Group M Fire Alarm Requirements

jrohe

Senior Member
Location
Omaha, NE
Occupation
Professional Engineer
I am hoping to get some fire alarm experts input on a few fire alarm questions I have. The company I work for provides electrical engineering for a lot of Group M occupancies that go into shell buildings. With these electrical designs, it is typically incumbent upon us to also determine fire alarm requirements and provide "spots and dots" layouts and performance specifications of any required fire alarm systems. Many of these shell buildings only have a Landlord-owned sprinkler monitoring system. Embarrassingly, it is these projects that deal us the most fits when it comes to fire alarm requirements and I think I have nailed down to why, which I can summarize in the following questions.

For purposes of these questions, let’s assume we have an existing single-story strip mall with nine Group M tenants, each with an occupant load of 60 persons, and we are designing a new 60 occupant Group M occupancy to go into the last tenant bay. The strip mall is sprinkled throughout and only has a sprinkler monitoring system owned by the Landlord. The applicable codes are the 2018 IBC/IFC.
  1. What is considered the “building”? Is the “building” the tenant space only? Or is it the entire strip mall? When applying the requirements of IBC section 907.2.7, the difference between 60 occupants (tenant space only) and 600 occupants (entire strip mall) has a significant impact.
  2. Is a sprinkler monitoring system considered a “fire alarm system”? According to the definition of “fire alarm system,” I believe it is.
    1. If a sprinkler monitoring system is considered a “fire alarm system,” then would new duct smoke detectors be required to tie into this Landlord-owned sprinkler monitoring system per section 907.3?
Or am I completely overthinking all of this insofar that the strip mall is “existing” and the tenant improvement project would fall under the Existing Building Code?

I appreciate any guidance you can provide. Thank you in advance for your time and expertise!
 

gadfly56

Senior Member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Professional Engineer, Fire & Life Safety
Sprinkler waterflow signals can be transmitted to a Central Station via a simple communicator panel. Such panels (eg Silent Knight 5104B) may have very limited capacity for smoke detection and notification, but they are not usually considered fire alarm panels.

See 907.2.7.1 that speaks to the "combined Group M occupant load of all floors" (emphasis mine). Even if you have fire barriers between the tenant spaces it doesn't seem to grant any exception.

Also under "Exceptions", see number 2: "...and the occupant notification appliances will automatically activate throughout the notification zones upon sprinkler water flow." How are you providing occupant notification without a fire alarm panel?
 

Johnhall30

Member
Location
New Orleans, LA
Occupation
Engineer
The IBC considers different occupancies within the same structure to be classified as separate "buildings" if they are separated by a Fire Wall as defined in Section 706.

As stated above it doesn't seem that 907.2.7.1 provides an exception for the occupancies which are separated by the fire wall to reduce the number of occupants to 60.
 

jrohe

Senior Member
Location
Omaha, NE
Occupation
Professional Engineer
Thank you both for your replies! Your statements echo my interpretations to the tee, which leads to the source of our confusion. We do not see how the existing buildings some of these tenant improvements are going into do not have occupant notification in even some of the existing spaces.

I suppose the AHJ could consider an alarm bell at the fire department connection the required notification as far as the shell building goes. But their systems are usually bare bones systems with very limited capacity, if any, for the connection of tenant notification appliances or initiating devices. This, in turn, forces us to set either a NAC power supply and tie it into the existing system or to provide a whole new fire alarm system dedicated to the tenant space.

The example provided above was purely an example, but is realistic in terms of some of the scenarios we see. We often have to argue with the owners of the tenant spaces we design to backup our rationale on why we are showing occupant notification in that 50 occupant Group M space when they are going into large strip malls full of Group M occupancies where the occupant load has to be over 500 persons.

Thanks again for your replies! It is good to know our rationale is sound.
 
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