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High-Rise Dorm Fire Sprinkler Retrofit Completed in Record Time

By: Mark Knurek on June 26th, 2018

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High-Rise Dorm Fire Sprinkler Retrofit Completed in Record Time

Case Studies  |  Residential

Largest dorm in North America completes fire sprinkler retrofit in record 11 months without displacing students


With 3,000 beds inside and one-million+ square feet of housing comprising an entire city block, Jester Center at the University of Texas Austin was recognized as the largest dormitory in North America when it was built.

When the state fire marshal mandated that the University retrofit all of its high-rise residence halls, deciding how to complete the Jester Center retrofit presented two major challenges:

  1. How to complete the retrofit on time.
  2. What to do it with thousands of students living there.

Working under the demands of a shorter time schedule could have been met by closing the entire facility, but that would have left 3,000 students without housing. Even the option of closing one floor at a time would not allow the University to meet their deadline and posed major cost implications to relocate the students, given the limited housing options available.


BlazeMaster® CPVC Fire Protection System Offers Ease and Speed of Installation

Under normal circumstances, installing a metallic fire sprinkler system would have required closing multiple floors. Instead, Schirmer Engineering, based in Dallas, Texas, recommended using a BlazeMaster CPVC fire sprinkler system. The firm was familiar with CPVC’s ease of use and the speed with which it can be installed thanks to their work with Western States Fire Protection Co.

The University only had experience with metal fire sprinkler systems, but ultimately chose to utilize the BlazeMaster CPVC system because of the quality and durability it offered. Key to the approval was the fact that the product has a proven, 18+ year track record in commercial applications—a history unmatched by any other CPVC material on the market.


The Building Retrofit Begins

Work began with simultaneous retrofit of both Jester Center’s towers. An aggressive construction schedule was set: six to seven rooms per day between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. Designated rooms would be vacated at 8:00 a.m. and students were told they could return by the end of that same day.


“We worked around computers and personal belongings that had been moved to the center of the rooms .... we would have never been able to do this with a metallic system.”

- Jerry Allen, Senior Project Manager for Western States Fire Protection Co.


Construction Flexibility

The dorm configuration presented several challenges that were minimized by the decision to install a BlazeMaster CPVC Fire Protection System.

Unlike metal, CPVC doesn’t require pre-fabrication, so Western States was able to cut as they worked, rather than precutting everything. In addition, thanks to its light weight, crews were able to easily carry the CPVC piping through the building’s hallways and doorways.

These advantages over metal systems provided Western States significant labor time savings. The company was able to install more than one million feet of BlazeMaster pipe ahead of the fire marshall’s schedule.


1M square feet, 11-months, 0 student relocations

The Jester Center retrofit project was completed in a record 11 months without relocating a single student—a highly successful outcome not possible with steel pipe.


“The CPVC fire sprinkler system is an extremely attractive option because it allowed us to meet our schedule…we could not have accomplished what we did and met the tight schedule with steel. I believe that one of the greatest advantages of the BlazeMaster CPVC system is that it allows you to work in occupied rooms with minimal disruption to students. I know what’s involved in steel installation. It’s noisy, it’s dirty, and you have the risk of using a torch. In addition, I don’t think you have as many issues over time with CPVC, such as the deterioration of steel pipe.”

Doug Garrard, Associate Director of Housing and Food Services, University of Texas Austin


High-Rise Applications Rely on CPVC

BlazeMaster CPVC fire sprinkler systems are approved for more applications than any other non-metallic system. High-rise building owners can rely on its ease and speed of installation, cost savings, proven corrosion resistance, lower environmental impact and superior performance.

To learn more or schedule a time to discuss capabilities, contact one of our piping systems consultants.


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