Photo: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seniors Erik Kauntz, Jake Pyzza, and Ryan Clapp designed and built an early prototype of a new "smart" fire suppression system.

Between 35 and 40 million fire sprinklers are now installed each year in the United States, more than in any other country in the world, according to Russell Fleming, executive vice president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.

"The traditional use of fire sprinkler systems in the United States, as in other parts of the world, was for property protection and the resulting insurance savings," says Fleming. "However, it was found that sprinkler systems provided a life safety benefit as well. By the 1940s it began to be apparent that fires with large losses of life were taking place only in buildings without sprinkler protection."

Building codes in most jurisdictions now mandate fire sprinkler systems for certain classifications of buildings. That's the good news. However, such systems are not perfect. Indiscriminate soaking an office building, home, or workplace with water can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage in places where there was no immediate threat from fire.

A group of graduating engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute set their sights on this problem, and have developed a promising solution. Seniors Jake Pyzza, Erik Kauntz, and Ryan Clapp researched, designed, and built an early prototype of a new "smart" fire suppression system that pinpoints the location of a fire in a building and douses the blaze with flame suppressants.

View Full Story
Blake Harris  |  Editor