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## AUTOMATIC FIRE DETECTOR SPACING

Ir. M.H. Antono, MSFPE
Introduction
NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code contains an Appendix, i..e. Appendix B Engineering
Guide for Automatic Fire Detector Spacing (the Appendix is not part of the requirements
of NFPA 72, but is included for information purposes only). Since the 1999 edition,
Appendix B (later called Annex B) has been revised in its entirety from previous editions.
Readers should refer to Annex B in the latest edition for full discussion and explanation.
Tables in Appendix B from previous editions were replaced by design and analysis
worksheets evaluation with algebraic equations. Still, readers and users must do step-by-
step and repeat calculations, perhaps manually. Both methods of determining fire detector
spacing using tables or equations are rather tedious if done manually and prone to errors.
determining detector spacing based on the objectives set for the system, size, and rate of
growth of fire to be detected, various ceiling heights, ambient temperatures, and response
characteristics of the detectors, using the equations in Annex B NFPA 72, National Fire
Alarm Code.
Spreadsheet by itself has limitations, however by using macro programming language that
is included in every spreadsheet, the spreadsheet becomes a powerful tool for design and
analysis of a fire protection system based on the growth of fire over time, such as fixed
heat detector (including sprinkler head) or rate-of-rise heat detector, smoke detector, or
atrium smoke control system. Results can be graphically viewed instantly and
automatically using the built in graphing capability of the spreadsheet. Figure 1 is a
simplified flow chart of the program.
The spreadsheet template simulates the fire detection design and analysis worksheets in
Annex B NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code. Figure 2 is the screen grab of the
spreadsheet before calculation. The calculations are in SI units. Users enter the input
parameters according to the condition / scenario of choice into the spreadsheet. Please
note that there is no convective heat release rate fraction in the input parameters, because
NFPA 72 assumes that the convective heat release rate is approximately 75 percent of the
total heat release rate.
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Figure 1 Simplified Flow Chart of the Program
Figure 2
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When users are ready, click the CALCULATE button. The program will calculate the
output variables and write them to the screen at each simulation output interval. The
program will stop when:
the detector temperature, T
d
, is equal or larger than the rated operating temperature
of the detector, T
s
; or
the heat release rate, Q, is equal or larger than the upper limit heat release rate,
Q
cr
.
To begin another simulation for a different condition / scenario, it is better to click the
RESET button first before proceeding in order to have a clear screen.
For an analysis example, please see Figure 3. This is a screen grab of the spreadsheet after
calculation. Based on the input parameters condition / scenario, the fixed heat detector
activation time is 212 seconds and at that time the fire (a t-square fire) grows to
approximately 2108 kW. All calculations are in SI units. The calculations are very fast
and the results are automatically graphed by the spreadsheet.
Figure 3 Fixed Heat Detector Example
The spreadsheet template may also be used for design. For example, the fire should be
detected prior to it reaching 1000 kW. In the input entry parameters, change the heat
4
release rate to 1000 kW, and estimate the heat detector spacing, then push the RESET and
CALCULATE buttons. Repeat the simulation with a smaller or larger spacing until the
calculations result in the detector activates at a heat release rate of just below 1000 kW.
Table B.3.3.8.5(a) through Table B.3.3.8.5(k) in Annex B NFPA 72 provide a
comparison of heat release rates, response times, and spacings when variables
characteristic of the fires, detectors, and room are changed from the analysis example.
These tables are reproduced here together with the speadsheet results for comparison:
Table B.3.3.8.5(a) Operating Temperature Versus Heat Transfer Rate [S = 9.1 m (30 ft)]
Operating
Temp.
C
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
57 2132 / 213 2108 / 212
74 2798 / 244 2758 / 243
93 3554 / 275 3504 / 273
Table B.3.3.8.5(b) Operating Temperature Versus Spacing (Q
d
= 1000 kW)
Operating
Temp.
C Spacing (m) Spacing (m)
57 4.7 4.65
74 3.5 3.50
93 2.5 2.70
Table B.3.3.8.5(c) RTI Versus Heat Release Rate [S = 9.1 m (30 ft)]
RTI
m
1/2
sec
1/2
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
50 1609 / 185 1579 / 184
150 2640 / 237 2608 / 236
300 3898 / 288 3830 / 286
Table B.3.3.8.5(d) RTI Versus Spacing (Q
d
= 1000 kW)
RTI
m
1/2
sec
1/2
Spacing (m) Spacing (m)
57 6.1 6.20
74 3.7 3.65
93 2.3 2.25
Table B.3.3.8.5(e) Ambient Temperature Versus Heat Release Rate [S = 9.1 m (30 ft)]
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Ambient
Temp.
C
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
0 2552 / 233 2504 / 231
20 1751 / 193 1721 / 192
38 1058 / 150 1030 / 148
Table B.3.3.8.5(f) Ambient Temperature Versus Spacing (Q
d
= 1000 kW)
Ambient
Temp.
C Spacing (m) Spacing (m)
0 3.8 3.90
20 5.7 5.60
38 8.8 8.85
Table B.3.3.8.5(g) Ceiling Height Versus Heat Release Rate [S = 9.1 m (30 ft)]
Ceiling
Height
(m)
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
HRR(kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
2.4 1787 / 195 1767 / 194
4.9 2358 / 224 2330 / 223
7.3 3056 / 255 3017 / 254
Table B.3.3.8.5(h) Ceiling Height Versus Spacing [Q
d
= 1000 kW)
Ceiling
Height
(m) Spacing (m) Spacing (m)
2.4 5.8 5.80
4.9 4.0 3.95
7.3 2.1 2.10
Table B.3.3.8.5(i) Detector Spacing Versus Heat Release Rate [S = 9.1 m (30 ft)]
Detector
Spacing
(m)
HRR (kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
HRR (kW)/
Response
Time (sec)
4.6 1000 / 146 986 / 145
9.1 2132 / 213 2108 / 212
15.2 4146 / 297 4135 / 297
Table B.3.3.8.5(j) Fire Growth Rate Versus Heat Release Rate [S = 9.1 m (30 ft)]
HRR (kW)/
Response
HRR (kW)/
Response
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Fire Growth Rate Time (sec) Time (sec)
Slow t
g
= 400 sec 1250 / 435 1238 /433
Medium t
g
= 250 sec 1582 / 306 1566 /305
Fast t
g
= 100 sec 2769 / 162 2736 / 161
Table B.3.3.8.5(k) Fire Growth Rate Versus Spacing (Q
d
= 1000 kW)
Fire Growth Rate
Spacing
(m)
Spacing
(m)
Slow t
g
= 400 sec 8.2 7.65
Medium t
g
= 250 sec 6.5 6.20
Fast t
g
= 100 sec 3.7 3.45
ROR Heat Detector
The same spreadsheet template procedure can be used for Rate-of-Rise heat detector, by
using the equation provided in the worksheet in Annex B to calculate dT
d
d
(t).
If dT
d
> the Rate-of-Rise value, the detector will activate. For an example, please see
Figure 4. This is a screen grab of the spreadsheet simulation for Rate-of-Rise heat
detector. Based on the same input parameters condition / scenario and Rate-of-Rise
temperature value of 11C, the ROR heat detector activation time is 98 seconds and at
that time the fire (a t-square fire) grows to approximately 453 kW. The calculations are in
SI units.
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Figure 4 ROR Heat Detector Example
Different convective heat release rate fraction
Annex B assumes a convective heat release rate fraction equal to 75 percent of the total
heat release rate. For burning conditions that are substantially different (i.e. different
convective heat release rate fraction), some of the equations in Annex B must be replaced
as follows:
o replaced with o
c
,
c c
H o o =
where
o
c
= convective fire growth rate (kW/sec
2
)
H
c
= convective heat release rate fraction
o = fire growth rate (kW/sec
2
)
*
2
0.861 1
f
r
t
H
| |
= +
|
\ .
replaced with
*
2
0.813 1
f
r
t
H
| |
= +
|
\ .
where
t
*
2f
= nondimensional time at which the initial heat front reaches the detector
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r = radial distance from fire plume axis (m)
H = ceiling height or height above fire (m)
0.146 0.242
r
D
H
= + replaced with 0.126 0.210
r
D
H
= +
where
D = as defined in equation (17) Annex B
r = radial distance from fire plume axis (m)
H = ceiling height or height above fire (m)
Conclusion
Worksheet evaluation procedure in Annex B NFPA 72 requires many step-by-step and
repeat calculations that should be done by a computer. Users can write a computer
program, or use a spreadsheet program to do the calculations. The spreadsheet by itself
has limitations, however by using the macro programming language, the spreadsheet
becomes a powerful tool for design and analysis of automatic fire detector spacing,
especially when users may want to use a performance-based approach to designing and
analyzing fire detection systems.
Program listing
'Antono MH - February 2004
'This program simulates the evaluation worksheet in Annex B, NFPA 72
'Nomenclature:
'Constants:
'Cp = specific heat of air (kJ/kg K)
'g = gravitational constant (m/sec^2)
'rho = density of ambient air (kg/m^3)
'Input variables:
'ta = ambient temperature (degC)
'Hcl = ceiling height (m)
'Hfuel = fuel height (m)
'tact = rated operating temperature of a detector or sprinkler (degC)
'RTI = response time index [m^(1/2)sec^(1/2)]
's = spacing of detectors or sprinkler heads (m)
'tg = fire growth time to reach 1055 kW (sec)
'Qup = upper limit of heat release rate (kW)
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'tf = simulation time duration (sec)
'dtout = simulation output interval (sec)
'Variables:
'Q = heat release rate (kW)
'alpha = fire growth rate or fire intensity coefficient (kW/sec^2)
'H = height above fire (m)
'r = radial distance from fire plume axis (m)
'tstar2 = reduced time
'tstar2f = reduced arrival time of heat front for a t-square fire at a point r/H (sec) =
(0.861 * (1 + (r / H)))
'D = 0.146 + 0.242 * (r / H)
'A = g / (Cp * (ta + 273) * rho)[m^4/(s^2.kJ)]
'tfront = time the heat front/ceiling jet first reaches the detector position (sec)
'ratio1 = ratio of the instantaneous velocity of fire gases to the non-dimensional reduced gas
velocity for a t-square fire
'ratio2 = ratio of the change in gas temperature to the non-dimensional gas temperature
'ratio3 = 0.59 * (r / H) ^ (-0.63)
'Tgas = temperature of fire gases (degC)
'deltaT = change in gas temperature (degC)
'Tdet = temperature of detector (degC)
'deltaTdet = change in detector temperature (degC)
'Y = as defined in equation (B.27) Annex B, NFPA 72
Option Explicit
Public Hcl As Single, Hfuel As Single, H As Single, ta As Single
Public tact As Single, tg As Single, s As Single, r As Single, RTI As Integer
Public cv As Single, dtout As Single, alpha As Single, alphac As Single
Public A As Single, tstar2f As Single, D As Single, ratio1 As Single
Public ratio2 As Single, ratio3 As Single, t As Single, Tgas As Single
Public Tdet As Single, qup As Integer, tstar2 As Single, deltaT As Single
Public deltaTstar2 As Single, Y As Single, conrho As String, deltaTdet As Single
Public Q As Integer, tf As Single, tfront As Single, rho As Single, NN As Single
Public j As Integer, Ti As Single, deltaTstar As Single, Y2 As Single
Public corfac As String, jn As Integer, irow As Integer, rrange As Range
Public icol As Integer, crange As Range
_________________________________________________
'Reset button
Private Sub CmdClear_Click()
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
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Worksheets("SIMULATION").ChartObjects(1).Visible = False
With Worksheets(2)
Set rrange = Range("F5:F600")
Set crange = Range("F5:R5")
irow = Application.WorksheetFunction.CountA(rrange, 0, 0, 0)
icol = Application.WorksheetFunction.CountA(crange, 0, 0, 0)
.Range(Cells(5, 6), Cells(irow + 1, icol + 4)).Interior.ColorIndex = 0
.Range(Cells(5, 6), Cells(irow + 5, icol + 15)).ClearContents
.Range(Cells(17, 3), Cells(18, 3)).ClearContents
.Range(Cells(2, 2), Cells(2, 13)).ClearContents
Cells(1, 12) = ""
End With
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub
______________________________________________________
'Calculate button
Private Sub CmdTest_Click()
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
On Error GoTo errorHandler
'Check that screen is cleared before calculation
Dim msg As String
msg = "YOU MUST FIRST RESET!!"
If Application.WorksheetFunction.CountA(Range("F5:F600")) > 0 Then
MsgBox msg, vbCritical, "STOP"
Exit Sub
End If
'Check that all input parameters are entered
msg = "PLEASE FILL ALL INPUT PARAMETERS"
If Application.WorksheetFunction.CountA(Range("C4:C13")) < 10 Then
MsgBox msg, vbCritical, "STOP"
Exit Sub
End If
ta = Val(Range("ta")): tact = Val(Range("tact")): RTI = Val(Range("RTI"))
Hfuel = Val(Range("Hf")): Hcl = Val(Range("Hc")): s = Val(Range("sp"))
tg = Val(Range("tg")): tf = Val(Range("tf")): dtout = Val(Range("dtout"))
qup = Val(Range("qup"))
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'cv = Val(Range("cv")) 'other burning conditions with different cv
calc tact, RTI, tg, ta, Hcl, s
Set rrange = Range("F5:F800")
irow = Application.WorksheetFunction.CountA(rrange, 0, 0, 0)
If Tdet >= tact Then
Cells(4 + irow, 7) = "DETECTOR ACTIVATES"
Cells(2, 2) = "DETECTOR ACTIVATES AT t(s)= ": Cells(2, 4) = Ti
Cells(2, 5) = " AND Q =": Cells(2, 7) = Q: Cells(2, 8) = "kW"
'If corfac = "Y" Or corfac = "y" Then
Cells(1, 12) = "NFPA 72"
'Endif
Else
Cells(2, 2) = " DETECTOR DID NOT ACTIVATE !!!"
Cells(4 + irow, 7) = "DETECTOR DID NOT ACTIVATE"
End If
With Worksheets("SIMULATION").ChartObjects(1).Chart
.HasTitle = True
.ChartTitle.Text = _
"GAS & DETECTOR TEMP. vs. TIME HRR vs. TIME"
End With
With Worksheets("SIMULATION").ChartObjects(1)
.RoundedCorners = True
.Visible = True
End With
Exit Sub
errorHandler:
MsgBox Error
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub
______________________________________________________
Sub calc(tact As Single, RTI As Integer, tg As Single, ta As Single, _
Hcl As Single, s As Single)
'Assign values to constants
Const Cp As Single = 1.04, dt As Single = 0.05, g As Single = 9.81, rho As Single = 1.1
'Calculate the equations
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alpha = 1055 / (tg ^ 2)
r = s / 1.41
H = Hcl - Hfuel
'Input box choice for NFPA 72 or other burning conditions
'corfac = InputBox("NFPA 72 OR OTHER BURNING CONDITONS (Y or N)?", _
'"NFPA 72", "Y")
'If corfac = "Y" Or corfac = "y" Then
tstar2f = (0.861 * (1 + (r / H)))
D = 0.146 + 0.242 * (r / H)
'Else
' tstar2f = (0.813 * (1 + (r / H)))
' D = 0.126 + 0.210 * (r / H)
' cv = Val(InputBox("ENTER HRR CONVECTIVE FRACTION:", _
'"HRR CONVECTIVE FRACTION", 0.7))
' alpha = cv * alpha '-for different cv
'End If
'Input box correction factors for density of ambient air
'conrho = InputBox("CONSTANT DENSITY OF AMBIENT AIR (Y or N)?", _
"DENSITY OF AMBIENT AIR", "Y")
'If conrho = "Y" Or conrho = "y" Then
' rho = 1.1
'Else
' rho = 1.2 * (294 / (ta + 273))
'End If
A = g / (Cp * (ta + 273) * rho)
tfront = tstar2f * A ^ (-1 / 5) * alpha ^ (-1 / 5) * H ^ (4 / 5)
ratio1 = A ^ (1 / 5) * alpha ^ (1 / 5) * H ^ (1 / 5)
ratio2 = A ^ (2 / 5) * ((ta + 273) / g) * alpha ^ (2 / 5) * H ^ (-3 / 5)
ratio3 = 0.59 * (r / H) ^ (-0.63)
'Initial values
t = 0: Cells(7, 6) = t
Tgas = ta: Cells(7, 7) = Tgas
Cells(7, 8) = Tgas
Tdet = ta: Cells(7, 8) = Tdet
Cells(7, 8) = Tdet
Q = 0: Cells(7, 9) = Q
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Cells(7, 10) = tstar2f
Cells(7, 11) = A
tstar2 = 0: Cells(7, 12) = tstar2
Cells(7, 13) = ratio1
Cells(7, 14) = ratio2
deltaTstar2 = 0: Cells(7, 15) = deltaTstar2
Cells(7, 16) = ratio3
Y = 0: Cells(7, 17) = Y
deltaTdet = 0: Cells(7, 18) = deltaTdet
'Calculation for each time step
NN = (tf) / dt '+ 1.5
For j = 2 To NN
Ti = dt * (j - 1)
Q = alpha * Ti ^ 2
tstar2 = Ti / (A ^ (-1 / 5) * alpha ^ (-1 / 5) * H ^ (4 / 5))
deltaTstar = (tstar2 - tstar2f)
If deltaTstar < 0 Then
deltaT = 0
Else
deltaT = ratio2 * ((tstar2 - tstar2f) / D) ^ (4 / 3)
End If
If deltaTstar < 0 Then
deltaTstar2 = 0
Else
deltaTstar2 = ((deltaTstar) / D) ^ (4 / 3)
End If
If Ti <= tfront Then
Y = 0
Y2 = 0
Else
Y = (3 / 4) * ratio1 ^ (1 / 2) * ratio3 ^ (1 / 2) * (deltaTstar2 / RTI) * _
(Ti / tstar2) * D
Y2 = 1 - (1 - Exp(1) ^ (-Y)) / Y
End If
If Ti <= tfront Then
deltaTdet = 0
Else
deltaTdet = ratio2 * deltaTstar2 * Y2
End If
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If Ti <= tfront Then
Tgas = ta
Tdet = ta
Else
Tgas = ta + deltaT
Tdet = ta + deltaTdet
End If
'If Ti is an even multiple of dtout, write output to screen
For jn = 1 To tf
If Ti = jn * dtout Then
Cells(7 + jn, 6) = Ti
Cells(7 + jn, 7) = Tgas
Cells(7 + jn, 8) = Tdet
Cells(7 + jn, 9) = Q
Cells(7 + jn, 10) = tstar2f
Cells(7 + jn, 11) = A
Cells(7 + jn, 12) = tstar2
Cells(7 + jn, 13) = ratio1
Cells(7 + jn, 14) = ratio2
Cells(7 + jn, 15) = deltaTstar2
Cells(7 + jn, 16) = ratio3
Cells(7 + jn, 17) = Y
Cells(7 + jn, 18) = deltaTdet
End If
Next jn
'Check for end of calculations, if True, program stops
If Tdet >= tact Or Q >= qup Then Exit For
Next j
End Sub
_________________________________________________
References
1. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, 1999 and later editions.
2. SFPE The SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering, 3
rd
Edition.