The storage of combustible materials in a building in closely packed piles, racks, or on shelves can create a dangerous and unstable environment for workers, visitors, and all parties involved in a facility. Depending on the quantity of stored material, the height of the storage, and how it is stored - the fire code has rules for how to properly configure and protect the building from fire.
Stored materials may also involve hazardous materials, which include an additional set of safety measures which must be addressed to ensure adequate safety for all persons who enter the building.
Fire code requirements are not the same for all situations and a strategic design to achieve code compliance is critical to ensure safety for the building is achieved in an economical way.
Below, we look at some of the items that the engineers at LKPB analyze when determining the safety of a facility.
Fire Codes and Permits
If you are housing high-piled storage, depending on how much material is being stored, you will likely need a high piled storage permit. If you constructing a new facility and storing combustible materials, the building design needs to comply with International Building Code IBC and the International Fire Code. These codes can vary by jurisdiction and part of the analysis is to determine which specific codes apply for the building being looked at.
Existing buildings that are used for high-pile storage also need to be inspected and certified on a regular basis. High-piled storage permits are operation specific, so if a new tenant occupies an existing warehouse space, a new evaluation must be performed to confirm the existing facility is adequately equipped to handle the new storage configuration.
Means of egress, aisle width, access doors, exit signage, emergency lighting, etc. are all important features we look at to ensure people who enter and exit the building can do so in a safe manner. High piled storage with inadequate egress systems in place is considered a major fire hazard.
In addition to indoor considerations, the building site needs to be configured so that firefighters have a clear and easy access to water valves and doorways.
Because regulations vary depending on multiple factors such as how materials are stored and how dangerous or hazardous the materials are - knowing how to properly configure the building and storage arrangements is important. As an example, strategic separation of certain items can significantly reduce building and operational costs when properly applied.
Storage and Item Placement
As a general rule, storage of high-piled materials must be done in a neat and orderly manner with clear aisles between piles or racks of storage. Dead end aisles must be limited to short distances. Pallet storage should be separated from conventional storage. High hazard items such as gas cylinders, flammable tanks and plastics should be separated from lower combustible items.
Outdoor pallet storage should be in a place where the pallets can be protected from unauthorized access. Proper separation must also be maintained, depending on the number of pallets involved, the wall type, and types of openings.
In general high-piled storage rules applies for storage in excess of 12 feet, although for high hazard commodities, such as plastics, storage higher than 6’-0” is considered high piled storage. Fire sprinkler requirements for high piled storage will vary significantly from that for a typical office building and become very specific depending on the items being stored and how high the storage is. Just because a building has fire sprinklers does not mean it has the right fire sprinklers for all high piled storage. Because of this, an evaluation of the system by a registered fire protection engineer is critical.
Engineering and Analysis Services From LKPB
It’s always better to take more precautions than too few, as non-compliant, high-pile storage could end in major fire damage or a major fine from the fire marshal come inspection time. At LKPB, we can help you create a safer, more efficient high-pile storage facility while adhering local and state codes.
To schedule a consultation with an LKPB engineer, call us at 612-540-5000, or you can message us on our contact page.