Seismic protection of fire sprinkler and other mechanical systems: best practices from Turkey

L’intervento di Eren Kalafat (Presidente di TASI – Turkish Association for Seismic Isolation) sul calcolo degli elementi non strutturali in zona sismica è una prima testimonianza del mercato turco frutto dell Progetto di internazionalizzazione promosso dalla Regione Emilia Romagna che vede coinvolte Aziende operanti nel settore dell’edilizia antisismica.
Il Progetto MedArt2 è gestito da Roncucci & Partners di Bologna e vi hanno aderito ISI, Assorestauro e loro Aziende associate.
Nell’ambito del Progetto Med Art 2, è stato stabilito un contatto con varie Associazioni Professionali e Agenzie governative turche.
Il prossimo step del Progetto attualmente in corso, sarà l’organizzazione di un roadshow dedicato alla vulnerabilità sismica di monumenti ed edifici storici promosso dalle Aziende di Med Art 2 e patrocinato da Ordini di Ingegneri ed Architetti e da Agenzie governative ed università turche.
Il Roadshow toccherà le grandi città a maggior rischio sismico della Turchia a cominciare da Istanbul, per proseguire nella capitale Ankara ed altre città della Turchia.
A questa fase del Progetto Med Art 2 stanno aggregandosi nuove Aziende italiane del settore.

Per informazioni ing. Paolo Segala,

Seismic protection of fire sprinkler and other mechanical systems: best practices from Turkey

Earthquakes are non-predictable natural disasters. Nobody can foresee a coming earthquake and escape from its consequences. What can be done is to observe happened earthquakes, collect empirical data and analyze these data for estimating effects of future earthquakes. This is the basis for seismic protection of our living spaces. Today engineers can design buildings depending on expected seismic forces. However, an unacceptable mistake is to neglect the importance of seismic restraint for non-structural systems. This is crucial especially for fire sprinkler pipes, fuel lines, emergency and energy systems etc. Without having a functioning mechanical and electrical system there will be no fire protection, no energy supply, no communication and no health services.

This paper includes basic information about earthquakes and examples of seismic restraint design and applications for some selected buildings in Turkey; an office, a shopping center and a residence. Followed buildings codes are IBC 2003 and Turkish Code 1997.

The purpose of this paper is to point out the importance of seismic protection for mechanical and electrical systems in buildings and facilities. These systems are the essential bases for a building and/or facility to be functional after and sometimes even during an earthquake. There is no scientific hypothesis in this work. Instead, this work first covers basic information about earthquakes and how they affect our buildings; then shows the empirical calculations of seismic forces and a comparison between the Turkish Local Code and the International Building Code; and finally demonstrates ways to keep our mechanical and electrical systems safe. The ultimate purpose of this work is to support the awareness for importance of seismic protection for non-structural systems in buildings.

Seismic forces can be calculated thru globally accepted building codes. The most widely used building code today is IBC (International Building Code) which has joined the previous ones (UBC, BOCA etc). Except Japan, almost the rest of the world is using IBC when dealing with non-structural seismic design. The reason is that many local codes (including Turkish Code) are technically weak in terms of seismic protection for mechanical and electrical systems. Once the seismic force assumed to act on a mechanical component (piping, equipments etc) is calculated, the next step is to make the necessary precaution. This can be done either by fixing it to the structure in an experienced and accepted way or by restraining it with help of specifically designed and manufactured seismic hardware (snubber, isolator, steel cable, bracket etc). In both cases, it is a must to calculate the forces and design protection system.

Earthquakes are non-predictable natural disasters caused by three reasons: volcanic action, collapse of an underground hole, or a ground layer motion which is called “tectonic action”. The first 2 are not as critical as the last one, since these happen seldom and affect rather smaller areas. Tectonic earthquakes, on the other hand, are more critical because of their strong and devastating effects on wide areas.

During an earthquake, a building can stand still if it has been constructed properly. But can we use that building after the earthquake? The answer of this question can only be “yes”, unless the building is still functional. This means, a building is useless without electricity, heating/air conditioning, water supply, etc. There is a more important question: How can we save lives during and right after an earthquake? Is it enough to make a building stand still after the seismic activity? What if a small fire has started? Will there be people to stop that fire? Or will we depend on our automatic fire sprinkler system to stop this little fire? What if our sprinkler piping has been damaged by the earthquake? A bunch of people will be trying to escape from the building and that small fire and/or smoke can easily cause deaths.

The above paragraph shows a very possible situation. But if we have a fire sprinkler system, strong enough to resist the seismic forces, we don’t need to be afraid of these kinds of situations. The same is for all mechanical and electrical systems. We have to consider the non-structural aspects when constructing our buildings and facilities. If we don’t, the followings can happen:

Figure 1. Examples of earthquake damages; a) A sheared pipe, b) A broken sprinkler head, c) Collapsed emergency battery racks, d) Ripped body of a chiller by the connected pipe.