There are many reasons to install a fire sprinkler system in your commercial premises. You owe it to your employees, customers, and yourself to provide a safe working environment. And, there are regulations in place to ensure you take fire precautions seriously. Furthermore, your insurance company will also charge you less if you have adequate fire protection.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the estimated average commercial fire sprinkler installation costs around $1.35 (2013 data). Suppose the size of a medium office ranges from 150-250 sq. ft. In that case, the estimated sprinkler installation cost is between $200-$340.
Although the average costs of fire sprinkler systems are relatively inexpensive, it pays to choose one costing more than average from a company installing good quality systems. After all, sprinklers alone (where fitted) controlled over 99% of building fires. Therefore, it‘s sensible to research the available products and choose one that will provide your company premises with a good fire suppression system.
Commercial Fire Sprinkler System Costs
The cost of an industrial fire sprinkler system mostly depends on the area protected by the spray. You might want to consider the table below, which gives some examples of typical office room sizes and the cost of a fire sprinkler system designed to cover that sized room.
|Office Room Area||Fire Sprinkler Cost per sq. ft.||Total cost|
|Small 90 sq.ft.||$1||$90|
|Small 150 sq.ft.||$1||$150|
|Medium 130 sq.ft.||$1||$130|
|Medium 250 sq.ft.||$1||$250|
|Large 200 sq. ft.||$1||$200|
|Large 400 sq.ft.||$1||$400|
It’s always easier and cheaper to install fire sprinkler heads if your building is new or in the process of renovation. In comparison, establishing a system in an existing building costs much more. The costs vary partly because it’s easier to hide water pipes and other components while the room is under construction. And partly, because the construction of an older building usually has less fireproofing than a new one, so the overall fire protection and sprinkler system must be more comprehensive.
Typical costs for an office
Typical cost estimates for new work installation are around $1 to $2 per square foot. While for existing rooms, the cost per square foot is between $2 to $7.
Typical costs for a high rise
But not all offices and other commercial buildings exist as independent structures; companies use many highrises too. Typically, expect to pay a minimum of $5 per square foot for the cost of installing a fire sprinkler system in a highrise or towerblock.
Typical costs for historic buildings
Installation within a historic building must consider the extra work necessary to maintain the building’s aesthetics. Under circumstances such as these, expect to pay at least $10 per square foot.
Sprinkler system components
A typical indoor sprinkler system uses a few specific components. However, the number of items used in a particular design varies depending on the total sprinkling area, the water pressure, the amount and type of flammables present, the volume of delivered water, and the component’s quality. Furthermore, the overall design and the total number of items govern the total price.
The following list shows which items to use and their price. As you can imagine, the total costs of all these components plus the labor charges contribute to the overall installation quotation. It’s almost impossible to determine the exact total price of a sprinkler system in an article such as this. Instead, ask for a professional quote from a specialist company that considers all your circumstances.
- Sprinkler heads usually cost between $1 and $35 each.
- Valves cost from $10 to $55 per item.
- Gauges range from $10 to $55 each.
- Pumps and electrical switches range from $15 to $60 per item.
Water tanks and booster pumps
Usually, sprinkler water comes from the public water supply, which is always under pressure. Alternatively, your water might come from a well or some other private water source. In this case, you will need a header tank to store the water and a booster pump to deliver it under pressure. A tank and pump can increase the fire sprinkler system prices by about 25%.
A typical medium–sized commercial structure built after 2010 averages around 20,500 square feet. Suppose we use the upper range cost of around $2 per square foot to install fire sprinklers into a new building. In that case, the entire system calculates to about $41,000. This amount might seem like a lot of money. But, when compared against loss of property and stock and the potential number of fatalities, it is a small price to pay. Added to this, we also have the benefits of employee wellbeing, savings on insurance policy premiums, and the possibility of fines for not complying with the regulations and building codes.
Commercial Fire Sprinkler Cost Factors
The cost of installing a new sprinkler system varies depending on the size and location of the project. Furthermore, some features get lost when discussed in articles such as these. The only way to consider them is to ask a professional company to give a comprehensive quotation. Below we have outlined the most important factors that can impact the pricing and quote you receive.
You can buy pipework in plastic or metal.
Plastic is the cheapest material. You should use it to save money when it’s possible to hide the system behind fireproof walls.
Use metal pipes in unfinished rooms such as basements and attics where they might be left exposed to fire and heat. Similarly, industrial buildings such as garages, body shops, or warehouses also tend to have unfinished walls and ceilings. Generally, copper, cast iron, and steel pipes are more expensive than plastic, with copper being the most expensive metal.
There are two ways of setting out a new sprinkler system design:
- Standalone sprinkler systems have pipes supplying water only to the sprinkler heads. This type is the more common of the two.
- Multipurpose sprinkler systems use one set of pipes to supply domestic water and sprinkler water. Therefore the design needs less piping, so it is much cheaper to install.
Some commercial premises can continue working without disruption while the sprinkler engineers install the system. However, other commercial or public premises such as restaurants and schools must either stop trading during installation or have the system installed during non-working hours. This situation increases the time taken to complete the installation with subsequent increases in the fire sprinkler cost.
Sprinkler System Design Basics
The first step in designing the sprinkler system for your commercial building is to determine the hazard level of the building. A specialist fire design team considers the building‘s construction materials, the number of people usually working in the building, the type of materials stored on the property, and the company’s operational processes. Also, they include the interior architecture such as ceiling heights, number of floors and rooms on each floor, and how easy it is to exit the building.
From these factors, the team decides whether the building falls within:
- Light hazard.
- Ordinary hazard group 1.
- Ordinary hazard group 2.
- Extra hazard group 1.
- Extra hazard group 2.
These factors, and more, taken together, allow the experts to design an appropriate system to comply with the fire codes and calculate the commercial fire sprinkler system costs.
Suppose your sprinkler system uses public water. In that case, it needs a backflow preventer to stop the pressurized sprinkler water from contaminating the municipal supply. This component is especially important if your system design uses an antifreeze solution. A typical backflow preventer and accessories might cost another $70 to $300 minimum, depending on the size of your system.
The basic detectors that activate sprinklers consist of a small glass bulb connected to each sprinkler head holding a quantity of glycerine. When the heat level in the room rises due to a fire, the glycerine expands and eventually breaks the glass, thus setting off the sprinklers.
However, separate fire detectors can be connected to your fire sprinkler system. Sometimes the system might need a warning of a fire starting rather than use the heat detection units connected to individual sprinkler heads. One of these detectors costs between $750 and $2,500.
Your new fire sprinkler system needs regular maintenance to keep it working as it should. A local company will charge between $500 to $2000 per year to regularly inspect and maintain the sprinkler system installed in a small commercial building. In comparison, a large five-floor commercial building with an area of 200,000 square feet will cost between $3,000 and $4,000 per year.
Benefits of Fire Sprinkler System Installation
Apart from the specific benefits of a fire sprinkler system, others aren‘t so obvious. However, they will save your company a heap of money.
Claiming Tax Deductions
The federal government offers multiple tax deductions if you install fire sprinklers in your commercial building.
- There is an annual depreciation allowance based on the value of the sprinkler system. At the time of writing this article (April 2021), this was 2.56%.
- Interest will be paid on a loan you‘ve used to pay for the system.
- If you have a historic building, the federal Qualified Rehabilitation Tax Credit offers 20% of rehabilitation expenditure.
- Finally, the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act allows 100% of the sprinkler system‘s value to be expensed during the year of installation.
Always discuss these points with your tax adviser before going ahead with any purchases.
Suppose someone is injured or dies on your property because of a fire. You might have to pay many millions of dollars restitution for preventable deaths and injuries. Make sure you have operating sprinklers installed to reduce your liability.
Surprisingly, courts have ruled and awarded against the company even if the building codes don‘t insist you have sprinklers. This ruling is based on the widespread use of sprinklers and people’s expectation that you have them installed.
Companies that install fire sprinkler systems are less of a risk for insurance companies. Therefore, you might pay reduced insurance premiums of between 55% and 85% depending on this and other factors. A typical large commercial building could save as much as $16,000 per year on its insurance premiums.
Suppose your company does everything it can to prevent fires and control their effects, such as installing sprinklers. You can qualify as a “Highly Protected Risk“ (HPR). This qualification gives you even larger discounts on your premiums.
But, you must remember that installing them and forgetting about them won‘t be of any use. You must produce proof to your insurer that you have regular inspection and maintenance visits from a specialist contractor. Moreover, if the inspections are consistently late, your insurer will penalize you with reduced discounts.
Reducing the risk of revenue loss
Suppose you have a fire in your business premises, and you lack a fire sprinkler system. In this case, you might suffer from the following:
- You have a long period where the company ceases trading while repairs take place. Even small amounts of fire damage can take several months to put right.
- During this non-trading period, you will lose income and might have to fire a considerable portion of your workforce.
- You will lose regular customers who will approach your competitors. Even after your company is back in business, these losses might be permanent.
Fire Sprinkler Types
There are a variety of sprinkler heads developed for different applications. Furthermore, each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
Wet Pipe Sprinkler
A wet sprinkler system is so–called because the pipes feeding the sprinkler heads already contain water. This situation allows immediate dispersal when the system activates the sprinklers. This type has the least number of components. Therefore, they have lower installation and maintenance costs than any others. Because of this, they are ideal for large buildings and high rises.
However, they are prone to freezing during winter in cold climates, so they need heavy insulation and antifreeze because the pipes continually hold water.
Dry Pipe Sprinkler
Dry pipe sprinkler systems don‘t hold water until activated. So, they don’t carry the same risk of frozen pipes as wet pipe sprinklers. Therefore, they are ideal for unheated buildings such as warehouses, freezers, and other cold storage facilities.
Unfortunately, they require more regular maintenance and need a more complex installation process, costing more to carry out than for a wet pipe sprinkler.
Pre-Action & Deluge Sprinklers
Deluge Sprinklers operate along the same lines as dry pipe sprinklers. The system releases a large volume of water to smother potentially high–risk fires involving combustible and flammable materials. They need extremely large volumes of water, and a sophisticated fire detection system, so they have higher installation and maintenance costs than dry pipe sprinklers.
Pre-Action Sprinklers are a hybrid of a wet, deluge, and dry pipe sprinkler system. Unfortunately, one of the problems with sprinkler systems is the water damage they cause. If you definitely have a fire, then water damage is acceptable. But, if the sprinklers activate accidentally, the risk is unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs. Typical areas at risk from accidental sprinkler activation and subsequent water damage include data centers, art galleries, and museums. Pre-action sprinklers use a combination of interlocking failsafe systems to prevent water release except in a real fire. The system is very complex and needs additional fire detection equipment. Therefore, its cost is towards the higher end of the range and is similar to a deluge system
Meeting Legal Requirements
At the very basic level of choosing a sprinkler system, it must comply with the codes applicable to the type of building and its local area. If you haven‘t bothered to take those into account, then you have probably wasted your money.
A building manager should be aware of the fire codes applicable to their building. If not, then a quick email to city hall and the fire department will put that right. You will have regular inspections and be issued with appropriate permits for using the building as a business. Moreover, the type of operational permit depends on the material stored on the premises and the category of work you do.
A fire marshall has the backing of the authorities to enter your premises without warning if they think an infringement of the fire codes has taken place.
Suppose you don’t install the correct sprinkler system required by your permits. In that case, you must update before your next inspection or face severe penalties issued by the authorities. It makes sense to investigate which fire codes you need to comply with and install the appropriate sprinkler system. It will save you money in the long term.
It makes sense to protect your business and employees from fire by installing the correct sprinkler system to comply with the fire codes. You might have to pay just a few hundred or many thousands of dollars to suitably protect your company, depending on its size and the type of business. But, in the long term, it’s worth every dollar. Fire sprinklers will not only help prevent injury and fatalities but will reduce fire damage to your property and stock.
If you want to know how much a commercial fire sprinkler system costs to install, complete the form at the top of the page. Then, you‘ll receive 2 or 3 quotes from specialist contractors for a system that will help protect your business.
Jason is a B2B sales veteran spanning 3 decades and Founder of ApprovedCosts. Jason has scaled sales and marketing teams at a variety of enterprises and is a recognized expert in the field. Jason holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.