Policy Advisory Approved: April 22, 2004
The Planning of Fire Sprinkler Systems
To clarify the extent to which the planning of fire sprinkler systems is considered the "Practice of Engineering," as defined in Section 2, Definitions, of the Texas Engineering Practice Act.
This policy statement has been developed with the assistance of an ad hoc committee of engineers and professionals in the fire protection industry, appointed through the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. The intent is to clarify engineering functions in the planning of fire sprinkler systems. The State Fire Marshal's Office currently issues licenses to qualified individuals to plan fire sprinkler systems. The Texas Board of Professional Engineers issues licenses to qualified individuals to engage in the practice of engineering in Texas. Primarily, assurance that qualified individuals are responsible for the planning of these systems in accordance with all local, state, and national codes prompted the discussion and clarification. Where the fire safety codes and installation standards are prescriptive (including hydraulic calculations and pipe sizing) they require little, if any, engineering judgment for an acceptable installation.
The planning of fire sprinkler systems performed by or under the direct supervision of a licensed individual is not considered the "Practice of Engineering" if:
1. The layout is within the scope of the applicable prescriptive codes or standards,
such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 13 "Standard
for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems", when specified by an engineer,
or adopted by the state or local jurisdiction; and
2. The licensed individual currently holds a valid Responsible Managing Employee License (RME) issued by the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office, in accordance with the Texas Insurance Code Article 5.43-3; and
3. The licensed individual is certified to a minimum Level III, in the subfield of "Automatic Sprinkler Systems Layout", through the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET); and
4. Upon completion of the installation a licensed individual, where given the specific authority by Texas Statute, will certify in writing that the installation meets the standards provided for by law and/or is in compliance with the plans of the responsible managing employee or licensed professional engineer.
Professional Engineer's Responsibilities
Engineering for fire sprinkler systems by a Texas licensed professional engineer shall be limited to:
1. Engineers who are competent in Fire Protection Engineering by passing the
fire protection exam, education, or demonstration of significant experience.
2. Licensed Professional Engineers who maintain continuing education and familiarity with the applicable codes and standards in this area of expertise.
Licensed professional engineers who specify (by writing in lieu of plans) the installation of fire sprinkler systems should, as a minimum, identify on the construction plans and documents:
1. The applicable prescriptive codes and/or standards; and
2. The specific building use and/or occupancy classification (as designated in the applicable building code or as interpreted by the Building Official); and/or
3. Describe the function, placement, performance, and operation of the devices or system by which to correctly plan the system(s). (e.g. the water supply location; flow test to use to calculate pipe sizes; design density/area of each different occupancy/classification; the maximum height, commodity, location and configuration of storage areas; and any other aesthetic criteria, specific material specification, water supply environmental condition, desired major equipment location, or requirements desired above the specified minimum code or standard.)
Licensed professional engineers, who plan the installation of fire sprinkler systems, shall as a minimum:
1. Prepare construction plans and documents that depict the required components
and devices for a complete fire sprinkler system in accordance with the applicable
codes and standards; and
2. Sign, date, seal, and prepare plans in accordance with the Texas Engineering Practices Act; and
3. Be responsible for the complete design in compliance with applicable codes subject to sanctions by the Board of Professional Engineers.
The Board will aggressively enforce, levy sanctions and/or recommend restitution for infractions of the Texas Engineering Practice Act, when engineers sign, date, seal, and distribute design plans and documents for the installation of fire sprinkler systems, in which the engineer did not endeavor to comply with applicable national, state, or local building and fire codes.
The Board encourages building and fire officials, who review plans in Texas municipalities, to file a complaint with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, whenever they review plans, signed, dated, and sealed or stamped by an engineer, which are not in compliance with the applicable state or local codes. Complaint forms are available on the Board web site at www.tbpe.state.tx or by calling the enforcement division at (512) 440-7723.