessing that the FPE would use a computer program such as Haas or something to
run the numbers. Does Haas has its own way to calculate water demand for the
I have seen a submitted hydraulic calculations where the sprinkler flow is 375.91
gpm for the building using 0.10 gpm/s.f. Not quite sure why the flow is so high and
if it's possible to lower the flow.
That is a theoretical output. A sprinkler system is basically a machine. Have you
ever seen a machine with 100% efficiency?
If you calculate 1500 sq ft, and the heads are spaced at 200 sq ft / head, then you
are going to calc a minimum of 8 heads. 8 sprinklers requiring a minimum of 20
gpm is going to be 160 gpm. Now, the heads will likely not discharge exactly 20
gpm, due to friction losses in the piping network, so you get even more over
I have seen a dry system in an attic with demands in the 500 gpm range and it is
still a light hazard design criteria.
It is all dependent on the actual layout of sprinklers in the facility.
It is possible to lower the flow by adjusting the orifice size, piping arrangement, pipe
sizes etc. You will only be able to calculate the minimum required flow. The flow by
way of calculations will always be higher than the minimum.
A dry system in a steeply sloped attic will absolutely require lots of water and
pressure when compared to an office building with 8'-0" AFF ceilings.
As TM said; it all depends on the building, layout and hazard class.
Travis: So if the FPE knows that the city is only capable of supplying say 250gpm at
40 psig at the fire riser. Wouldn't it make sense to design a sprinkler system to use
a maximum of 250 gpm? Why would you design a system for a much higher flow
rate that would require a fire pump?
From what Travis and Newton are saying, it seems that the flow rate can be
controlled by the FPE by the number of sprinkler heads and piping arrangement?
Thanks for the responses, I'm just trying to get a better understanding of what is
going on.

If you design a system for higher flows, you are putting in a water storage tank. A
pump can only provide pressure. If you don't have water, you need a tank.
The flow rate can be controlled to an extent. However, if you have a really cut up
space then you are going to have a higher water demand. For example, if I have a
bunch of small offices in my design area, I am likely going to have more flow than if
I have a wide open space and can maximize sprinkler layout. So, in that sense, the
architect has the biggest impact on sprinkler flow.
Granted, I can chose smaller orifice sprinklers to choke down flow. I can modify pipe
sizes. I can increase orifice size to decrease pressure. If I have ceilings less than
20', I can use the allowed QR reduction to reduce my design area. But, each project
is going to have to be designed to provide coverage per NFPA 13. You can't always
make it work with the municipal supply, especially if you have a poor water supply.
Now, the FPE on this particular project may not have made the most effective
design. We don't know that. But, there are many variables that come into play
when putting the system together. If there is that great a concern on this project,
get a second professional to review the plan for possible modifications to reduce the
sprinkler system demand. You may find out that what the original FPE did is
actually the best layout. Or, you may find he did a rather inefficient layout.
Thanks Travis. That makes a little more sense with your bunch of small offices vs
wide open space example regarding the flow rate.
So what do you tell your civil engineer when they ask you what your building's fire
water flow rate is during the design? We don't have a FPE to run the cals until the
project is bid out. By then, adding a fire pump is a huge cost impact to the project.
Is there a better estimation than using the Density/Area Curves in NFPA 13?
either work with a sprinkler designer up front or hire the FPE up front, since it
sounds like one will be invovled anyway!!!!!!
Be careful that you are not being asked site fire flows which are totally different
than sprinkler demands.
As far as demands, it totally depends on the structure and type of system. If I have
a wood attic, dry system and 4:12 roof pitch, I would easily say 500-600 gallons. A
wet system for ceiling sprinklers only, light hazard, 10' ceilings, probably no more
than 120-150 + hose. But, you can mess that up with using extended coverage
sprinklers and get to a 200+ gpm demand plus hose allowances.
Ordinary Hazard Grp II with no QR reductions, around 400 gpm + hose.
But, these are just airball numbers that may be way off depending on the sprinkler
system layout. As you can see, there are several variables. In just a light hazard
office building, you can range from 120 - 600 gallons depending on the variables.

But, as CDAFD said, you need to have some one experienced in these matters to
handle this up front for you. Otherwise, a fire pump after the fact becomes an
unfortunate reality. On jobs where I have had to give a number for reference early
in the design in the past, I tell them to bring me a 6" line and give me a minimum of
70 psi at the base of the riser at 500 gpm.
It doesn't take an FPE to calc a sprinkler flowrate. NICETs excel at sprinkler design
and usually have vastly greater experience in hydraulic calcs. Maybe if you are
friends with one they will help you out.
For what its worth I think you should look at using quick response reduction, and
you should roughly lay out the heads on the floor plan based on max. distance of
say 12 ft from walls or 24 ft between heads. Draw a rectangle around the most
hydraulically remote 1,500 sq ft of floor area(or less if you are taking quick response
reduction). Count the number of heads and calculate the flow using 24 gpm per
When you get that total flowrate (a theoretical minimum flow), add on about ~30%
on for overage. Example, say it is 9 heads x 24 gpm/head x 1.3 = 281 gpm. If
your rooms are shaped such that your heads are bunched close together and not
covering much floor area, then doing the above method will account for that.. The
30% for overage will leave pressure drop margin for the sprinkler designer to use.
You can reduce the overage by installing larger branch lines and feed mains; this
also reduces friction losses so somewhat reduces pressure demand. You can reduce
pressure demand by installing K 8.0 sprinkler heads throughout instead of K 5.0's.
You can reduce the pressure demand by spacing the sprinklers closer. (less flow per
head means less pressure required to force the lower flowrate through the head).
You really should completely read the calculation section of NFPA 13 if you want to
do any of this, else hire a PE who actually knows sprinklers (hard to find!).. If it
looks like it is close for having a booster pump (or pump+tank), then detailed
hydraulics should be done. For this small system (non-gridded) they can be done by
hand quite easily, no software required.
Real world knowledge doesn't fall out of the sky on a parachute, but rather is gained
in small increments during moments of panic or curiosity.
Here is a helpful thread my friend Travis contributed to:
This subject needs a white paper. I think I'll work on crafting something.
stookeyfpe: Actually, I just wanted to know the building's sprinkler demand. I may
have used the wrong terminology that got confused with site fire flow. It is a very
informative thread however. Did Travis get his steak at the steak house?

pipesnpumps: Thanks for the tips, I'll try your quick calcs next time. One thing that
confuses me is that you mentioned using 24 gpm per sprinkler head, but a couple of
paragraphs down, you mentioned reducing pressure demand by spacing the
sprinklers closer and "(less flow per head means less pressure required to force the
lower flowrate through the head)". Where is this less flow per head coming from
when you mentioned 24 gpm per head? Doesn't spacing the sprinklers closer mean
having more heads within that 1500 s.f., which means higher total flow?
Travis: Do you have the section number in NFPA that talks about wood framed attic
or metal framed attic requiring different demand? And a section number for the
roof pitch? I'm seeing section "Sloped Ceilings in Non-Storage
Applications" where system area of operation shall be increased by 30%. Nothing
on roof pitch.
Where in the system are inside and outside hose streams connected to? What is
the required pressure for these hose streams? I'm guessing the outside hose
stream is to feed the fire truck which then boosts the pressure to fight site or
building fires? If so, couldn't hose stream be designed to be on a separate system
in certain situation rather than adding to building's sprinkler demand?
Right below in dry systems must increase the remote area 30%. So for a
dry system in a steep sloped attic gives me 1500*1.3*1.3=2535 minimum square
foot remote area.
My NFPA 13 (2010 edition) says in that if the ceiling slope exceeds 2/12
then the remote area must be increased 30%.
I think it is about time that NFPA 13 becomes your sole source of reading material.
When I started in the industry, my boss required that I read NFPA 13 every night for
about the first 6 months I worked there. Granted, it was a lot smaller back then, but
it taught me generally where to find things in the standard and a good basis for all
of my future work.
Anyway, for spacing in all light hazard areas, refer to:
Table Protection Areas and Maximum Spacing of Standard Pendent and
Upright Spray Sprinklers for Light Hazard
For required increase in design area for sloped ceilings (roof deck): Sloped Ceilings

For required increase due to dry pipe / preaction:* Dry Pipe and Double Interlock Preaction Systems.

So, if you have a light hazard, combustible attic with structural members less than
36" on center and a slope of 4:12 or greater that is protected by a dry system, you
have a base design area of 1500 sq ft. You then increase that 30% for the dry
system to a design area of 1950 sq ft. You then increase that 30% for the slope to a
design area of 2535 sq ft.
In an attic such as that, (based on doing these a lot), you are going to average
about 80-90 sq ft per sprinkler. (Remember, the max spacing for that attic is 120 sq
ft per sprinkler). At 90 sq ft on average per sprinkler, you are looking at 29 heads to
be calculated. They will have a minimum discharge of 14.82 gpm (7 psi). Right
there, you have 430 gpm demand without any over-discharge from the sprinklers. A
dry system can be expected to have about a 20-30% inefficiencies (over discharge,
tree system, etc..) , for a demand of +/- 550 gpm.
So, that is how your small little light hazard office can easily give you a crazy
sprinkler system demand.
Now, get a copy of NFPA 13 to take home every night and read it front to back at
least 5 times. It is a great cure for insomnia, but if you are going to be in this
industry, you need to have a good handle on the requirements set forth in NFPA 13
and where to find them when you can't recall the exact information.
A sprinkler only has to be sized for the floor area it protects.
As an example, if it protects 225 sf @ 0.1 gpm/sf = 22.5 gpm out of that head. This
requires a pressure of: P = (Q/K)^2 = (22.5/5.6)^2 = 16.1 psig at the head.
If the same K5.6 heads were spaced at 12'x12' then it is 144 sf @ 0.1 gpm/sf = 14.4
gpm P = (Q/K)^2 = (14.4/5.6)^2 = 6.61 psig BUT a sprinkler head is required to
have 7 psig minimum. So the last head would be calc'd at 7 psig, and the 2nd head
up the branch line would then probably have >7 psig due to friction losses..
Likewise you can see that using k8.0 heads will also reduce pressure requirements.
This is all basic stuff, kindergarten material for a NICET. Greek to most PEs..
What is a typical pressure loss through a fire sprinkler system for a single story
office building (4000 sf) with about 200 feet of piping? We have been doing a
deferred approval so that a sprinkler contractor will design the system and get
approvals, so I do not know how much loss through the system. I believe the
furthest sprinkler head requires a minimum of 7 psig. I'm not sure what a typical
pressure loss is going through the fire riser and all. I'm trying to determine if civil
giving me 20 psig at the building is going to be enough for the sprinkler system
without having to oversized the piping to reduce pressure loss. What is a typical
recommended pressure at the building/fire riser?

It really depends on a lot of variables. Do you have wood construction? If so, is the
attic protected with a wet or dry system? If wood attic, what is the roof slope? Is a
backflow preventer required?
You typically see sprinklers in an office at up to 14'x14' spacing. That is 12 psi for
the sprinkler. Assuming 10' ceiling = +/- 4.5 psi loss. You have another 5 or so psi
for the backflow preventer. Right there, you are at 20 psi +/- and that doesn't
account for any friction losses in the system.
For a typical light hazard wet system, single story, you can do it comfortably with
+/- 50 psi. If it is a dry system in the attic where the roof pitch is 4:12 or greater,
you are going to want a larger volume of water and about 50-60 psi.
wow... I didn't realize that those variables you mentioned would affect pressure
calculations. How is the building construction type (wood vs metal) affect
calculations? Does one require more sprinkler heads, thus needing more fittings? I
honestly have not looked at this section of NFPA as we always depend on the
sprinkler contractor.
Is the 12 psi the minimum required per NFPA at the sprinkler head for an office
building? Not sure where I saw 7 psi... maybe for residential?
This one I'm working on is a wood framed building with a 4:12 roof slope. Dry pipe
system. Backflow preventer is at the point of connection (city water). So I'm losing
about 5-10 psi going through a dry pipe riser (about 300 gpm through a 4" or 6"
line)? Looks like civil giving 20 psi at the building is not going to be enough. Guess
another diesel fire pump with enclosure is going in this project.
The 7.0 psi is the minimum pressure required on a sprinkler not to be confused with
what might be needed.
p=pressure required in psi, q=water om gpm and k is the constant.
Standard 1/2" orifice sprinklers have a k-factor of 5.6 and at 7.0 psi at the sprinkler
they will discharge q=k*p^.5 or 14.8 gpm.
The standard density for an office is .10 gpm so as long as the head does not cover
more than 148.0 sq ft the 7.0 psi will work.
But what if your spacing is 14'x14' for 196 sq ft? The density of .10 will require 19.6
gpm be discharged which will require 12.3 psi. It is important to recognize 14.8 (7.0
psi) gpm is the minimum required even if in a small 3'x2' closet.
You can have two identical buildings in different sections of town and it is likely the
pipe sizes will change and sometimes radically. If city water for the first was 110
static, 90 residual @ 1,360 gpm. For the second building the water supply was 40

static, 28 residual @ 690 gpm. Given the two water supplies, one very good the
other very marginal, the two systems will be totally different in regards to head
spacing, number of sprinklers and size of pipe. Given the good nature of one water
supply and the marginal nature of the second the system in the building with the
marginal supply could easily (most likely in fact) cost 50% more than the one with
the better supply.
All sprinkler systems are unique. One never looks exactly like another unless it is in
identical buildings with identical water supplies.
Whether the building is made of wood or steel will dictate whether or not you have
sprinklers in an attic if designed per NFPA #13. Combustible spaces require
sprinklers while non-combustible spaces do not. If a residential building, designed
per NFPA #13R sprinklers are not generally required in attic spaces.
In laying out sprinklers there's literally thousands of different "rules" and it takes
years to learn most of them but if you read the forum you'll learn nobody ever
knows all of them. So often to me it seems the more you know the more questions
you have
By having a wood attic with slope of 4:12, you will probably have an average of 80100 sq ft per sprinkler in the attic. The design area will be 1500 sq ft + 30% for the
dry system + 30% for the roof slope. This leads to a minimum design area of 2535
sq ft. At 100 sq ft per sprinkler, you are going to have 26 sprinklers in your design
area. Since they are going to be spaced less than 148 sq ft, you will have a
minimum of 14.8 gpm from each sprinkler. That gives you 384 gpm. With a dry
system, you will end up with about 20% over discharge so your base of riser
demand could be about 460 gpm. The pressure needed would be about 60 psi to
keep respectable pipe sizes.
Again, this is just based on a bunch of estimations from past experience with dry
Now, you could do the entire thing as an anti-freeze system and get your design
area down to 1170 sq ft because it is essentially a wet system. You could use 4.2k
sprinklers to cut down on over-discharge and have a demand of +/- 150 gpm plus
outside hose allowance of 100 gpm. However, if the capacity of the system is >40
gallons, then you need to use the Darcy Weisbach(sp?) calculation method. You will
also likely need a reduced pressure backflow preventer. But, if you end up needing
a water storage tank for the project this would be a lot less stored water.
As you can see, there are many variables as to how you could approach the system.
But, 20 psi at the base of the riser is not going to be close.
madvb, 20 psi as the minimum pressure allowed in the underground piping by
environmental and AWWA regs.

You need to learn more about NFPA 13 to be doing engineered performance based
plans. Buy an NFPA 13 handbook and read it.
Tennessee requires preliminary hydraulic calcs for the entire system on the
drawings or submitted separately. The calcs should go from the test hydrant
through to the hydraulically most remote area. The reason they require this is a)
they rightly consider sprinkler systems to be engineered systems, and b) they
learned they can't trust engineers like to properly do these calcs on their own.
Hatching a drawing and saying "light hazard per NFPA 13" won't cut it and at best
results in huge headaches (fire pump added after bid phase). Worst case is the state
gets involved and someone loses their PE license.
If you have 20 psi at the base of the riser, you will need to carefully size the fire
pump. The residual pressure in the underground line must be >20 psig while your
fire pump is flowing at 150% of its rating.
Along the same lines of what pipesnpumps is saying, I will take it one step further.
You are NOT qualified to be making these decisions. I suggest you consult a
qualified fire protection engineer or contractor for assistance.
I somewhat agree firepe, but a qualified PE of any related discipline (civil,
mechanical) is completely capable of doing sprinkler work in typical occupancy
hazard approach situations. Obviously they need to RTFM (read the fricking manual)
and then work under someone who can teach them the ins and outs before they are
It could be worse, he could have not even logged on to ask the question.. Just like
every other yahoo that submits mickey mouse drawings. This is at least a first step
in the right direction.
We are saying the same thing here. An FPE does not have to be an engineer that
attended Univ of Maryland and received a Fire protection degree, but rather, an
engineer that took and passed the FPE PE exam. That would be most preferable,
but I would also agree there are many other non FPE engineers out there that did
not specifically take the FPE exam, but are still qualified to consult on fire
protection. When I state "qualified" I mean qualified, not claims to be qualified.
As for my advice to the original post, madvb, that is why I stated what I did. The
fact that they reached out to this forum is perfect. They need help, and should not
attempt this alone.
Totally unrelated to fire, but with 20 psi at your riser you're going to have problems
with your plumbing system as well if you have any flush valves in the system
(typically 25 psi minimum).

Thank you for all these very informative responses. We do have a set of NFPA in the
office. We don't have a fire protection engineer here, and that's why we have been
doing the deferred approvals and leave it to the contractor to get the right people to
design the sprinkler system. For my part, I want to make sure that I have provided
enough flow and pressure at the building.... just wasn't sure what a typical demand
is at the building. Now I know...50-60 psi!
I'm sure there will be one of those projects where they say they can only give you
40 psi.... what then? Oversize your pipe a little? I guess we can always pay a FPE
to run the numbers for us. Do you all have a set pressure in mind and will not go
below that number no matter what? The cost of adding a packaged diesel fire
pump with an enclosure isn't cheap.

SprinklerDesigner2: Thanks for running those quick calcs for me as I have

overlooked some of the items you mentioned.
ChrisConley - I have always asked my civil guys to give me separate lines for
domestic water and fire water. They usually give me enough pressure for domestic
water as the flow is low (~25 gpm).

I'm sure there will be one of those projects where they say they can only give you
40 psi.... what then? Oversize your pipe a little?
Most importantly you have several people, firepe and pipesnpumps among them,
advising to consult with someone that has training which is the best advice you can
Perhaps oversize is misleading a bit. To oversize implies there's a standard size
when there isn't. But the general rule is the lower the available water pressure the
larger the pipe gets which results in a higher price in material and labor to install.
Need to recognize the lower the pressure the the more difficult it becomes to
Assume a project was guessed to have 80 psi and it turns out you only have 60. It's
going to cost some, perhaps have to increase a 2 1/2" main to a 3" main. But the
job most likely won't be a disaster even though there's a 20 psi difference. But at
lower pressures, assume someone figured 40 psi and there's only 30, it generally is

going to get much more difficult, not to mention expensive, to make up that 10 psi.
Instead of having to increase a main from 2 1/2" to 3" you might very well have to
increase it from 4" to 6" or even 8" and that'll cost you dearly. Given an office for
example it would probably be possible to provide sprinklers with as little as 16 or 17
lbs (assume 8' ceilings and a 3 psi loss through a backflow preventor) but you ain't
going to be liking the price one bit. With 7.0 psi end head pressure, 3.5 psi
elevation and 3.0 psi backflow you're at 13.5 psi without friction loss and if all you
have is 16 or 17 psi available you can't have any friction loss. Possible to do, run all
mains 6", use 3" on the branch lines and 2" drops to pendent heads and you might
just barely do it without any margin for safety but the owner is not going to be liking
the price. Also recognize in some jurisdictions, Georgia for example, a 10 psi
"safety factor" is required which means you will need 26 or 27 psi.
Recognize fire pumps do not make water they just boost the pressure.
When we talk of pressure we're not talking about static or gauge pressure with no
water running. By itself this means very little if anything. The important pressure is
what is available in the line after subtracting the water required for sprinkler and
fire department hose streams.
Sprinkler systems can be like spider webs; just the smallest movement in the most
remote corner can cause the entire web to move. As Travis said there's lots of
variables to consider.
Also there is always an absolute minimum pressure when designing a sprinkler
Even with, say, 6" mains and 4" branch lines there will be some minimum pressure
needed to operate the thing for the performance criteria and it probably won't be 20
Almost everything can be overcome except for a lousy water supply.
In expansion tank sizing software the following inputs required.
1. Maximum design pressure
2. Operating pressure
How to calculate these parameters?
You get these figures from the process design calculations / process engineer for
whatever pressure is required to meet your particular requirements.
BTW the word "maximum" is irrelevant. Your design pressure is your maximum
pressure so you can't have a "minimum" design pressure...
Very vague question so very vague answer I'm afraid.

My motto: Learn something new every day

Also: There's usually a good reason why everyone does it that way
Thank you very much for your attention. Sorry for the vague question. This is what
exactly I meant.
Is there any formula to find P1 & P2
For closed expansion tank
Vt = {((v2-v1)-1)-3t)/((Pa/P1)-(Pa/P2))}*Vs
Vt= Expansion tank volume
P1 = Pressure at lower temperature
P2 Pressure at higher temperature
P1 will be equal to P2, if the fluid is allowed to change its volume by the amount
that thermal expansion would imply. If you restrict the change of volume of a fluid to
a certain differential volume, multiply that by the fluid's bulk modulus and you can
find the corresponding change in pressure.
you must get smarter than the software you're using.
No I don't think you can work this work as you have two variables but only one
In your OP you say that you need P1 and DP. I think you also need to know
expansion volume...
Normally to work out an expansion tank volume you start with your initial P1, work
out the volume it expands due to increased temperature (hence you need to know
the total volume of liquid you are dealing with), have your design pressure known
and then you can figure out how much air volume is required to go from P1 to
design pressure. You need to assume then how much volume you start with at P1
then add the air volume so that when the expansion volume fills the tank you end
up with no more than design pressure. This is the relatively simple method - of
course as pressure increases the density of the fluid changes a little bit and the
volume of the pipes etc changes a little bit, but these are usually fairly small
compared tot he expansion of the fluid. For expansion tanks it is better to be a little
If you know three of air volume, liquid expansion volume, P1 or P2 you can work
out the fourth , but I don't think you can do this by reverse unless you assume a
number for P1 or P2 or the volumes.
Sorry, but without guessing I don't think this will work.

My motto: Learn something new every day

Also: There's usually a good reason why everyone does it that way
I couldn't figure out your equation, but if you're using simple gas law remember to
use absolute temperatures (degrees K) and absolute pressures (psia/bara)...
My motto: Learn something new every day
Also: There's usually a good reason why everyone does it that way
Thought "expansion tank" implied liquid, but I guess it wouldn't have to be so...
you must get smarter than the software you're using.
Who knows? maybe it does.
My motto: Learn something new every day

Also: There's usually a good reason why everyone does it that way