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How Contractors Can Gauge the Cost of a Commercial Fire Security Plan

Constructing a new commercial building—be it a retail space, apartment complex, skyscraper, or sporting arena—is a complex challenge. There are many variables at play, including scrounging up enough capital, coordinating truckloads of essential shipments, managing crews that number in the hundreds, and so much more. What might look like just another building to the passerby is actually a multifaceted construction project years in the making. 

It’s true: construction is about more than just shovels in the ground. A central factor in every commercial project is the permit approval process. Just about every aspect of construction must be approved by the city, state, and sometimes federal government. You can’t open for business unless every phase of the build checks out. 

One of the most highly regulated aspects of commercial construction is fire security. Both California and Arizona emphasizes fire safety to the nth degree. Builders must satisfy stringent fire code requirements, or their building will never open to the public. 

It can be difficult to gauge the exact cost of a fire security system that effectively maximizes safety and meets code. Whether it’s a small coffee shop, or 50-story highrise, fire security systems must be considered during the build. If you’re a contractor, the question is, how can you estimate the cost of a fire security system? 

In California, contractors must comply with a comprehensive set of fire safety regulations. 

California commercial building code, also known as Title 24, outlines all commercial building requirements. Chapter 9 of Title 24 describes fire safety codes. Section 907.1 contains information regarding fire alarm and detection systems. 

All new commercial buildings must comply with the requirements outlined in Chapter 9:

“An approved fire alarm system installed in accordance with the provisions of this code and NFPA 72 shall be provided in new buildings and structures in accordance with Sections 907.2.1 through 907.2.23 and provide occupant notification in accordance with Section 907.5, unless other requirements are provided by another section of this code.”

We can break this down to a few essential requirements:

NFPA 72: NFPA refers to the National Fire Protection Agency, an entity which regulates fire alarm and signaling requirements for commercial builds. NFPA 72 provides the latest safety provisions to meet society’s changing fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications demands.

Section 907.2.1 – Section 907.2.23: This dense section of code highlights different commercial building types—including high rise buildings, deep underground buildings, covered and open malls, etc.—and their applicable fire security codes. Not all buildings are the same, and this section covers the various requirements depending on your building type. 

Section 907.5: This section states that commercial buildings must have a fire alarm that “annunciates” and alerts occupants of a fire. Additionally, and based upon the codes specific to your building type, the fire alarm system may be required to include automatic fire detectors, automatic sprinkler system waterflow devices, manual fire alarm boxes, and/or automatic fire-extinguishing systems.

But fire security systems don’t stop there. There is a section of code relating to carbon monoxide detectors, which are also a must for many new commercial builds. Section 915 is teeming with requirements, including what types of buildings must have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, the locations at which CO detectors are to be placed, and more.

Arizona contractors are held to similar standards. 

In Arizona, the Office of the State Fire Marshal is in charge of fire code, operating under Title 37, Chapter 9, Article 4. Arizona contractors must submit fire plans for new construction buildings and remodels for every building type. Arizona currently works using the 2012 International Fire Codes.

Whether in California or Arizona, there are dozens of requirements that your new building has to follow. How can you be sure that your building meets every code? It takes specialized knowledge to design and implement a fire security plan that meets code—that’s why you can count on Bay Alarm for your fire alarm needs. Unlike other fire alarm providers, our entire staff take fire-specific courses and experience hands-on training. And we take time to learn state and local requirements. No matter the size or scope of your commercial project, Bay Alarm can provide you with advanced fire security devices that follow code.

Total system cost depends on a number of factors, such as building type and square footage, and whether you hire one security provider or multiple.

As we discussed, Title 24 covers specific codes for specific buildings, with some requirements more stringent than others. In many cases, more stringent requirements result in increased costs. California business owners have not been shy to push back against these demands, but California lawmakers have remained steadfast in their effort to ensure building safety. 

Alarm system size and scope vary depending on the job, and so will cost. A high rise apartment complex will cost significantly more than a newly constructed grocery store, both because of square footage and because of increased costs associated with stricter codes.

While building type and square footage are fixed variables, you have a choice that can greatly affect the final price: multiple security providers versus one security provider. Finding one security company that can handle all your needs can not only eliminate potential headaches, but also reduce cost. Consider what services you are paying for: system design, permit acquisition, and parts and labor. What if two or more providers find an issue with the others’ work? Multiple providers might slow things down. Or worse, they might cause delays in acquiring permits (which means you’re not meeting code!) if fire alarm systems from multiple providers aren’t compatible with one another. Vendors without the proper know-how can wind up installing a system that is not up to code. When the mistake is caught, you’ll be on the hook for change orders, which is a big expense. 

Backtracking to redo work, or waiting for work to be done, can balloon costs. Make sure to ask the security companies that you might hire if they have knowledge of local fire codes, so you can streamline the install process. 

It is absolutely necessary that your construction project meet code, and that comes at price. Gauging the cost of a commercial fire security plan comes down to square footage, building type, and the security company you hire. If you need a commercial security system for your project, contact the experts at Bay Alarm! We can design and install a system that meets code and helps to protect your building against fire.