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Sprinklers in tight quarters

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sprinkler By Jonathan Lee

Bonneville’s Habitant Loggia, a multi-level pre-fabricated condo located in Saint-Lambert, Que., presented Michael Vadnais one of the more unique jobs of his career. Tasked with installing the dry fire suppression system on the building’s balconies, little did he know the challenges awaiting him.

Ironically, the builder’s selection of the name ”Loggia” for the complex is quite appropriate. Derived from an Italian word meaning ”lodge,” it conveys the idea of a room that opens to the outside, such as a gallery or balcony that overlooks a court. This is precisely where the install project took place, on a series of balconies on the building’s various floors.

Working for Gicleurs FF in Granby, Que., a company that specializes in sprinkler installs, Vadnais has seen his fair share of challenging jobs, but this was the first time he had to adapt to the unique circumstances that came with working on a prefabricated building – namely tight spaces.

Located on the east side of the St. Lawrence River, across the bridge from Old Montreal on the western shores, the modular design of Loggia sets it apart. Instead of a single structure that’s built and then divided into individual units, this building’s units were factory-built and assembled on site.

Each housing unit has its own walls, floors and ceilings, and is completely separate from the others in terms of its structural components. Unfortunately, because of the pre-assembled nature of the structure, accessing the spaces needed to run the necessary sprinkler supply lines would prove difficult for even the nimblest of hands.

Compounding the project for Vadnais and his crew was an unrelated water leak. With a few of the floors requiring decontamination, the team had its sprinkler install time cut in half.

”At the outset, we had two weeks to complete one level,” he recalls. ”After damage from the leak, we were only given a week for each floor.”

Even under the gun, Vadnais managed to install the dry sprinkler system on the balconies within the deadline.

Loggia Saint-Lambert
ADDRESS: 975 Saint-Charles St.
STRUCTURE: 66 apartments
FOOTPRINT: 82,000 square feet
HEIGHT: 6 storeys
OWNER/BUILDER: Les Industries Bonneville

A Dry Approach
The fire protection system is attached to an independent branch portable water supply line that is protected by a backflow preventer to avoid any contamination of the stagnant water. At the swivel nut connection, a Belleville seal opens to release water if activated.

”The water goes up to the point that the dry sprinkler is connected,” says Vadnais. ”The flexible hoses we used on the balconies are just under five feet long and hold no water until triggered.”

The sprinkler system uses flexible, kink resistant, annular corrugation tubing, with heads that are activated via a thermal bulb. The braided hoses have a two-inch bend radius, which allowed Vadnais to feed the system through the limited space offered by the balcony ceilings. It also allowed him the flexibility to pull out a little extra length after the finishing touches were put into the balconies.

Finishing of the balcony space happened well after his initial install, so to ensure the sprinklers would function properly, he returned to make any needed adjustments, paying particular attention to the sprinkler’s through-wall exit points.

The system he used offers a choice of three lengths of tubing, 38” (965mm), 50” (1,270mm) and 58” (1,475mm), and Vadnais says he opted for the longest because of the flexibility it provides if a little extra hose needs to be pulled out.

”Usually, the outside sprinkler system is already working by the time the final touches are completed to the outside finish,” he says. ”With a rigid system, you cannot change the length of hose extending from the wall afterwards without tearing things open.”

The specifics of the sprinkler head location will dictate the type of head to be used, but Vadnais had a choice of at least five different styles of sprinkler heads for the dry system used at Loggia, including flat plate concealed pendent, recessed pendent, sleeve and skirt pendent, recessed sidewall, and sleeve and skirt sidewall heads.

Adapting for Murphy’s Law
Murphy’s Law dictates that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, so it came as no surprise when challenges arose to test Vadnais’ problem-solving skills. One such hurdle was finding ways to secure the system in place.

”On the sixth floor (top) we couldn’t fit the sprinklers in the same place as the other floors because there wasn’t enough space between the roof and the ceiling,” he explains. ”So, we had to put the sprinklers over the door, instead of above the windows. Working with a flexible system gave us a chance to overcome obstructions.”

In another instance, it wasn’t an issue of space, but rather the framing carpentry that Vadnais and his team needed to work with.

”We used the system’s dedicated bracket,” he said, adding that they augmented the framing in the area due to the unique shape of the ceiling.

Triggering the system
Geneviève Bédard, the engineer who specified Loggia’s sprinkler system, says the system is typically set to 155°F in residential applications, unless the sprinkler head is located relatively close to something expected to heat up, such as a cooking range.

”The system can discharge at temperatures ranging from 155°F to 286°F,” adds Bruno Dandurand, a Victaulic sales rep.