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Should NICET Level III Designers be allowed to stamp drawings Helpful Member!(11) 

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
8 May 10 9:25
Due to lack of Fire Protection P.E.'s I think NICET technicians should be allowd to stamp and review drawings nationaly.
Anyone has a comment on this?
NewtonFP (Automotive)
8 May 10 15:33
I disagree for one main reason.  An FPE would be legally responsible for establishing hazard classifications for a given occupancy.  As a layout technician I cannot practice engineering but I can design systems per hazard classifications and specifications to be economical.

An example would be that in a basic course of Mechanics of Materials, Fluid Mechanics, etc... students must derive equations for a particular application.  This is the design equation.  Engineers develop design equations for technicians or design engineers to use. Technicians really shouldn't be fulfilling an engineer's role.

Personally I can use several ways to find friction losses in pipes with a variety of fluids, use methods to determine how and what way to use hangers and their spacing etc however I am restricted to doing it by the book because I am a technician and that is my professional role.  Also working for a fire sprinkler contractor we do not want to be on the hook so to say for the responsibility of an engineer.

One last point, many jurisdictions do indeed have NICET qualified technicians that perform plan review for AHJs.  It is a pleasure to have someone knowledgeable review my plans, when AHJs, engineers and contractors are on the same page we've found that jobs go smoother and everyone benefits.
Helpful Member!  TravisMack (Mechanical)
8 May 10 16:37

That is a potential Pandora's box.  I do think that a NICET III or higher could design a system to be compliant with the prescriptive codes and standards for most office areas, tenant improvements, schools, most retail spaces, etc..  If the CET has errors and omissions insurance to cover their liability, it could even be more applicable. However, there are many things that go into hazard analysis that I don't know if it would be wise to have NICET III+ as a professional role.  My training is in fire sprinkler layout.  I don't get into fire behavior and/or hazard classifications, etc.  That is outside of the scope of the NICET guidelines and into the practice of engineering.

As a tangent, what about having a bridge program for NICET III or IV to be able to sit for the FPE exam?  I have helped many colleagues with a BS in engineering study for the FPE exam.  I am confident that with some study, I could pass the FPE exam.  However, the EIT (or FE as it is now called) would be a major hurdle.  My BS is not in engineering.  I don't have all of the math to pass the FE exam.  Should 20+yrs on the job training and NICET IV be enough to sit for the FPE exam?  I don't know?  I tend to say not, but if it opened up, I would definitely try for it.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
8 May 10 19:52
Ok that is of very strong argument and background. I was just trying to get a feel on this particular case because:
Rockland County, NY-Ramapo Twp allows level II or Higher to stamp drawings. Georgia State requires Level II to obtain a Designers license in order to design systems.
In believe that it should be a combination of Sprinkler Layout and Inspection and Testing Level III in order to stamp drawings. At a minimun requirement you must combined both task in order to make a final decision on the drawing and stamp it.
Here is the main question. NICET does not allow for their stamp to be used as a Legal Approved Stamp so what would you be able to use  
TravisMack (Mechanical)
8 May 10 23:49
You can't use a NICET stamp like a PE stamp.  I have seen some NICET III & IV get a stamp made up that looks like a PE stamp.  That is very poor judgment in my opinion and I believe they may lose their NICET registration for things like that.  For times when the AHJ requires my plans to have a NICET CET or higher on the plan, I just sign my name and put my NICET certification number.  I do not have any kind of 'stamp' made, nor would I consider it appropriate to use one.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC

NewtonFP (Automotive)
9 May 10 10:55
I use a simple box of text with my name, nicet cert level and number for cases such as Travis has described.  There is no way it could be mistaken for an engineer's stamp.
desnov74 (Electrical)
9 May 10 17:05
No-way opening a can of worms.
spkreng (Mechanical)
10 May 10 20:44
the problem is that an Engineer (as stated above) does so much more than the fire sprinkler design parameter, He chooses exit corridor lengths,ties to duct (smoke evac, etc)the trade offs for sprinklered buildings such as increase in height or footprint, I know nothing of that. We (design technicians) are a niche group and as that are being recognized as such, many jurisdictions require an in-house NICET Level III in design just to keep a license ditto with the advent of NICET level II for Testing and Inspections being a requirement for license holders to inspect.  The A.H.J.'s are requiring a level of competence for design and inspection at the installation level NOT at the conception level.


spkreng, CET

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
11 May 10 8:16
I think we are going outside the scope of work here. What I meant to say is only Fire Protection System Drawings not Building and or Eng Drawings.
I believe that a level III should be allowed to review and or approve a sprinkler drawing specially if such certificate holder has relevant field experience which is something a PE usually does not have.
Helpful Member!  SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
11 May 10 19:28
I agree with everyone who says it's a can of worms and you don't want to go there.
Helpful Member!(2)  firepe (Mechanical)
16 Jun 10 11:35

NICET is a sub-organization of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).  NICET bylaws and rules specifically state that a certificate holder is NOT an engineer.  Do you honestly believe that the parent sponsor group, NSPE, would allow this to happen?  Can you say "pipe dream"?  I do not disagree with general sentiments about "engineers" mainly because those engineers are very likely working outside their legitmate area of expertise and should be reported to their respective regulatory bodies.

The mere fact that there are "bad" engineers does NOT logically follow that NICET techs should be allowed to practice engineering.  

"not going there" is NOT the answer.  Instead of complaining about bad engineers, do something about it, report them.  There are plenty of good FPE's out there, report the bad ones.

Also, TravisMack said "what about having a bridge program for NICET III or IV to be able to sit for the FPE exam?"

Travis, there is FAR FAR MUCH more to the FPE exam than sprinklers.
TravisMack (Mechanical)
16 Jun 10 16:08
I didn't mean to imply that all the FPE exam covered was sprinklers.  Based on what I have seen and helped guys study for, it is about 10-20% fire sprinklers if even that much.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
16 Jun 10 17:39
Listen people.
The PE acronymun is so over rated that we overlooked the big picture. Every company I worked for claims that because a PE is on staff they are at the top of their game however NICET certificants are doing the drawings.
In my opinion if you are not a FPE you should not be allowed to stamp fire protection drawings. The FPE concentrates in fire protection systems just like a NICET level III & IV would.
Also how can a level IV be consider a technician. I have being in this trade over 17 years and never seen a technician doing field calculations or system analysis. Those idiots at the NSPE came up with this idea because they needed to sponsor something big and that why they call us technicians, to maintain their image higher.
I can recommend you more than 10 Level III designers that will embarrassed most PE's. So my question is why can they stamp drawings.
I know of 2-3 PE's that cant even answer some NICET questions but yet they are allowed to stamp drawings.

I dont want to sound rude or ignorant but I believe NICET personnel deserves more respect.
firepe (Mechanical)
16 Jun 10 19:41
Listen NJ1

Are we on the mount speaking down to everyone?

You are proud of your NICET credentials, and you should be.  You state "I dont want to sound rude or ignorant but I believe NICET personnel deserves more respect", but you are coming off as very arrogant.  And the very organization that developed the credential that you are judged by and proud of, is now "Those idiots at the NSPE came up with this idea".

Seems like you need to take a step back and rethink this argument. You make a point when it is convenient to your point of view.

You stated "I know of 2-3 PE's that can't even answer some NICET questions but yet they are allowed to stamp drawings."

I agree they are out there, and rether unfairly that is the general perception for all PE's.  Just because you have run into a bad PE, all all bad, or ignorant or unqualified, no.  But this situation of bad PE's getting away with practicing outside their area of expertise has been allowed to happen, but it's nowhere close to acceptable.  It is illegal.  Report them.  In fact I can name dozens of contractors that further this practice and contribute to the problem and will hire an unqualified PE to stamp their drawings after the fact.  Is that OK?

You state "I can recommend you more than 10 Level III designers that will embarrassed most PE's. So my question is why can they stamp drawings."  Well I can find just as many PE's that can make Level III and IV look like fools.  What does that prove?

You are proud, but personally, you also come off very condescending.  Not all PE's are bad, and NICET Techs are not PE's.
firepe (Mechanical)
16 Jun 10 19:43

I realize that you know the difference and what goes into the FPE exam.  I appologize for the implication, I just wanted to make the point.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
16 Jun 10 20:35
firepe I suggest you listen before to go barking like some junkyard dog ok.

My opinion is general. Unfortunately I have seen more than what you can even imagine. I hired a PE once to design a system in a three family home. The idiot design the system with a 4" main throughout the stairs. I spoke with my friend a licensed FPE. He laughed. He told me that the most should have being was 2" piping. This is just an example.

My thing is if PE's are allowed to make this mistakes why not allow a NICET level III-IV ?

I am a expert opinion advisor for the state of NJ and I can tell you we see some funky stuff done by PE's.
A well qualified NICET certificant should be allowed to stamp drawings. Thats is all. Dont get me wrong I am not level IV but I support what is right.

I have no problems with FPE'S. Besides how can you report a PE when he holds a stamp.
Helpful Member!  TravisMack (Mechanical)
16 Jun 10 20:49
I have seen NICET IV's run CPVC exposed in Ordinary Hazard areas.  It is not a certification that makes one competent, but job experience and knowledge.  If fire sprinkler layout is defined as the practice of engineering in a jurisdiction, then the work must be overseen by a registered professional.  Does it make it any more correct?  Maybe, maybe not, but it is the law.

If you want a NICET certificant to be able to sign their own drawings, then lobby at the state level for fire sprinkler system layout to not be considered as the practice of engineering.

And, just because something is not cost-effective does not make it wrong.  I can not think of a situation where I would run 4" piping in a residential portion of a 13R system - unless you had horrible water.  But, just because it may be over-sized does not make it wrong.

Some jurisdictions require NICET III or higher to submit fire sprinkler plans.  Others require a PE.  It is all about law in the particular state or area, not about competence.  If you are an expert adviser in your state, then use your contacts to get the law changed.  But, remember, that with the law change would come another layer of responsibility.


Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
16 Jun 10 21:17
Travis Mack

I understand this whole thing of opening a can of worms and or the fact that a certification does not make anybody competent but hear me out on this.
A Professional Engineer never worked on the field installing any sprinkler piping (questionable), never performed field inspections and testing, etc. So how can such individual come out of college, spend a couple of years doing interim, than take a test and now be allow to stamp drawings.
I can tell you of one specific individual that came out of college three years ago. He is doing interim at his fathers fire protection company and somehow he got level III in inspection, testing. How did that happened when he never even went to the field to perform any inspections. How can he supervise any field inspectors. Why just because he is an Eng.

What I keep saying is that the acronymun of PE should not be used as a shield like a police officer uses his or she.
There has to be other way to measure this approach to ensure they know their stuff.
firepe (Mechanical)
16 Jun 10 22:09

I think you are missing at least part of my point.

If you have EVIDENCE against an engineer, a PE, any PE, turn it in, report them, let the respective regulatory body do their job.  If you want to cop aout and say they have a sheild, or you have evidence and do not wish to get involved, then I say, you have NO right to complain about it.  Turn them in.

As for PE's not having experience in the field, now you are still acting like you're better.  I came from the HPR insurance industry.  I wager there are may a loss control consultant out there especially from FM, that can more than hold their own.  You do not have a monopoly on the market of being a more qualified inspector.

If you are an "expert opinion advisor" for the State of NJ, then hop to it. Start filing complaints against all these bad PE's, you're an expert opinion advisor after all, not just some schmoe like the rest of us.
NewtonFP (Automotive)
16 Jun 10 22:12
IIRC one can use CPVC piping exposed in OH areas if and only if the area is under 400 sq.ft.

My understanding is that the (legal) practice of engineering is not to deliver perfection but rather to provide a standard of care and safety.  It doesn't mean the engineer will get the job spot-on with every detail but that the design will work.
spkreng (Mechanical)
17 Jun 10 2:39
Personally I have a love/hate relatioship with P.E.'s ...I do however respect F.P.E.'S   I have worked with several F.P.E.'s training them while they where still at U.M. and turn around a few years later they are the Fire Marshal..I dunno no egress, trade off's or future county city job is make it complaint with wat I got and usually a friendly call makes my design sail thru approval..everyone has his niche...signing off on plans is a def liability as I just went thru....we as designers are well versed in the trenches...let the others control the spec's and be liable for the outcome...yes many times I've had to redo a plan because a F.P.E. overspaced the heads or didn't discharge a .2 in a mech rm..such is life.......  

spkreng, CET

lightecho (Mechanical)
27 Jun 10 21:04
"If you are an "expert opinion advisor" for the State of NJ, then hop to it. Start filing complaints against all these bad PE's, you're an expert opinion advisor after all, not just some schmoe like the rest of us."

Good one. I'm even schmoe-ier than a lot of you here so arrogance has never been my problem. (I do have a good understanding of 'spell check', and my grammar is pretty decent though!). I have a designer do my drawings and my PE stamps them. My designer specializes in what he does whilst the engineer has a broader knowledge base. Thus, when it comes to fire protection installations, I'll consult with my designer before my engineer in most cases. But as spkreng and others have mentioned, it's about liability.

SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
28 Jun 10 0:59
Use of NICET varies greatly around the country swinging widely over importance and use.

In my state the only persons who can submit drawings must be NICET certificate holders with the state fire marshals office not accepting plans sealed by a PE or even an FPE.

In the state next to me a NICET means very little as all plans over 50 sprinklers must be sealed by an PE licensed in the state.

But I wish they would update their specifications a little bit and realize the most expensive way of doing something isn't necessarily the best way.

Someone that knows what they are doing can fit all the specifications on to one or two sheets of paper at most.  Think of the poor forests.

Respect isn't the issue pay is and on the pay front most of us do better than you think.

According to this survey;count=600 many of us are paid more than say the average civil engineer in the US who earns an average of $66,121.  

According to the NICET salary survey over 37% of layout technicians make $65,000 and that number includes averaging in the lower wages of the 40.21% of the respondents who held Levels I and II.

The embarrassing thing is if you could remove the Level I's and II's from the survey I think we'd find wages of fully certified layout technicians top that of civil engineers.

Cry me a river about the respect thing just give me the money.

We who do this sort of thing are very fortunate to do what we do today.  Over 75% of those answering the survey, which includes the 40.21% of Level I's and II's, earn over $45,000.  

The unemployment rate among architects is nearly 50% but most of us who are Level III's and IV's would be able to find a job in relatively short order especially in states that require certification to perform inspections.  

We're getting all the respect we need every week when we get our paycheck that is likely more than what a civil engineer gets.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
28 Jun 10 12:17

I did my research and unfortunately the Board of governors for any Engineering board indicates that if a Mechanical PE
chooses to undertake Fire Protection Task is solely a decision based on judgment from the individual. The State of NJ does not regulate such criteria. Once you become a PE is up to you if you feel you can undertake such task.

In other words he may not know what he is doing however if he feel he can do it, he is allow to do so.
firepe (Mechanical)
28 Jun 10 13:59

Nice try,

I agree that the profession of Professional engineering is a self-policing organization.  But you are incorrect in asusming that the regulatory board will not investigate, by state law they have to review every complaint filed.

Apparently you did not look very hard.  I just looked and found everything needed in less than 10 minutes.

The State of NJ Dept of Law & Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs,  State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors has Rules and Regulations, as well as a link to a public complaint form.

ANYONE can file a complaint against a license holder, and any license holder that is aware of misconduct by another license holder is legally compelled to provide information to the board (13:40-3.6).

The link to the complaint form is on this page

Here are some excerpts from the statues for you:


13:40-3.5 Enumeration of prohibited acts

(a)    Misconduct in the practice of professional engineering or land surveying shall include, without limitation:
1.    Acting for his or her client or employer in professional matters otherwise than as a faithful agent or trustee; accepting any remuneration other than his or her stated recompense for services rendered.

2.    Disregarding the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of his or her professional duties: preparing or signing and sealing plans, surveys or specifications which are not of a safe design and/or not in conformity with accepted standards. If the client or employer insists on such conduct, the licensee shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from further service on the project.

5.    Affixing his or her signature and seal to any plans, specifications, plats or reports or surveys which were not prepared by him or her or under his or her supervision by his or her employees or subordinates.

6.    Failure to comply with Federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations relating to the practice of the profession.

12.    Rendering engineering or land surveying services and/or professional opinions when not qualified by training, education, and experience in the specific discipline of professional engineering and/or land surveying that is involved.

13.    Engaging in any activity which results in suspension, revocation or surrender of a professional license or certification in another jurisdiction.

13:40-3.6 Reporting incidents of professional misconduct

If a licensee has knowledge or reason to believe that another person or firm may be in violation of or has violated any of the statutes or rules administered by the State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, he or she shall present such information to the Board in writing and shall cooperate with the Board in furnishing such information or assistance as may be required by the Board.

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
28 Jun 10 14:19
You are right. I am not debating that comment. I personally spoke with the Consumer Affairs since I am an expert opinion advisor for such department.
My point was that a mechanical engineer should not be engaging in fire protection. Their response was "Is up the engineer to decide whether he/she is competent on that particular task"

I was under the impression that if you are a mechanical engineer you are not allowed to engage in fire protection.

But you made very clear as far as regulation.  
firepe (Mechanical)
28 Jun 10 14:23


It is up to each engineer to decide, what is left unsaid is if that engineer is not qualified and does it anyway, they are still held responsible, and one can indeed file a complaint,  I would aim for

12.    Rendering engineering or land surveying services and/or professional opinions when not qualified by training, education, and experience in the specific discipline of professional engineering and/or land surveying that is involved.

So,  if you have evidence, get to it.
Helpful Member!(2)  FFP1 (Mechanical)
12 Jul 10 17:43
The answer to the original question is "No" (Nicet Certified technicians should not be allowed to stamp plans). Way too many reasons why this would be a very bad idea.

I would support a regulation which requires all fire protection related projects be reviewed, approved, stamped, and field verified by a qualified FPE, but only for projects which justify the involvement of a FPE. I will agree there are simply too many PE's stamping plans for a fee when they are not well versed with regard to fire protection standards.

In an effort to debunk some of the nonsense stated above: I am a Mechanical Engineer from Georgia Tech. I am also a FPE in the great State of Georgia. I have worked in the fire protection industry for >20 years. I also have the NICET III (layout & design) required to be recognized as a Georgia Certificate of Competency Holder. I worked for FM Global (previously Factory Mutual) for 15 years & I now own a relatively small fire protection company. The primary focus for my company is to provide inspections of water-based fire protection systems. I perform inspections personally almost everyday! I have employees with me for >1.5 years that still have not completed a single inspection because they are not fully certified, qualified or experienced in my personal opinion. They assist me while they gain experience and pass the required NICET exams.

I also review plans and provide design criteria as a FPE (engineering consulting), but even as a FPE........I would refuse to review/stamp plans if the project was outside of my realm of expertise. I turned down a relatively easy plan review job a few weeks ago because I do not consider myself an expert when dealing with seismic bracing (not enough experience with seismic bracing to be the engineer of record!). I suggested they contact a qualified FPE in California or the Memphis area.

All of this FPE bashing needs to slow down or the bashing parties should become more informed. The small percentage of PE's or FPE's who do not take the responsibility seriously should be controlled or banned from practice; however, accusations that all FPE's or PE's for that matter are not professional is simply ignorant.

By the way.....I perform inspections because I truly enjoy the process. We need better qualified inspectors in our industry and I am slowly making a huge impact in my neck of the woods! I would rather be on the move at various facilities (even if this means getting hot, swetty, dirty & tired) finding and resolving problems than sitting at a desk reviewing plans. I have proven to be capable at both jobs......I simply prefer the inspection side of the business!   
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
12 Jul 10 21:23

I truly like and support your comment. I also do lots of work myself in the field since I also own my own fire protection business. I just thought I posted that questions because since lots of engineers tend to undertake certain task that they are not very competent why not allow NICET Level III to stamp drawings. I understand the whole process of being a P.E.

It is sad that to this date many people involved in the trade do not know what P.E. stands for. I only use FPE's for fire protection work period.

I just got back from Atlanta doing a NFPA 25/NICET consultation for a local fire protection contractor.

I also truly enjoy the inspections side of the business however as a business owner I find it hard to trust anyone in the field without close supervision.

spkreng (Mechanical)
13 Jul 10 16:17
Thanks guy's from a desk designer who craws all over projects to make it fit, is what I love....recently the trend is for designers to BIM it...yeah to FPE's I have worked with both kinds, in MD FL and PA, I don't begrudge anyone who spent the years studying and paid for it, only (as you said) those that think it's a license to make money...I can tell if they are worthy and have frankly have a few dismissed from govm't projects when I went over their head when they could not apply code correctly, had state FM back me up...I know what I know  and I know what I don't and that is, don't hold me responsible..he he

spkreng, CET

Skaferret (Electrical)
10 Sep 10 11:35
In the State of Michigan, a majority of AHJ's and even the State will accept a NICET III SIGNATURE (because NICET does not endorse stamps and will actually revoke your cert if they find out you do it) in the stead of a P.E. stamp.

Well, for fire alarms at least.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
10 Sep 10 18:35
I agree. The only main reason why I started this thread is because:
In many states a mechanical PE signs and stamps drawings when in fact in cases the board of governors do not endorse such thing.
In all jurisdictions Fire Sub Code Officials review PE drawings. Since when a Fire Sub Code Official is qualified to review documents from a higher degree individual.

So I figure why not allow level III certificate holders to stamp drawings. By the way NICET does not endorse the use of their certification logo on drawings but you could design your own stamp and incorporate the certification number in it.

Is just a risky opinion that is all.
Helpful Member!  FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
27 Jan 11 15:18
A little late but better than never to this thread....:)

Some background on my education:

FPE PE in a few states
Attempted PE in electrical power - failed
NICET III in Fire Alarms (close to passing all work III & IV work elements)

I enter this discussion because recently I've become the FPE of record for a company. They do primarily DoD work which requires an FPE license.

I'm confident all day long with fire alarm and mass notification systems, life safety plans,fire protection analyses, etc. The one area where I'm a bit shaky is sprinkler systems (and special hazards).

I understand the principles pretty well but have not had an opportunity to do much design work. Currently I'm relegated to just providing hazard classification, water supply requirements, etc. on a job. A NICET III or IV will provide the layout and I will review the shop drawings.

I wouldn't have taken this job if I had to do the full layout and specs....there's a lot of detail to it. Just like any branch of engineering, there is a lot to learn.

The one overlooked reason nobody mentioned why we're having this NICET vs. PE discussion is because the amount of FPEs in this country is not enough to handle all the fire protection engineering out there!! NICET was created to make up for do not see NICET in mechanical or electrical engineering, and you'll never see it for structural (trust me).

Most of the Fire Protection Engineering done is prescriptive. You whip out an NFPA 13 or 72 and most of your design comes from there. Hydraulic calcs are part of the FPE exam just like NICET II or how is NICET not engineering?

Despite what many feel, a lot of NICET is practicing you think that picking OH1 or EH2 is the only engineering involved in sprinkler system design??? LOLOL!

I have some field experience with sprinklers, but a lot more with fire alarms. Field experience does help a bit, with inspection, testing, and just seeing what is out there. That's just good engineering, not just good NICET certification practice.

Having taken all 84 fire alarm work elements and the FPE exam twice, I can assure you the FPE exam is harder. I'm sure that with enough study and experience NICET IV in sprinklers would be easy too.

I think it's a cool thing to have NICET to build experience....I won't knock it. Just don't get an ego about it. ;)

Remember that to become a PE of any sort requires a grueling 4 years of undergrad engineering, an 8 hour FE exam, 4 years of design experience and an 8 hour PE exam.

Anyone who can go through that can do NICET, but vice versa....very very few.  
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
27 Jan 11 18:02
You see now we are talking. Another main reason why I started this thread is because most states allows mechanical PE to stamp fire protection drawings. When I called NJ and NY Divisions of licensing for PE's they stated that technically those PE's performing fire protection systems design, layout and hazard analysis are performing work outside their scope and degree however it is allowed if those individuals felt comfortable performing such work.
Would that be any different than allowing a Level III and IV doing the same thing only if they maintain the scope within their field of certification?

FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
27 Jan 11 22:00
You cannot equate a "specialist" with someone who sees the big picture, especially if the specialist does not share the same liability as a PE.

There's nothing wrong with a mechanical PE sealing sprinkler drawings if he/she is qualified. In New York City, a PE license is required for sprinkler many of those guys have NICET certifications I don't know, but not many I'm sure.

There's nothing utterly exotic about sprinkler design when it comes to layout, hydraulic calculations, etc. NICET certificate holders who do not have engineering degrees really do not understand the grand scope of what engineering entails.

The problem with fire protection engineering is that it is highly prescriptive versus many other engineering disciplines. I consider structural engineering to be at the top of the disciplines in terms of complexity -- you cannot create a NICET certification in a million years for structural design.

Fire protection engineering does have a complex end to it -- "performance based design". In that case only FPEs can execute designs, but for now prescriptive designs are the norm and as such you have both FPEs, other PEs, EITs, and NICETs practicing fire protection engineering.

To answer the question, I don't think NICETs should seal drawings both from a real world perspective and a professional incentive.

You do not see paralegals practicing law, nor do you see nurses being doctors. Some argue that paralegals and nurses should be able to take on their counterparts' jobs but it's not going to happen.

Consider it a rite of passage. If you want in the club you have to put in the work.  
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
28 Jan 11 13:13
I guess they have to pay their dues and put in the work. Bottom line
SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
5 Feb 11 16:08
35 years ago when I started FPE's were an extremely rare breed and it was years before I met one in real life.  Back then we had to deal with PE's and it was obvious to many of them, but not all, had little idea of what they were doing.

With to many it was painfully obvious they didn't know what they were doing and some of the worst designs weren't from new trainees with six months experience but PE shops themselves where plans would come out with signatures and seals galore.

But I learned up close during the early 90's if a PE seals and signs the drawing he owns it, the responsibility is 100% his and no other.  This particular case involved liquidated damages well into the six figures weekly and years later, when the case finally reached the state supreme court, when the architect/defendant, faced with millions in claims, tried to shift blame to the sprinkler contractor by pointing out the spec book had a line the contractor was ultimately responsible for the design.  The supreme court didn't buy any of this declaring the spec book had nothing to do with it, he was the professional and it was his seal and signature on the drawings and 100% his problem.  It was so bad the court ruled the architect had to make the sprinkler contractor, the contractor the architect threw off the job when he refused to fix the architects mess, financially whole. It cost the architect his firm.

Within minutes of the decision being handed down every architect in the state stopped putting out sprinkler drawings of "lines and circles" and no longer was anything having to do with sprinklers found with their seal or signature.

That is the territory that comes with having a seal.  One mistake and your life's work can vaporize and I don't know about you but I do everything I can to avoid that sort of responsibility.

Today we don't see the "lines and circles" drawings we in the sprinkler industry used to have to deal with and it might surprise you that instrumental in changing this course has been the professional engineers of SFPE and professional engineers that knew what they were doing.  

From the FPE's I've known there is only one thing they dislike more than a certified technician practicing engineering and that is a professional engineer practicing in the field of fire protection when it is obvious he doesn't have a clue as to what he is doing.  

In the state I work in I have to sign my drawings to submit them.  No stamp involved because I am not a licensed professional... just a signature with a number.  To be honest I wish I didn't have to do this because I feel the liability is to great for my pay grade.

If you're a certified technician you know your limits and you know what engineering is.  Do do it because you aren't one.  I wonder how many realize if they practice engineering making a mistake that costs someone their life they could be in an awful heap of trouble with financial concerns being their least?

The answer to this is all easy and spelled out in the white paper published by the SFPE.  We're part of the team, use it.  If you don't know what you are doing (this most commonly has to do with correctly identifying a use group, occupancy or risk) hire a competent engineer, have him help you figure out the correct way and it could end up being the best money you ever spent.  

"Respect", have you seen the latest NICET salary survey released just last week?  Of the 4,951 responders from a pool of 20,000 only 20.61% have a college degree or higher.  

Nearly 80% don't have a degree and yet the average salary range over the entire group was over $60,000 with an average salary of $70,000 for those technicians having 15 or more years experience.  With 41% of the respondents reportedly below the Mason-Dixon line $70,000 with good benefits is an excellent salary in most parts of the south.  I got lots of friends with four year degrees who don't earn close to what I do.

Did you know the average NICET certificate holder with 15 years experience earns more money than the average civil engineer with the same years experience?

I've never had the feeling from anyone associated within the industry that my abilities weren't respected.

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
5 Feb 11 16:34
I guess we could call this thread the most controversial ever posted.
Sorry guys I will try not to do this again.
desnov74 (Electrical)
6 Feb 11 15:45

Why try not to do it again? If strong questions are not raised, then how else can critical questions be brought to light.

I'm on the FPE track & I work with both NICET and PE's. I see the issue as a matter of scope. A PE stamp, even if discipline specific, is broader in responsibility/scope than a NICET stamp. The scope of a NICET professional is more narrow, but valuable because its far more specialized. Both are necessary and have strengths. A lot of times its a either-or proposition, depending on the job.

What I have a problem with is when general mechanical PE's who think a hydraulic criteria table and a note with the word NFPA in , or when electrical PE's throw some smokes an speaker visuals on the drawing it constitutes fire protection engineering. Forget about how they check shop submittals.  soapbox..........

With that said a NICET guy is NOT an engineer, there's overlap but not necessarily equivalence.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
7 Feb 11 13:13
Well that is a significant issue since I have encounter many mechanical P.E.,s with little knowledge in fire protection reviewing drawings. However the fact remains they are still consider PE's
Helpful Member!  pipesnpumps (Mechanical)
11 Feb 11 12:16
There has been alot of mechanical engineer bashing in this thread.

As a degreed mechanical engineer who has passed both the Mechanical and Fire Protection NCEES PE exams, I take some umbrage with this.   Look guys, the dirty truth is there really is not much knowledge and experience required to do a performance spec for a sprinkler system on your average commercial building - the vast majority of work out there.

Show the riser location and detail, coordinate with civil engineer on lead-in, choose occupancy hazard, if the water supply looks close estimate flow and pressure demand, make sure the plans indicate all areas required to be sprinklered, etc.  It's "easy money".

And bottom line, if a PE can't do that little bit of effort properly they shouldn't have a license.. Turn them in.  Calculating a pressure drop is the lowest form of engineering, and that is the only technical aspect involved..  But even if some people screw that up by selling their seal, that doesn't mean a NICET should have free reign.

As an AHJ I've seen plenty of NICETs mess things up, so I am still way more comfortable having both a PE and a NICET involved. Also every state in the country considers sprinklers and alarming systems the "practice of engineering" requiring an engineer and I don't see that changing.

What you are seeing is a growing trend by mechanical engineers to go beyond the typical hatched plans, mainly due to push back and fear of litigation.  For example the state of Tennessee requires PEs to show piping locations and sizes, and every head..
TravisMack (Mechanical)
11 Feb 11 12:34
It is just the case of a few bad apples spoiling the bushel.  I am sure that for every bad PE or NICET III/IV out there, there are hundreds of good ones.  It is just that the bad ones get the press.  We are all human and will make mistakes.  I just pray that the mistakes I make don't cause loss of life or property.

As a NICET IV, I carry liability insurance for the work I do.  There are some jurisdictions where I work that only want a NICET certificant on the permit/shop drawings.  There is typically an engineer involved on the contract set that says: Provide a sprinkler system per NFPA 13 and may give some criteria to hazard, but not always.  I always like having a PE involved, even at that level, just to help spread liability around.  It is pretty rare for me lately to see a set of contract drawings that doesn't give any criteria for a fire sprinkler system, except in a small tenant improvement project.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC

Helpful Member!  SpkrDesign (Mechanical)
19 Feb 11 12:11
Please allow me to weigh in on this. I've been reading the posts and there are a number of valid comments on a subject that I find extremely important to our industry.

First off, NJ1 does not specify whose plans that NICET certificants should be able to review and stamp. So, to state and clarify my position. I believe that any plans submitted by a fire protection contractor to an AHJ should be allowed to be stamped by a NICET III or IV that is employed within that company. I do not believe that I should be required to send my drawings out to a third party PE for review. This adds both unnecessary costs and time to a project.

Next, I also believe that a NICET qualified designer can provide design for contractors independently and, through that contractor, prepare drawings and submittal packages for review by AHJ's.

I agree with TravisMack that liability is an issue and, in addition to the contractors liability insurance, the NICET certificant should also be required to carry E&O insurance.

Using the NFPA standards, I think a NICET certificant is well qualified to design a fire protection system based on project plans and specifications provided for the basis of his design. I do not need a FPE to tell me an office is an office.

That being said, I also feel that NICET certificants have no business specifying the design of a building. It is not within my job description to look at a building and direct an owner on any type of fire protection. That is what FPE's do.

Once that building is done, however, I can apply the NFPA standards to put a sprinkler system in them. Also, since I make submittals to the owner/architect and the AHJ and I am required to indicate the design of the system, there is a checks and balance system in place to assure my design meets the buildings intended use.

I think FPE's understand the entire concept of fire protection better than I as it relates to egress, construction, fire department access, etc. But the nuts and bolts of the design are our area of expertise. No, I am not slamming PE's. I know there are many who can design systems, I am pointing out that this is the most efficient method of working together as a team.

If PE's work on the design development side of construction, then technicians can work more efficiently on the implementation side of the project.

Secondly, TravisMack also makes a good point about developing a bridge for NICET certificants to apply for the FPE exam without going through the FE. I tested for the FPE exam 15 years ago, and missed qualifying by 3 percentage points. Unfortunately they had closed all the work experience loopholes and I could not retest. I am completely confident that I could pass the exam today, but am not allowed the opportunity.

Finally, a lot of posters have indicated they are sorry they brought this up. I could not disagree more. Public debate, kept civil, is what is needed to make this industry better. No one has been rude or condescending. One's own opinion is valuable whether right or wrong by another persons standards.

My apologies for the long post. Thank you if you took the time to read it. I hope I made some salient points.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
19 Feb 11 13:18

Thanks so much for your post. I am sorry that I did not specified what field. We are certainly talking about Fire Protection.
I truly believe that a NICET Level III and IV is more than qualified to design any fire protection system in many cases even better that a PE itself.
He is also well qualified to perform system analysis, but as other members posted here, it could be risky and controversial.
Rockland County NY accepts drawings generated by NICET certificate holders for many reasons.
They believe that these individuals are well qualified
They are well aware of the high cost of hiring an PE

I just believe that they should be allowed up to certain degree.

FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
19 Feb 11 17:17
In regards to SprkDesign's comments:

"First off, NJ1 does not specify whose plans that NICET certificants should be able to review and stamp. So, to state and clarify my position. I believe that any plans submitted by a fire protection contractor to an AHJ should be allowed to be stamped by a NICET III or IV that is employed within that company. I do not believe that I should be required to send my drawings out to a third party PE for review. This adds both unnecessary costs and time to a project."


"I do not need a FPE to tell me an office is an office."

Sure, but how many NICETs understand heat release rates, and the nitty gritty behind storage terminology?

"That being said, I also feel that NICET certificants have no business specifying the design of a building. It is not within my job description to look at a building and direct an owner on any type of fire protection. That is what FPE's do."


"I think FPE's understand the entire concept of fire protection better than I as it relates to egress, construction, fire department access, etc. But the nuts and bolts of the design are our area of expertise. No, I am not slamming PE's. I know there are many who can design systems, I am pointing out that this is the most efficient method of working together as a team."

The FPE exam is pretty underrated by those who have not taken/passed the exam. It is harder than any NICET exam and far more comprehensive in scope for fire protection engineering. In one eight hour sitting you have to answer on all topics of FPE not just alarms, special hazards, emergency egress, analysis, construction, fire dynamics, nfpa 101, explosion prevention, water spray systems, aerosol, etc. You don't make the cut, try again in a cumulative exam taking.

Just like pipesnpumps has mentioned, most engineers should be offended by some of these comments. What it takes to go through an engineering program is very cannot compare calculus to high school math (which is what the difference is between the FE exam and NICET math).

What about some other types of individuals? How about the Mech PE or FPE who is also NICET he/she king of all? (these individuals exist, even in small number).

There are even unlicensed, uncertified engineers/non engineers that know a thing or two about sprinkler design.

You know who we really need in this discussion is a degreed Fire Protection engineer (a BS/MS from Univ of Maryland or WPI). There are probably aspects to sprinkler system design that is very "performance based" but you'll never see on the PE exam.

A lot of techs and non engineers have the luxury of not knowing what they do not know. The byproduct of graduating as an engineer is knowing just how much there is to know out there. :)

"Secondly, TravisMack also makes a good point about developing a bridge for NICET certificants to apply for the FPE exam without going through the FE. I tested for the FPE exam 15 years ago, and missed qualifying by 3 percentage points. Unfortunately they had closed all the work experience loopholes and I could not retest. I am completely confident that I could pass the exam today, but am not allowed the opportunity."

Well, it wouldn't be fair to other Engineers who wish to take the PE that didn't pass the FE either. I'm not talking about FPEs, but also EEs, MechEs, ChemEs, Civil Es, etc. Also in most states, a  PE is a PE, not a FPE, reg. EE, etc. So by having your NICET and passing the FPE exam you're now allowed to practice Civil, Structural, Mechanical etc.

Let's flip the script for a second.....why does it seem that NICET IV seems to be pretty exclusive? I wrote a letter to NICET chair about allowing *some* credit experience (not all) for a licensed FPE to accelerate the process to become level IV. The committee reviewed it and came back saying the FPE exam is not as in depth (for fire alarms) as NICET.

So no credit AT ALL....for an exam that basically hits ALL the NICET exams (sprk, water based testing, special hazard, fire alarms) at a level III/IV level and higher (and areas outside of NICET)......but we're gonna allow the FE to be bypassed completely because you know obscure code in NFPA 13 or 72?


Engineers are often their own enemy. NICET was created after all by NSPE. And from what I've noticed, the guys who run NSPE are more interested in business (i.e. cheaper labor) than what's best for the engineering profession.

In the end I'm just a sucker for knowledge and like the fact that we have these specialized NICET exams but wish the techs would respect what engineers have to go through a bit more.

I don't know about the NICET guys, but MOST PEs I know are utterly ECSTATIC to pass the exam. I'd say for a good reason.
lightecho (Mechanical)
19 Feb 11 17:38
We are getting far too much engineers verses Nicet arguments for the wrong reasons. The initial statement isn't correctly presented, though there has been attempts at clarification. It shouldn't be 'should we allow a Nicet technician to stamp and review drawings (sprinkler / suppression)', it should be 'should we allow these people to take on the liability of stamping and reviewing drawings?'

Or, if you are a business owner, will you feel comfortable with a Nicet technician taking on this liability in your name?  
SpkrDesign (Mechanical)
19 Feb 11 20:54

Nice response. I appreciate the obvious thought and reasoning that went into your answer.

However, I still don't think we've answered the question initially posed by NJ1. Should a NICET III be allowed to stamp drawings? I say yes. If they are being prepared for a company that he is employed or contracted by. I do not believe that a PE should be required to review and stamp every fire sprinkler drawing being generated.

There are checks and balances in place with in the review process by the architect and presumably the engineer on the project. The AHJ also has his hand in the review as another check point.

Not every error will get caught, but that is the same response if designed or reviewed by a FPE.  Ultimately, the design technician has a responsibility, but it is shared by the reviewing authorities.

Conversely,I do not believe that a NICET III or IV should be a reviewing entity. Theirs should not be the final "stamp" on any project. NICET techs typically do not have a complete understanding of the building code (I know, so do). That is why plans are submitted through building or fire departments and architects.

I have respect for PE's. Having taken the test and missed by a few points, I know how difficult it is. However, there is an adage that education doesn't make you smarter, just more educated.

I know a lot of FPE's that grandfathered in back in the 80's just because they had been in fire protection long enough. No exam, no education, just right place, right time. `Nuff said on that subject, thanks again for the lively debate.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
19 Feb 11 22:42

The whole reason for this post is because of the lack of PE's that can handle fire protection at a high level.
Lets look at a different scenario. What about allowing NICET certificate holders sign off on wet systems, dry systems, wet standpipes, dry standpipes and other stuff of that nature.
Pre-Action, Foam, Deluge, etc., to be design by a NICET Certificate holder but be reviewed by a PE.

Something has to give. Let the contractor/employer make the liability decision and not us.
That is all  
desnov74 (Electrical)
23 Feb 11 13:06

I don't think from the post here anyone has any disrespect for NICET or PE's in general. And I think we all value FPE process and NICET cert. . As SprkDsn points out the rules for PE's have changed, and we can all agree that fire protection has technologically evolved. I think this is a very valid debate that needs to be adjusted in life-safety/fire community.

FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
23 Feb 11 13:56
The DoD with the UFC standard probably has it about right for now....FPE calls out the requirements, NICET III/IV does layout, and FPE reviews and seals shop drawings.

Remember that the FP field is very prescriptive, so in a way it favors NICET. The FPE PE exam is far more prescriptive than any of the other exams....while challenging in itself, that's why I was even able to take it. Had it been more theoretical, I wouldn't have been able to do it.

If you know what's available from NICET you'll find there's nothing else in the MEP or even Structural field, and for good reason as Engineering in those fields are not prescriptive.

Sooooo, the issue at hand is for the most part knowing the ins and outs of certain NFPA standards. As mentioned already, there is ENGINEERING in the NICET certification process.....even more so with sprinkler than the others. Hydraulic calcs are on both NICET and FPE exams....

I think what would be ideal would be to encourage NICET certification for non FP PEs. Level II or III would be enough, and IV would be ideal for the motivated but not necessary. They would have to get rid of some of the requirements for inspection, testing, and maintenance and all will be well. If you want to put engineering on a certification exam, you cannot exclude engineers.

Another thing I was wondering, which someone alluded to already is that a NICET IV is usually an office guy. I'm curious how many fitters and foremen are level III and IV compared to office designers?? I can't imagine there are many.

FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
23 Feb 11 14:08
I'm interested in contacting SFPE for the creation of a fire protection specialty exam on top of the basic PE exam. It would be open to current PEs (of any discipline), and would be 8 hours long just like the regular PE.

Difference is, it would be a hand written exam...say 12 questions, you pick 8 (one an hour)....or however best to break it up. You would be designing a system for a building or room...whatever is practical.

Structural has had this for awhile with the Structural 2 exam, along with the state specific exams (California, Washington, Illinois, Oregon, etc). Now they are moving towards the 16 hour which will retain the 8 hour written portion.

I believe this additional exam will ensure a higher level of proficiency in these areas.

I'd like to see something similar in the field of electrical power (for buildings, not so much utility), but that's a different conversation altogether.

Who else would like to see this?
desnov74 (Electrical)
23 Feb 11 15:38

Star for you reading my mind. I have often thought that fire protection PE's should have similar licensing method as structural engineers. I think for two reasons:

1) Life safety is more critical in terms of safety relative to other systems, the added experience and education will improve the standing of the profession.

2)It will draw in others with expertise in other areas.

As far as NICET's registrants role, it should be more strictly limited in scope to what the PE can stamp. If part of a building package it should under a managing PE. But a NICET stamping full drawngs and performing the full range of services a PE does, no.
FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
23 Feb 11 16:12
Desnov, thanks for agreeing and seeing eye to eye!

Life safety is big...and right now FP is #2 behind Structural. As important as our field is, in order to really put one of us on the hook, you need the catastrophic fire PLUS the failure of a sprinkler and/or fire alarm system to happen (9/11 excluded of course).

A building or bridge collapsing is always a big disaster, and rightfully so.

Let's see what happens for the specialty FP exams...

Anyways, agree on the limitation of NICET issue...there needs to be PE involvement on every design.

Helpful Member!  SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
25 Feb 11 15:02
FireProtectionPE and Desnov,

You know what really frosts me?  Right now I am looking over a "preliminary" drawing prepared by a professional engineer bearing his seal and signature.  Drawing calls for a density of .30/2000 (he must have received this from an insurance company because it is storage) but specs also call for 250 gpm hose stream and I am to use 1/2" orifice sprinklers.

Make no mistake about it there is friction between the NICET community and engineering community that is caused by this garbage that many of us see and have to deal with every single day!  What I should be able to do is bid the project exactly in accordance specifications and if more hose is needed (it will be) or the 1/2" heads are turned down (they will be because I will alert the local fire official to it) then the customer or whoever (not my problem) can pay me more money on a change order.

Other trades do this so why can't I?  The electrician gets more money when the electrical engineer screws up and so does the plumber and the mechanical gets more money as well so why am I left out of the goodies?

So now I am in a double guessing game with the engineering "professional" because I have to do the job exactly how specified, to include carefully reading the 8 pages of specifications dealing with how you put pipe dope on the pipe threads and not inside the fitting which is insulting as heck, except where the drawings and specifications is wrong and then it is up to me to clean it up or it is my butt!

This same engineer that specified a storage density of .30, a hose stream of 250, 1/2" orifice sprinklers with a maximum head spacing of 130 sq. ft. will imperiously inform anyone within earshot that these are engineering decisions and I am not competent to make engineering decisions.  OK, but guess what the engineers response will be when I hit him up for a change order.  Right, I am the expect and I should have known better.

It really is infuriating sometimes.

If engineers don't want us NICET people doing engineering then I am all well and fine with that but I would suggest they learn how to do it first.

To the FPE's here we NICET people see this kind of garbage every day it's not isolated.  Nearly every one of us NICET types can grab an engineer drawing and spec from the back room and show you a real nightmare.  

When it comes to responsibility I would rather have it all or non of it.  The standard spew "do it my way unless I am wrong and then it is your responsibility to repair at your cost not mine".  

Let me be clear, I've never had any problems with the FPE community or with the very few PE's that knew what they were doing.  Fact is every time I've worked with an FPE it's always been a pleasure because I honestly would rather not engineer but we do because so often we're shoved into doing it.

We need some common sense.  Should my work be reviewed by a competent professional engineer if it involves a storage facility at a chemical plant?  Of course, and only an idiot layout technician would attempt to tackle something like that without professional oversight.  Luckily this happens less than one might think; I do work at two chemical plants and design criteria and plan review always comes out of FM Global or similar organization.  My drawings won't have a PE stamp but I will get a letter back that they have been reviewed which is good enough for me.

At the other end of the spectrum is say a customer wants to add a walk 12'x14' in cooler that takes two heads fed from the existing overhead sprinkler.  Does anyone here really think something like this needs review by an engineering professional?  

In many states drawings are turned in under a NICET signature only because the professional engineering community didn't do their job way back when all this started.  Many seemed to do ok in the early 1970's but many never progressed beyond the 1974 edition of NFPA #13.

Now that I got all that off my chest, I ask this because I recognize there is a problem, how is it fixed?
FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
25 Feb 11 15:46
SprinklerDesigner, I feel for you.....0.3/2000 with 250 gpm hose stream? LOL.

It's frustrating to me that guys who don't know enough feel like they do, meanwhile if I don't feel completely competent I don't want to be involved. It's taken me awhile to get comfortable with fire alarm design to the point that I have no worries signing and sealing...2-3 years ago I wouldn't have. Any little bit of a job that I don't understand, I obsess over it.

I just can't comprehend the complacency I see sometimes in the field.

I think you guys would like to work for DoD projects. There the engineer only calls out design criteria, NICET IV does layout, and then PE approves....and in most situations, PE is FPE.

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
25 Feb 11 17:37

Can we be friends and forget our past encounters? That kind of
_ _ _ _ is why I decided to start this thread. I have encounter this issue many, many times. Even further I have seen drawings from a mechanical PE,PhD that did not meet system design. How the hell in the whole wide world a NICET level III, IV can design a better system than a P.E.,PhD?
That is all I want. I dont care about means of egress, travel distance, etc. I want a properly design Fire Sprinkler System/Standpipe that can meet or exceed NFPA 13 or any other applicable code.
This makes want to move out of this planet but unfortunately I have no choice. I wish Avatar was a real movie.
FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
25 Feb 11 17:46
NJ1, could you elaborate how the PHd's drawings did not meet design?

Myself personally I do not claim to be a sprinkler system expert despite being an FPE. From what I gather, the challenge of layout is all the subtle nuances with all the different system types and situations....and then you have storage too.

The fundamentals about picking densities, hydraulic calculations, etc...not very challenging.

I'd like to get a consensus of what the NICET guys are seeing the most problems with designs coming in...what areas specifically?

NewtonFP (Automotive)
25 Feb 11 18:25
Specifications are largely a joke in my neck of the woods.  Stuff like specifying Central heads only which, as many of us know, were recalled in the '90s or even older specs simply copied ad infinitum over the decades.

ESFR pendents in classrooms, light hazard auto repair shops, are a couple of others in recent memory.

Given enough time I could probably fill a small volume with the silliness I've seen.  This is serious stuff IMO and when we get beat on the head for not using sprinklers that are no longer made and were defective when they were being manufactured it gets frustrating to say the least.

firepe (Mechanical)
25 Feb 11 19:31
I am sorry, but I just have to jump back into this.  

TURN THEM IN!!! FILE A COMPLAINT.  Do it anonymously if you have to, but do it.

PE's writing this garbage need to have their rear ends handed to them by their respective regulatory boards.

But again, it seems to me that all of these complaints are mainly directed at the specifying engineers that work for the consulting firms that provided the bid documents.  So when you say PE's, what you need to clarify is that you are refering to the joker that put out the useless specs and drawings with all of the weasel clauses on it.

Start turning this junk over to state regulatory boards, and see what happens, several will stop or change their ways, but it isn't gonna happen if you are not willing to turn them in!!

Fire Sprinklers Save Lives.
Can You Live Without Them?

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
25 Feb 11 19:35

 I came across a stamp design on which the P.E., PhD used standard used standard uprights below an open grading mezzanine instead of intermediate level shielded upright heads. His P.E. was mechanical and not Fire.
I came across another one on which he design a Dry System with a Vane Type flow switch.

This may seen minor flaws but common man
SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
25 Feb 11 20:51
This has been a good thread.

We could all fill a small volume with the silliness we've seen.  I hear some PE's complain how layout technicians perform engineering but what irks me is if they did their job the right way we wouldn't have to do their job.

I've done several DoD projects and they're always good to do.  Water supply is given along with the design criteria which leaves me to do what I am best and and that's lay out a system.

It's the double standard that irritates me no end.  What I would like to do my integrity won't allow.  What I would like to do is put it in exactly in accordance with specifications then get paid to tear it all out and do it over again.  Three times the money for the same job.  But the problem here is I have customers, I care about my customers and I can't burn them like that.

skdesigner (Mechanical)
26 Feb 11 11:16
"I came across a stamp design on which the P.E., PhD used standard used standard uprights below an open grading mezzanine instead of intermediate level shielded upright heads"

You mean they actually gave you a head legend NJ1?  You're off to the races!

9 times out of 10 when I look at a prelim sprinkler drawing, I'm faced with 5-6 varying symbols, not a head legend to be had, and a great little note stating "pendant heads to be concealed type unless noted on drawing to be semi-recessed equal to (usually some obscure, obsolete central or grinnell model).  Sooo, would that be the circle with the dot, the circle with the x, or the solid circle?

I feel your pain every day, but as the FPE's here state, turn them in!  Put the burden of design where it belongs.   
FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
26 Feb 11 12:51

What do you feel would be an appropriate submission from the PE?

Would calling out the densities in each design area, quick response, k factor, location of FDC, main riser, and you do the rest be ideal?

skdesigner (Mechanical)
26 Feb 11 17:48
I've bid jobs where the mechanical consultant has laid out and calculated the entire system.  Easiest estimate I ever did.  

The more you can do to elimate the grey areas the better- when it comes time to tender the job, keep everybody on an even playing field.

When I design, my philosophy is that I should be able to defend any part of my work and actions with one answer - "because that's what the book says".  

Anything that I can't reply to with that sentence is above my pay grade as a design tech.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
26 Feb 11 18:21
Man this thread is fantastic.
I just wish that we can all see eye to eye when it comes to what a NICET certificate holder can do vs what he must not do.
I have lots of faith on designs made by NICET technicians but after reading all comments posted here it makes you wonder who would make the decision to allow this,even with some limitations.

I feel that if a Level III on inspections and testing can and is required in some states to sign an inspection report without supervision it has the same level of responsibility and liability as a Level III and IV on layout when designing a new system.
Yes it is a different task but my point is, you dont see an engineer or an AHJ reviewing such inspection/test report.
pipesnpumps (Mechanical)
1 Mar 11 17:42
"What do you feel would be an appropriate submission from the PE?"

My checklist for DOD facilities:
If you didn't do ALL of that at a minimum, I write you up as a deficiency and your submittal gets bounced.

The federal government is weird, because we require a PE seal for any state..  Now the work performed is technically not within a state, so how does one report a PE for poor quality?  I've seen some real doozies, but nothing I thought worth reporting. yet.

The State of Tennessee is the GOLD STANDARD for answer this question IMO:

FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
1 Mar 11 18:20
Thanks for the links, pipesnpumps.
NewtonFP (Automotive)
2 Mar 11 8:25
Maybe I'm a big nerd, but those DoD specs are very nice.  Sounds like following them would make everyone happy.
SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
3 Mar 11 8:51
"I just wish that we can all see eye to eye when it comes to what a NICET certificate holder can do vs what he must not do."

I think we can all agree the NICET certificate holder can not do engineering.  The question remains what constitutes engineering?

In my mind this is not unlike the situation that exists between medical doctors, nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners.

A nurse practitioner isn't a medical doctor but they are allowed to practice medicine to a certain degree.  Same with a nurse anesthetist who isn't a medical doctor but is allowed to practice medicine to a certain degree.

Let's see if the PE's here will agree with the following.

An owner wants to add a 4'x2' closet in an office which will require a pendent sprinkler be added to the existing sprinkler system.  Given the size and scope of the work I do not think a professional engineer needs to be involved.  Anyone disagree?

An owner wants to add an overhead door which will require a 4" cross main be moved over 2'-4" and a sidewall sprinkler be dropped to protect the area under the door in accordance with NFPA #13.  I would be surprised if anyone knowledgeable disagreed with this.

ABC chemical plant wants to build a warehouse facility in which to store different chemicals they manufacture.  Many of these chemicals have names NICET certificate holders can't pronounce.  Should a PE be involved in this project?  IMO only an idiot NICET certificate holder would attempt to assign a design criteria without outside professional help on this one.

ABC chemical is a Factory Mutual company and with the job someone at FM Global assigns design criteria including the water supply using a 0.80 hydrant coefficient of discharge. When I am done with layout I will turn the drawings in for FM approval.  I think we could all agree we don't need a PE on this job because one is already there through the insurance carrier.

I think some jobs need a PE and some don't.  We need to be reasonable.

That all said some NICET folks need to start behaving more professionally.  I've seen some real junk signed off here too.
FireProtectionPE (Electrical)
3 Mar 11 11:11

I think we're making headway now. I've alluded in another discussion that certain exceptions should be made to allow NICET to approve drawings.

Just to be clear, if NICET wants equality with PE, then they need to be exposed to ALL of the risks as well. A NICET should be able to lose all of his assets in a worst case scenario just like a PE. winky smile

I'm not sure NICET covers the whole "public safety doctrine" that well or in depth. It is drilled into the heads of Engineers, and by the way the thing all Engineers have in common is a very strong concept of knowing just how much there is to know out there -- to know what he/she knows and what they don't.

Most techs just don't have this sort of background or exposure to this in a formal setting. An inability to look outside the box and acknowledge these things will make it very hard for Engineers to accept NICET into this role.
SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
3 Mar 11 20:29

I don't think NICET needs equality.

How should I put this?  Many highly experienced NICET people are very good at in their jobs as layout technicians.  Give me a design criteria with a set of building drawings and I'll bet I can lay out a better system than a majority of professional engineers but I am not saying I am somehow better.  Simply said this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone considering the layout of sprinkler systems is all I have done for 35 years.  

Someone mentioned engineers should specify sprinkler orifice sizes but I disagree with that because selecting orifice size in my mind isn't engineering.  It's cookie cutter right out of NFPA #13.

Consider Table  ESFR Protection of Rack Storage without Solid Shelves of Class I through Class IV Commodities Stored Up to and Including 25 ft in Height

Assume a Class III commodity stored to 25' in a building with a maximum roof height of 35'.  We got our pick of K-factors of 14.0, 16.8 or 25.2 and in my opinion selection of whether upright, pendent or orifice size should be up to the layout technician.  All three k-factors are equal but depending on the water supply one might be more equal than others and right now I couldn't tell you unless you gave me a water supply available and I had time to play around with the layout.  

However, an I feel a valid argument can be made that it is up to the engineer to tell the layout technician "Use Table for Class I through Class IV commodity to a maximum height of 25' with a maximum ceiling height of 35'.  With this if the engineer has a job he's just done it.  The engineer shouldn't have to tell me how to space the heads (it is cookie cutter in the book that IMO doesn't require an engineers interpretation) and please spare me the 12 pages of specifications on how I should apply pipe dope to pipe threads and not to the inside of fittings.

Some proposed guidelines suggest the professional engineer be the one to conduct flow tests.  I don't know why unless they are kicking around for something to validate their existence because in many cases it isn't the layout technician that does the test but the city water or fire department.  Seems to me in many areas of the country, especially in larger metro areas, the engineers need to take up their argument with local water and fire departments.

As far as the NICET community is concerned I agree there needs to be more accountability but this is something a state professional board can take up by requiring a state license be issued for the layout tech.  To get the license the layout tech need show a NICET III or IV certificate and he is good to go.  If he screws up the state board can revoke his license, the the event of a worst case scenario, similar to what happens to a professional engineer.

Make the NICET take a test not on layout of sprinklers but what does and does not constitute engineering so there is record he fully understands.

But the engineer community has to have a little common sense too.  Use a little common sense and understand you don't have to be involved in my little Chuck-E-Cheese remodel where I am moving heads to accommodate a new ceiling layout because they want to add some speakers of a screaming mouse hocking pizza.
NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
5 Mar 11 9:37
You what really kills me on this thread? Is the fact that if you into websites like Indeed, Career Builder, etc. you will see postings like:
Fire Sprinkler Designer/Engineer NICET Level IV
Engineering Department Manager NICET Level IV

These are very reputable recruiters and contractors posting those jobs.  
SprinklerDesigner2 (Mechanical)
7 Mar 11 13:35

Calling sprinkler technicians "engineers" isn't new it comes from a time long, long ago.  

The practice was especially prevalent in the 50's. 60's and 70's when everyone called us layout technicians "engineers".

I am still called an "engineer" something I always correct; I am not an engineer I am a certified layout technician.

My first boss entered the sprinkler business as a layout technician right off the liberty ship after WW2 for a New York company and they called him an engineer.  In the 50's he was offered registration as a "fire protection engineer" in New York state and all he had to do was send in a couple hundred dollars but he never did.  $200 in 1954 was a lot of money and he didn't do it something he greatly regretted in the 70's.

NJ1 (Mechanical) (OP)
7 Mar 11 15:50
OK I got you. Makes lots of sense. Well then the industry is confusing everything up. No wonder some of the employers I had claim to have an engineer on staff when in fact it was just a designer/layout guy. Bad Business Practice

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