Sprinkler Protection for Cloud Ceilings

Cloud ceilings are ceiling panels that sit beneath the structural ceiling of a room or space and are seen increasingly in commercial and industrial buildings. "Cloud" panels range in area from discrete ceiling panels with large spaces in between, to close-to-full-room-area contiguous coverage with small gaps at the perimeter wall location. NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, does not have definitive guidance on automatic sprinkler installation requirements for these ceilings and in some conditions requires sprinklers at both the structural ceiling and cloud ceiling panel elevations. Recent NFPA 13 change proposals were rejected based on a lack of validation of modeling results.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated this project to obtain an understanding of how cloud ceiling panels impact sprinkler actuation thresholds with an overall goal to provide the technical basis for sprinkler installation requirements. Two phases of work were completed to develop guidance for sprinkler installation requirements by determining the maximum gap size between the wall and cloud edge at which ceiling sprinklers are not effective. The Phase 1 study investigated the effectiveness of sprinklers on large area clouds. Phase 2 of this work focused on developing guidance for sprinkler installation requirements for small area clouds.


Video: Jason Floyd, Ph.D., senior engineer at Hughes Associates, discusses the Fire Protection Research Foundation project aimed at understanding how cloud ceilings impact sprinkler protection.