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NFPA 13 2019 Edition – ESFR Code Changes

The newest edition of NFPA 13 (2019 Edition) will be adopted as early as 2019. However, the vast majority of states and jurisdictions will be adopting the new standard in January of 2020. In this article we will be focusing on the reformat and new layout of the standard and discussing changes for this latest edition of NFPA 13 in the application and use of ESFR (Early Suppression, Fast Response) sprinkler systems.

Early Suppression Fast Response Sprinkler Systems

The 2019 Edition of NFPA 13 underwent a complete rewrite of the standard focusing on simplification in the standard’s use and application. While other type of sprinkler systems had new protection schemes added, ESFR protection schemes did not change when compared to the previous edition. However, where previously ESFR, CMDA, and CMSA sprinkler schemes were embedded in each of the respective storage chapters, and each chapter was dedicated to a particular type of storage configuration such as rack, palletized, or shelf storage, now a new approach was taken:

Quick View:

Details In Chapters

Solid Shelf protection schemes for racks requiring installation of in-rack sprinklers are now separated out in Section 25.6 of the in-rack Chapter 25.

Key Changes:

Clarification on Some Existing Language:

It seems that obstruction criteria for ESFR sprinklers in Section 14.2.4 is creating some confusion:

‘ESFR sprinklers shall be permitted for use in buildings with unobstructed or obstructed construction’.

In the release version of NFPA 13 2019 Ed. combustible obstructed roof construction is not permitted with usage of ESFR sprinklers (as demonstrated in Table However, TIA Log No.: 1416 (April 10th 2019) may change this.

If approved, this update will remove this limitation from Table Or in other words, NFPA 13 will permit combustible obstructed roof construction with the use of ESFR sprinklers. As a result, ESFR sprinklers may be allowed to be installed in these construction types to coincide with the listings allowances in the sprinkler datasheets and FM 2.0

Update August 6th 2019: TIA 19-4 was approved and Table now lists combustible obstructed construction for ESFR sprinklers as acceptable with the same protection areas and maximum spacing dimensions as ‘combustible unobstructed’ construction type.


No doubt it will take some time to get used to the new layout and formatting of the new standard. Initially the learning curve will be (somewhat) steep in ‘searching and locating’ familiar regulations – so easily located in the decade old and familiar layout of the 2016 Edition.

A ‘roadmap’ was included in the back of the standard providing 2019 section cross references for many of the sections found in the 2016 Edition. While this ‘roadmap’ table is very useful, it is not a complete reference by any means, and users quite often are left wondering ‘where it all went’ (we will attempt to address this headscratcher in the future, so stay tuned. Update October 26th 2019: see this article).

Then perhaps, the new layout may help plan reviewers in particular, as they were the target group for the reformatting of the standard.