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Pennsylvania Fire Sprinkler Requirements

Rebecca Macken

The state of Pennsylvania adheres to the building code administered under Part XVI of the Uniform Construction Code, adopted statewide in April 2004, and enacted as the statewide Fire Code under Chapter 9, Section 903. Fire sprinkler systems must meet the regulations set forth in the UCC for new construction, renovations and maintenance.

Assembly Rated Structures

Pennsylvania requires fire sprinklers in certain strucures to ensure protection from potential blazes.

Assembly rated structures are those used for the assembly of people for religious, civic, social, recreational, eating or waiting for transportation and are 750 square feet or more. Those related to educational rated groups (E) are not covered under these statutes. Group A buildings generally are required to have automatic sprinkler systems throughout the structure and in the area where the groups meet. For outdoor assembly areas, fire sprinkler systems should be installed in areas in excess of 1,000 square feet.

Residential Rated Structures

In 2009, Pennsylvania adopted the International Residential Code (IRC) regulation, requiring automatic sprinkler systems be installed in all new town home and one- and two- family homes. This new applies to new construction only, and does not include additions or renovations on existing structures. The new code went immediately into effect for the construction of town homes but will not be required on one- and two-family dwellings until after January 1, 2011.

Merchant and Industrial Rated Structures

Included under this designation are structures rated Factory Industrial, defined as used for assembly, disassembly, manufacturing, packaging and fabrication, as well as Mercantile which is defined as a space in the sale and display of merchandise. Both ratings have the same requirements. Fire sprinkler systems are required where the fire area is over 12,000 square feet or the combined square footage of the full structure is more than 24,000 square feet. In addition, those structures where the fire area is located four stories or more above the grade plane are also required to have fire sprinkler systems in place.


The Pennsylvania Fire Code makes exceptions to the necessity of automatic fire sprinkler systems in buildings where construction began prior to May 18, 1984. This statute applies to buildings not designated as educational, high-hazard, institutional, R-1 and R-2 residential. R-1 and R-2 residential properties may be exempt in cases where there are no areas of the structure that occupy more than 75 feet above the fire department access area. Instead, they may substitute fire sprinklers with hard-wired heat and smoke detectors in all occupied and unoccupied spaces. Not exempt under the May 18, 198, clause are buildings with "occupied floors more than 75 feet above lowest level of fire department access." The Pennsylvania Fire Code notes that fire sprinklers are then required to meet occupant safety standards.