We need to build a new building for our production. We are considering 15,000 square feet, but we have a problem. The local building inspector tells us that any building over 2,500 square feet containing a woodshop is required to have a fire sprinkler. The property where I want to build would require $45,000 to extend the 6" water main to our property and the sprinkler would cost about another $30,000 - $40,000. With all of the other expenses involved, I'm looking for options. Does anyone have experience or suggestions on ways around the code or fire suppression alternatives?
I have no problem putting a self contained fire system in my paint booth but it is just too much money for the whole building. I currently operate in an old building without a sprinkler and have not had any problem maintaining insurance. What is everyone else required to do in their wood shops?
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor A:
In my city, sprinklers were required for new construction over 9,000 square feet. When building my new place I considered three 9,000 square feet. buildings with 20 ft covered breezeways/walkways between each one, thus meeting the fire break code between buildings. They can hookup many different ways. Another alternative was to buy an existing building, built before the new codes, where a system would not be required.
Lastly, I could move out of the city and away from the city codes concerning sprinklers. I considered another county where I own land 12 miles away. There are no building codes there, in fact, no planning and zoning department at all. But my builder convinced me the same building in the city would be much more valuable for a future sale and easier to sell as well. So, I built in the city and spent 85K on suppression.
Today, I'm out in that next county in a one man shop and glad to be away from all those codes, regulations, taxes, salesmen, inspections, break-ins, etc. 2,500 square feet seems small for such regulation. If that proved to be higher then the separate small building arrangement might work for you.
In August of 2003, we were painting and glazing a $54K kitchen in the AM. We finished by 2:30 pm, and we cleaned the shop. We swept the floor, scooped up the sawdust and put it into a trash can. A very responsible employee who was emptying the trash cans looked into one trash can under a workbench and saw only 6" of sawdust in a 30 gallon trash can, and decided to let it wait until it’s full. Everyone went home for the weekend. Saturday morning at 4:30 AM my firefighting pager was activated by an alarm system at our shop. A small trash can fire had started due to spontaneous combustion from the linseed oil in the glaze that had dripped on the floor, that was swept up with the sawdust and put into the trash can that was inspected and determined to be not full enough to require emptying.
This caused a $418,000.00 insurance claim, shut us down for seven weeks and took 6 months to sort thru the insurance paperwork. Ironically, even though I was a firefighter, I did not want a sprinkler head to go off and ruin a client's kitchen. The kitchen cabinetry loss due to the fire was only approximately $3,500.00. Repairing the building, HVAC, electric (three phase), adding new insulation, replacing the three year old standing seam metal roof and heat stressed purlins was over $400K. Since then, we invested $ 30,000.00 so that this will not happen again. It all comes down to the price you are willing to pay and the risk you are willing to take. Spend the money and sleep well at night.