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Chapter 9 Special Structures of the 2011 Edition NFPA 88A: Standard for Parking Structures specifies the access required in an automated parking garage for fire service and maintenance personnel.
Robotic Parking Systems comply with these NFPA regulations including horizontal walkways for access at intervals of 6 meters / 19.5 feet vertically and 30 meters / 98.5 feet horizontally. Stairways, landings, platforms and catwalks provide the required access to fire personnel.
Additionally, as we have discussed in the previous posts in the series, the water mist foam system used in the Robotic Parking System actually extinguishes fires before they spread or fire fighters are required on the scene. This provides an extra layer of safety for both the facility, personal property and fire department personnel.
Since there are no people or running cars inside the garage, there are lower lighting and ventilation requirements for an automated parking facility. This adds up to increased savings for the developer.
Per the 2011 regulations, the required ventilation in an enclosed automated parking garage is a minimum of 2 ACH (air changes per hour). Conventional parking garages require about 8 to 10 ACH. Openings at the roof and at the bottom of the Robotic Parking System take advantage of the natural chimney effect and provide the required 2 ACH in an above ground facility without further mechanical ventilation equipment. Underground automated parking facilities do require mechanical ventilation but much less than the conventional garages.
This is the last in our series on complying with NFPA 88A. If you have any additional questions, you can always contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Part 2 we discussed how water mist foam systems such as those utilized in our Robotic Parking Systems apply extinguishing water and foam in a fog so that the total surface area of the mixture is multiplied many times. The mixture absorbs heat, evaporates more quickly and impedes the supply of oxygen to the fire. The cooling and smothering effect is extremely effective in fire fighting.
Water mist foam systems are used to protect ships and offshore facilities such as oil platforms. Effective fire extinguishing systems are a must at sea where people cannot quickly escape in case of fire and immediate fire fighting help from outside cannot be expected.
Additionally, a key factor for fire extinguishing systems on a ship is minimizing the space and weight of materials and equipment. The water mist foam systems uses up to 85 to 90 percent less water in comparison with a conventional sprinkler system.
Since water mist foam systems came into use there has been only one ship fire on a vessel built after 1995 — the Star Princess.
This Star Princess fire is believed to have been caused by a cigarette left burning on a balcony. The fire became hot enough to melt the highly combustible balcony divides made of polycarbonate, polyurethane deck tiles and the plastic furniture. Plus, there was no detection or fire suppression system on the balcony.
After installing water mist foam fire suppression systems on ship balconies, there have been ZERO ship fires reported.
This same highly effective system is utilized in our automated parking facilities to extinguish fires before they spread or fire fighters are required on the scene.
Take a look at the photograph shown below.
By using the fine water mist foam system, potential fires are extinguished completely so it becomes unnecessary for fire fighters to enter the building to extinguish the fire.
Robotic Parking Systems go a step beyond NFPA 88A code requirements regarding sprinklers in automated parking structures and use a fog of fine water mist with foam additive for fire protection. This system developed in Germany offers increased protection and extinguishing efficiency while reducing potential water damages to vehicles and automation equipment in the facility. The system uses up to 85 percent less water in comparison with a conventional sprinkler system and combines the advantages of a sprinkler system with those of a high-pressure extinguishing system.
Minimax – one company which produces such systems – has over 100 years of experience and has received over 2000 approvals (including UL) for their products in over 20 countries.
This type of fire protection system is used in airports, hospitals, power plants, steel plants, silos and bunkers and more. Water mist foam systems are also used to protect ships and offshore facilities such as oil platforms that require a higher-than-average level of safety due to the special conditions prevailing at sea. In these environments people cannot quickly escape in case of fire and immediate fire fighting help from outside cannot be expected.
The water mist foam extinguishing system offers a very quick response time using only a small amount of water because of the close and aimed arrangement of the specialized sprinklers in the parking area as well as increased pressure. The technology efficiently exploits the physical properties of water. The extinguishing water and foam is applied through these special nozzles or sprinklers in a fog so that the total surface area of the extinguishing water is multiplied many times. This larger total surface of the extinguishing water and foam allows it to absorb heat, to evaporate more quickly and impede the supply of oxygen to the fire. The cooling and smothering effect allows for particularly effective fire fighting.
Many fire insurers have also recognized the effective fire protection provided by these systems by granting premium discounts.
The major difference between regular sprinklers and the water mist foam system is that regular sprinklers hold the fire until fire fighters can arrive on scene to extinguish the fire. In this case fire fighters must enter the facility to fight the fire and have space to move around. In the case of the fine water mist foam system, the fire is extinguished completely before the fire fighters arrive.
The cost of this water mist foam system is equivalent to a regular sprinkler system.
Part 3 will cover some examples of the application of these types of systems.
The 2011 Edition of “NFPA 88A: Standard for Parking Structures” includes for the first time a chapter on Special Structures and covers definitions and requirements for the new genre of parking structures termed “Automated Mechanical Type Parking Structures.”
These new NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 88A codes ensure parking garages are fire-safe and provide requirements concerning the construction and protection of open and enclosed parking structures, as well as the control of hazards.
Robotic Parking Systems’ CEO was instrumental in getting the needs of the automated parking industry recognized in this key international code, and the company’s automated parking facilities fully comply with NFPA 88A codes.
In the next several blogs I’ll cover various practical applications of the 88A codes in the Robotic Parking System.
NFPA 13 “In-Rack Sprinklers” requires sprinklers about every 130 square feet. In our robotic parking garages, two sprinklers cover each pallet / parking space.
Here are several photos of the sprinkler system in our 800 space car park that opened for operation in 2009.
The Robotic Parking System goes beyond requirements by adopting a water mist foam system used broadly in Europe that actually EXTINGUISHES a fire rather than regular water sprinklers which keep a fire within specific limits over a period of time.
More about this water mist foam system in Part 2.
The basic layout of the Robotic Parking System design is a modular base of 2.4 m x 6 m and requires a typical concrete slab / mat foundation (that is the preferable solution due to the low required soil pressure of 30 to 50 PSI), a steel structure (or in some cases concrete support ) and the automation machinery riding on the provided supporting set of beams and columns.
The steel structure is a kind of erector set with the needed amount of levels (not floors because there are no ceilings – it is an open rack structure). It is composed of columns and beams with sufficient bracing to meet all loads resulting from external impacts like wind, snow and earthquake as well as internal loads. This steel structure can also support the horizontal and vertical loads of the roof and the facade. Therefore, the roof and facade do not need separate super structures and can be attached to the actual steel structure with vibration and sound absorbing anchor elements.
In the case of a mixed use development, there are two possibilities. Either a concrete structure can be utilized as the supporting system for the automated parking machinery, or the supporting structures for the building and the parking facility can be separated which will eliminate any special requirements to avoid the transfer of sound or vibration into the actual building structure whether it’s an office, apartment / condo, retail or entertainment space.
Since the system provides for a closed facade and roof to architecturally blend into the neighborhood, and to protect and shelter the vehicles; there is a practical need for a fire fighting system such as a sprinkler system. (See NFPA 88A for the full requirements for such automated parking facilities.) Lighting can be eliminated and ventilation requirements are much reduced to 2 ACH (air changes per hour) which can be achieved in most cases through natural ventilation.
Per existing national codes, no other special provisions need to be met for permitting purposes since the building is treated like a conventional storage building. It may however be necessary to adjust the zoning codes as several municipalities have done in the past to accommodate for the reduced sizes of the parking spaces of 7 x 19 feet – no need for turning radii, slope for ramps and width of drive aisles as there are none.
Every Robotic Parking System design includes fire alarms and sprinkler systems to ensure that the automated parking garage is fire-safe and protected. This design is based on the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 2011 Edition of “NFPA 88A: Standard for Parking Structures” which includes for the first time automated parking structures. (See the blog on NFPA 88A at http://wp.me/pK0hr-3T).
In fact, the CEO of Robotic Parking Systems is a member of the NFPA Garage and Parking Structures Committee and was instrumental in getting automated parking garages recognized in this key international code.
Robotic Parking Systems use an aspirating smoke detection system which draws a sample of air through a network of pipes and evaluates the sample to detect smoke in specific areas of the system. This is then reported on an addressable panel as the picture shows below. Aspirating smoke detectors are highly sensitive, and can detect smoke before it is even visible to the human eye.
Fire Fighting and Sprinkler Systems
A comprehensive sprinkler system conforming to NFPA 88A regulations is incorporated in every Robotic Parking System.
If needed based on local water supplies, a water tank is added to the design to ensure immediate access to a large volume of water necessary to address any fires.
A jockey pump pulls water into the fire fighting system from a public water supply or tank, etc.
Fire pumps force water through the pipes to the sprinklers.
Three highly sensitive and quick response sprinkler heads are used to cover every two parking slots in the steel racking system providing protection for vehicles and the automated parking garage.