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Sprinkler systems in 11 UNC dorms to cost $17M

Posted August 26, 2008

— It's expected to cost the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill about $17 million to outfit the remainder of its dormitories with sprinkler systems.

Two-thirds of the university's 33 dorms have had sprinkler systems installed since the university began the project in 1992.

Dr. Christopher Payne, vice chancellor for student affairs, said the plan is to have systems in the remaining 11 dorms in place by 2012.

"We have to design the sprinkler systems to fit the architecture for each one of the facilities," Payne said.

UNC finished installing sprinklers in three dorms this summer and is half way through the process in a fourth. Sprinklers are in common areas, and there are at least two in dorm rooms.

Family housing and fraternity and sorority houses on the UNC campus already have sprinklers.

The state required them following a 1996 fire at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house on the UNC campus, in which five people were killed and three people injured.

All campuses within the University of North Carolina system aim to have sprinkler systems in dorms by 2012.

Right now, for example, four out 15 housing facilities at East Carolina University have sprinklers. Two more will have them by next week.

North Carolina Central University has six systems installed in eight dorms. The remaining two are in the process of being installed, an NCCU spokeswoman said.

North Carolina State University has sprinklers in each of its 20 dorms.


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  • IBleedRedandWhite Aug 27, 2008

    I think it is worth every penny. When properly piped, sprinkler systems are highly effective and reduces the total loss of a building as well as buys time for people to get out safe. However, if you live in a dorm now, you might want to get your computer and other electronics insured just in case one of those pipes burst during a nice long vacation.

  • chfdcpt Aug 27, 2008

    My ex carreer has been fighting for sprinklers for a very long time. To fully sprinkler a building under construction will add about 20% to the cost of the building. But when you look at what your insurance rate will drop to for a fully sprinkled structure, you can make that difference thruought the life of the building. Too bad that the construction lobby and the contractors keep fighting the fire service on this issue. You would think that after that fire in 1996 that the university would have retrofitted their dorms sooner. The Chapel Hill Town Council made it mandatory for frats/sororities to be sprinkled or they would be shut down. It took them about 3 years to retrofit.

  • mpheels Aug 26, 2008

    jreesnc - having been turned away from the Bosh b/c it was past capacity for safety codes, I would say the stadium was no longer adequate. Structurally sound, yes. But no longer adequate.

    But all that is beside the point - the funds for sprinklers are completely separate from those used to build athletic facilities. The sprinklers will eventually be paid for by the fees students pay to live in residence halls. The new stadium will be paid for by alumni donations and ticket sales for a facility that will be significantly larger and much, much nicer.

  • Travised Aug 26, 2008

    Some multi unit dwellings that are tall (over 20 story) the problem was pressure. If there was a power outage, you need substantial pressure to get the water to the locations needed. Six story or less don't have this problem. Retrofitting inside isn't pleasing to the eye, but so what. The pipes hang from the ceiling with the heads downward to cover the areas needed.

    I know of a 25 story unit that has a waiver from a state that required sprinklers in multi unit dwellings over 3 floors or 36 units. The cost was prohibitive for them to install a functional method by floor or unit/floor (8 units per floor).

    As long as the walls are drywall and flooring has a barrier of concrete or a flame barrier it limits the fire spreading issues. If the walls are wood you are out of luck for fire barriers.

  • bomanicous Aug 26, 2008

    'I'll do it for $16,000,000.00.'

    I think they're looking for the highest bidder. Maybe you can add another $2m for a parking pass.

  • james27613 Aug 26, 2008

    Yes it is expensive to retrofit existing buildings, but worth it.

    Lives were lost due to smoke inhalation, the fire started in
    the trash that was left downstairs. Trash should always be
    placed in outside containers for safety.

    If they had a designated safety sentry, like a designated driver, the deaths could have been avoided.

  • scientistjo Aug 26, 2008

    Those aren't the same funds.

  • jreesnc Aug 26, 2008

    Maybe they could have used the money they spent to rebuild a perfectly sound baseball stadium to perform this more important work. Again, UNC already had a fine baseball stadium, but they decided to tear it down and put a fancy schmancy new on in its place...

  • shadow315 Aug 26, 2008

    I'll do it for $16,000,000.00.