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Why the Construction Industry Needs FARS in the Bidding Process

Picture this: You’re a general contractor whose preconstruction team has buttoned up the bid for a 15-story tower. It’s a skyline-changing project that stays within budget and adheres to the schedule – providing valuable benefits to the owner and a good margin on the contract.

Then you meet with the fire marshal and he says your plans are incomplete: You forgot to include a Firefighter Air-Replenishment System (FARS) in your submittal – resulting in an unexpected six-figure expense.

Unfortunately, many general contractors, developers, and owners are finding themselves in this position: Scrambling to understand what FARS is, why they need it, where to purchase it, and how to get it installed – without breaking the budget. Clearly, failure to include FARS in the bidding process results in exhausting and expensive consequences.

What is a Firefighter Air-Replenishment System (FARS)?

It’s easy to understand why FARS are quickly becoming standard across the nation. These closed, breathable air systems allow firefighters to remain engaged in suppressing flames while inside the building.

Without a FARS, firefighters are forced to either navigate through a dangerous maze when they depleted their oxygen tank, or have other firefighters bring them new tanks in a “bottle brigade” fashion. Those options require surrendering all the progress made against the blaze, at the expense of time and additional labor that could be better used battling the blaze.

Firefighter Air-Replenishment Systems

Many cities are updating codes to require Firefighter Air-Replenishment Systems (FARS)

In 2015, the International Fire Code updated Appendix L, which calls for FARS in all new construction and expansions. While each city or town can choose whether to follow these requirements, many are adopting the FARS code compliances.

In Texas alone, Frisco, Southlake, Plano, Pearland, and Midland all have adopted parts of Appendix L. As many as 100 American jurisdictions – many of them in high-growth areas – have made FARS mandatory.

Appendix L has a range of recommendations, ranging from cylinder refill rates to inspection frequency. For example, Plano, Texas requires:

  1. Any new building five or more stories in height, any new building with two or more floors below grade, or any new building 500,000 sf or more in size.
  2. Each stairwell must have a supply riser
  3. SCBA fill stations on odd numbered floors in the primary stairwell; even in secondary.

For a full list, see the IFC codes here. Some cities require more stringent adherence to the IFC rules, while others have adopted only the basic codes.

FARS also appear in Appendix F of the 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code and the 2018 NFPA code. Additionally, some owners and developers are looking forward, installing FARS early so they will be compliant – and provide additional safety to occupants – when their city adopts the resolution.

When do I need to consider adding a FARS?

Regardless if the project is a new-build or an expansion, understanding the indicators of FARS-qualified projects can be challenging. Consider these attributes to determine if a FARS is necessary to include in the bidding process:

  1. On buildings 5 stories or taller
  2. Where code requires it, or likely will when future expansions take place
  3. On ground-up construction, renovation, or expansion projects
  4. When the owner wishes to provide the best possible safety for the business, customers, and fire department 
  5. On projects that want to avoid a six-figure hit after the bidding process

Prepare for FARS installation requirements with a guide

The more you understand what a FARS is, why projects need it, where to purchase it, and how to get it installed, the better equipped you will be to get the job done on schedule, within budget and safely.

TDIndustries is passionate about helping protect human lives, so we created this one-page guide to help you understand FARS requirements and plan FARS installations. As the most experienced certified FARS installer in the state of Texas, TD takes pride in serving as a one-stop shop for all Fire Life Safety (FLS) needs.

We encourage you to download and use it today!

FARS installation guide

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