Fire Sprinkler Corrosion in Stadiums

Posted by Andrew Loeffelman on Feb 23, 2021 3:41:42 PM

When we think of stadiums, we tend to think of the excitement on the field, court, or rink rather than the infrastructure elements that keep stadiums open and standing.

While sports fans develop a fondness for the quirks of their beloved aging stadiums, corrosion experts know the real consequences of aging. They can envision severe corrosion activity occurring inside the fire sprinkler piping over a short period of time, resulting in large repair bills and even worse, risk to lives and property. When they get the opportunity, taking a look inside the pipes only confirms that suspicion.

So, what should corrosion experts know about fire sprinkler corrosion in stadiums? It helps to start with understanding that stadiums are particularly susceptible to corrosion-related issues within fire sprinkler systems.

Why Are Stadiums More Susceptible to Fire Sprinkler Corrosion?

1.    Cost-Saving Materials Used During Construction

In an attempt to lower construction costs, there has been widespread use of thin-wall sprinkler piping (Schedule 7 and 10) during installation. While this provides cost savings upfront, these thin-wall pipes cause corrosion-related failures to occur much sooner, incurring large repair costs and headaches related to corrosion.

2.    Galvanized Piping

Galvanized steel in the past was a popular option for dry pipe fire sprinkler systems because of its resistance to external atmospheric corrosion. In theory, this would be a good option for pipes exposed to elements like stadiums. However, while it may help prevent exterior corrosion, galvanized steel has proven to corrode and form pinhole leaks MUCH faster than black steel in consistently moist, oxygenated environments such as dry sprinkler systems. Learn more about galvanized pipe failures.

3.    Outdoor Stadiums: Pipe Exposure to the Elements

While some pipe materials fare better than others when exposed to the elements, there is always a risk that this exposure and extreme temperature fluctuations can accelerate corrosion.

4.    Indoor Stadiums: Trapped Air Accumulation

Unique piping designs in indoor stadiums allow for large amounts of trapped air accumulation in wet pipe fire sprinkler systems which will contribute to corrosion activity.

Consequences of Corrosion in Stadiums

Taking into account pipe materials, thickness, exposure, and air accumulation, stadiums are exposed to a high level of risk associated with fire sprinkler corrosion.

With outdoor stadiums in particular, it is inevitable that internal corrosive debris will accumulate and pinhole leaks will form in dry sprinkler systems over time; usually in ten (10) years or less.

In areas subject to freezing temperatures, outdoor stadiums utilize dry sprinkler systems to avoid piping freeze-ups. Dry systems are fed with an air compressor which maintains positive air pressure in system piping against a differential water supply valve. When an air compressor activates and fills the system with air, condensate will fall out of the air stream and collect in the bottom of system piping. Once water is present in system piping, it reacts with oxygen from the compressed air stream and the fire sprinkler piping to form rust.

Higher condensate levels will collect in warm, humid months, and the corrosion reaction causing rust formation will accelerate due to the elevated temperatures. It becomes a vicious cycle until there is no metal left to corrode. It is at this point that pinhole leaks will form.

Not only are pinhole leaks costly to repair/replace, the buildup of corrosive debris can also severely inhibit the ability of the fire sprinkler system to operate as intended in the event of a fire.

Considering that stadiums accommodate tens of thousands of people, facility managers and owners should not ignore this risk.

What Fire Sprinkler Experts Can Do

Experts should know how to detect and monitor corrosion in dry and wet pipe sprinkler systems. Understand the specific risks involved in stadiums so you can detect and monitor those systems effectively. Once you’re able to detect and monitor corrosion in stadiums, you can begin fighting it using the reliable products, science, and service available through Engineered Corrosion Solutions (ECS). Contact our team of experts today for a custom corrosion monitoring solution for stadiums.

talk to an engineer

Andrew Loeffelman

Written by Andrew Loeffelman

VP of Sales