Design Guidelines For Installing Sprinkler Systems In Historic Buildngs
- Procedure code:
- Preservation Notebook Series - Gsa
- Fire Protection
- Last Modified:
DESIGN GUIDELINES FOR INSTALLING SPRINKLER SYSTEMS IN HISTORIC
This procedure includes general guidelines to follow when
installing sprinkler systems in historic buildings. It identifies
specific design issues and outlines recommended installation
solutions that have the least visual or physical impact on the
A. To the maximum extent possible, design sprinkler installations
to be reversible, i.e. removable without sustaining major
damage to historic finishes.
B. Conceal Piping:
1. Conceal piping to significant spaces such as lobbies,
corridors, and executive suites by routing pipes through
adjoining office space. Use these pipes to feed sidewall
heads in the significant spaces. DO NOT install
suspended ceilings to conceal overhead piping.
NOTE: USE THIS RULE OF THUMB FOR ALL RESTORATION ZONES
IDENTIFIED IN THE BUILDING'S HISTORIC STRUCTURE REPORT
(HSR). Check the HSR chapter entitled "Recommendations
for Maintenance, Restoration, and Alteration" (usually
Chapter 9) for building-specific design guidelines.
HSR's have been completed for most historic buildings in
GSA's National Capital Region inventory. A list of
competed HSR's and copies of each are available in the
GSA-NCR Technical Resources Library, 7th and D Streets,
SW, Washington, DC (202) 708-6278.
2. In contiguous significant spaces where no alternative
route for concealing piping exists, install pipes in the
space of lesser importance. Conceal piping in gypsum
board enclosures of the minimum size needed to allow
access for maintenance.
3. Do not channel masonry walls to conceal piping. This
alternative is costly and destructive.
C. Specify Sprinkler Heads Having the Least Physical and Visual
Impact on Historic Materials and Design:
1. Specify the smallest available pendant or sidewall
sprinkler head. (For normal ceiling and wall sprinkler
installations, Omega Commercial Extended Coverage Pendant
Model EC-20 and Omega Commercial Extended Coverage
Sidewall Model HEC-12 are recommended. See G.2., below,
for guidance on selecting sprinkler heads for ornamental
ceilings and exposed pipe installations).
2. Recessed heads are not generally recommended because of
the danger that they will become painted shut. Semi-
recessed heads, despite the advantage of projecting less
into the space than pendant heads, are not recommended
for installation in plaster ceilings. The holes created
to accommodate these heads give ceilings a pockmarked
3. As a rule, use sidewall heads in significant spaces with
plaster walls. Use pendant heads in spaces that have
both flat plaster ceilings and ornamental wall finishes
(such as wood paneling or stone).
D. Match Sprinkler Heads to Original Finishes:
1. Match heads and escutcheons to the dominant original
metal in the area of the building where sprinklers are to
2. Custom match heads and escutcheons to the historic paint
color of the wall or ceiling in which they will be
E. Detail Sprinkler Head Installations for Minimum Visibility:
Specify the minimum possible sprinkler head projection from
the wall or ceiling.
F. Detail Suspended Ceilings to Preserve Exterior Appearance of
1. In standard office space and other areas approved for
installation of suspended ceilings (consult HSR
"Inventory of Significant Spaces" and "Recommendations"),
hold back suspended ceilings from the window plane
sufficiently to maintain the historic appearance of the
2. Do not allow suspended ceilings to abut window glass.
Keep back 3 feet and minimize difference of ceiling
height to window height.
G. Preserve Ornamental Walls and Ceilings:
1. Avoid penetrating ornamental finishes. Where neither
walls nor ceilings are flat plaster, use the following
a. Place pipes on deep cornices and other ledges,
exposed but not visibly noticeable.
b. Use copper piping of minimum diameter needed to
achieve required pressure.
c. Paint pipes prior to placement to match adjoining
d. Where unavoidably penetrating ornamental ceilings,
distribute heads symmetrically and take advantage
of decoration patterns to disguise heads.
Camouflage heads in rosettes and other repeating
motifs. Omit escutcheon plates. Specify glass
bulb pendant heads.
2. For exposed pipe installations and installations
involving penetration of ornamental ceilings, specify
glass bulb heads, such as Central GB-QR Glass Bulb Quick
Response Pendant or GB-QR Glass Bulb Quick Response
Sidewall heads. Glass bulb heads have the following
advantages for these installations:
a. Omission of escutcheon plates will not violate
their UL listing.
b. They are the smallest available head for this type
c. The entire head, excluding the small heat-sensitive
glass bulb activator, can be custom coated to match
any finish. This coating must be done by the
manufacturer (you supply the paint). For guidance
on custom matching, see 09900-09-S "Guidelines for
Identifying Historic Paint Colors".
END OF SECTION