CHICAGO CLOSED OUT 2004 by joining an elite group of cities and states-those to specifically require fire sprinkler retrofit of high-rise buildings. On December 15, the Chicago City Council voted to enact an ordinance proposed by Mayor Richard Daley to require sprinkler protection for high-rise commercial buildings constructed before 1975 and therefore exempt from modern sprinkler requirements. A third of each such building must be sprinklered by 2009. another third by 2013, and the entire building protected by 2017. The ordinance also requires that high-rise residential and landmark buildings be subjected to a code equivalency analysis to ensure that some minimum level of fire safety is achieved. Hundreds of buildings are affected.
The idea of putting sprinkler protection into existing high-rise buildings has been discussed in Chicago for years, but a major motivation came on October 17. 2003, when a fire in the Cook County Administration building in downtown Chicago resulted in six deaths. Independent investigations by Cook County and the state of Illinois acknowledged that a properly designed, installed, and maintained fire sprinkler system would have prevented the deaths. Various fire sprinkler ordinances were proposed and debated by the city council. Then another high-rise fire, this one at the LaSalle Bank on December 6, 2004, provided the final impetus.
Chicago has a long history as a leader in fire sprinkler retrofit, starting with men's dormitories in 1935. Schools were retrofit in 1963 following the Our Lady of Angels fire, and exhibition areas in 1970 following die McCormick Place fire. Nursing home fires in the 1970s led to requirements for sprinkler protection of all nursing homes, with similar retrofit legislation passed by the Illinois legislature in 1976.
In the area of high-rise buildings, however, other cities took the lead. Local Law 5 in New York City, originally enacted in 1973, mandated either fire sprinklers or a combination of compartmentation, detection, and stairwell pressurization for existing high-rise office buildings. The law took years to make its way through court challenges and was ultimately superceded in 2004 by Local Law 126-A, which requires all office buildings over 100 feet (30 meters) to be sprinklered byjuly 2019, including those that previously met the compartmentation alternative.
Other cities and states also enacted high-rise retrofit requirements. The MGM Grand and Hilton hotel fires in Las Vegas at the end of 1980 led to high-rise hotel retrofit both there and in other resort areas. In Hawaii. Honolulu required sprinklers in all existing high-rise hotels, and Maui required sprinklers in all existing high-rise buildings. Florida acted in 1983 to require high-rise hotels and time-share units be retrofit, and Virginia required high-rise hotels to be retrofit by 1997.
Massachusetts enacted broader high-rise retrofit legislation in 1986. calling for older high-rise buildings to be protected with sprinklers by 1997. In 1988. the year of the First Interstate Bank fire, Los Angeles required non-residential high-rise buildings to be sprinklered, and San Diego and San Francisco followed suit a year later. Based on its experience with the One Meridian Plaza fire in 1991, Philadelphia moved quickly to adopt a five-year, highrise sprinkler retrofit program. In Louisiana, plans had to be submitted by the end of 1991 so that all high-rise buildings could be protected with sprinklers by the end of 1999. Louisville, Kentucky, passed a retrofit ordinance in 1993, with all work to be completed by 2005.
High-rise retrofit programs have not been confined to the United States. The Republic of Panama enacted a resolution in 1996 requiring sprinklers in all existing high-rise buildings within five years, and Hong Kong began in 2001 to require retrofit of commercial and non-domestic parts of composite (domestic and commercial) buildings based on aggregate floor area, thereby including high-rise buildings.
Two of the best tools for requiring highrise sprinkler retrofit are already in the NFPA arsenal of codes and standards: NFPA 101
The 2003 edition of NFPA 1 is even stronger. Section 126.96.36.199.2 requires that all existing high-rise buildings be protected throughout with automatic sprinklers. Section 188.8.131.52.3 requires that such sprinkler protection be completed within 12 years of adoption of the code.
For communities that want to join Chicago and other cities in their quest to provide high-rise fire safety, adoption and enforcement of NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 provisions can provide the means to high-rise fire sprinkler retrofit.
Source: NFPA Journal