Five Reasons to Choose CPVC for School Fire Sprinkler Systems
- By Lainey Liotta
- July 17, 2023
From kindergarten through university, fire sprinkler systems play an important role in keeping students and staff safe in the event of a fire. Fire sprinklers are critical to protecting people and property because they prevent a fire from spreading before fire crews arrive.
Whether you are retrofitting an older building with a fire sprinkler system or planning a new building, the choice of materials is an essential early step. There are two primary options—steel or CPVC—and both can provide dependable protection. However, CPVC offers important advantages on total cost and other key factors that make it the best choice for schools. As you consider the options, here are five important things to know about CPVC fire protection systems.
1. CPVC meets regulatory approvals for schools and other non-residential buildings.
There’s a common misconception that CPVC is only for residential projects. In fact, as defined by NFPA 13, CPVC fire sprinkler systems are UL listed for use in light hazard occupancies including schools, libraries, offices, theaters and auditoriums, hospitals, and many others.
2. CPVC is easier and less expensive to install.
Designers can save on material costs as CPVC offers superior hydraulic performance because the interior of the pipe is smoother than steel. That allows designers to specify smaller, less expensive pipe.
CPVC is also easier to install than steel systems, which ensures significant savings on labor. Because steel is heavy, special equipment is required to move it around the site, and two or more installers are needed in an area. It’s rigid, so it is difficult to maneuver and fit into tight spaces. Steel installation also requires expensive equipment, such as torches and threading machines.
CPVC, by contrast, is light and flexible, which means it is easy to move around a job site and can be readily installed in hard-to-reach spaces. The pipe is installed using basic hand tools and a one-step solvent cement process. As a result, one fitter can install an entire area by himself, which keeps labor costs low. Easier installation and design alterations helped a West Texas school district save up to 10% on a new 140,000-square-foot building for K–8 students.
3. Corrosion-resistant CPVC ensures lower long-term maintenance costs and hassles.
With steel pipe, the combination of water, water treatment chemicals, and oxygen can cause corrosion to start within as little as two years after installation. Corrosion creates pinhole leaks that result in costly, disruptive repairs. Steel pipe is also prone to scaling (mineral buildups) and Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC), which add to maintenance costs and headaches by accelerating corrosion, infecting the water supply and causing system failure.
CPVC, on the other hand, is naturally resistant to all three of these issues. These advantages prevent costly repairs and support long-term dependability. For instance, BlazeMaster fire sprinkler systems are designed for a 50-year service life.
4. CPVC minimizes disruption during retrofits and helps meet tight deadlines.
Installing steel fire sprinkler systems is a noisy process that creates unpleasant odors. Open-flame torches require special permits and create a fire hazard. Noisy threading machines are needed to fabricate and connect the system. That may prove too disruptive for schools to continue holding classes.
CPVC installation is cleaner and quieter, which creates minimal disruption for building occupants. For instance, if installers work in a classroom overnight, they can leave the site ready for students and teachers. With steel installation, there would be much more cleanup required and heavy equipment would need to be relocated. For example, CPVC’s advantages enabled the school district in Broward County, Florida, to retrofit most of its buildings with limited alterations to operations. The University of Texas retrofitted a massive dormitory—home to 3,000 students—by doing the work during the day. There was no need to relocate anyone, as would be required with a steel retrofit.
5. CPVC will help you meet green building goals.
Sustainability is a top priority as schools choose products that mitigate environmental impacts, and CPVC offers significant advantages over steel pipe. An ISO-compliant lifecycle assessment found that BlazeMaster fire sprinkler systems outperformed steel in 12 out of 13 categories such as human toxicity, mineral and water depletion, non-renewable energy use, and others.
Based on these five factors, CPVC fire protection systems offer a clear advantage over steel pipe and fittings for protecting people and property at schools and universities. By choosing CPVC, you can save money, speed installation while minimizing disruption, reduce long-term maintenance costs, and ensure green building practices.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2023 issue of Campus Security Today.
Lainey Liotta is Fire Protection Market Manager at Lubrizol Advanced Materials, which includes BlazeMaster® CPVC piping systems and freezemaster™antifreeze for fire protection systems.