Fire pump guide

Why Is a Standpipe System Necessary for High-Rise Buildings or Structures?

Ever wondered why tall buildings need standpipe systems? Imagine a huge skyscraper with many people; suddenly, there’s a fire. In such tall buildings, standpipe systems are essential for keeping everyone safe.

They have water outlets and pipes placed strategically so firefighters can quickly reduce fire on the upper floors of tall buildings. These systems make reaching high places during a fire much easier, which can be a lifesaver.

So, in this guide, we’ll discuss what is a standpipe system, how it works, its types, its benefits, and much more!

What is a Fire Standpipe System?

In simple terms, a fire protection standpipe is a system in a building containing pipes, valves, hose connections, and related equipment. These components are strategically installed, allowing water to be released in streams or sprays through attached hoses and nozzles. The primary purpose is to extinguish a fire, safeguarding the building, its contents, and the people inside.

To further break down the standpipe definition, they are like an internal network of pipes connected to a water source, providing multiple water outlets. You can consider them as indoor fire hydrants. They are a crucial resource for occupants and firefighters, enabling them to access water quickly when dealing with fires.

What are the Benefits of Installing a Standpipe System in Tall Buildings?

Now let’s talk about the advantages of standpipe systems:

Saves Time

First, they save time because you don’t have to drag a firehose up a stairwell. Fixed outlets are already in place, so it’s quick and efficient. Unlike heavy hoses that might slip on inclines, standpipes stay put, keeping stairwells clear for safer evacuations.

Regulate Water Pressure

Moreover, standpipes are great at maintaining water pressure. They don’t loop around stairwells; instead, they go straight up and down. This “rigid” design prevents curls that can happen if a firehose isn’t laid out perfectly.

Provide Backup Plan

Another major benefit is that standpipe systems offer a level of backup. If the central water system has issues due to a fire or explosion, standpipes can step in and replicate its function. It’s like having a reliable Plan B in case things go sideways.

What Types of Standpipe Systems Protect High-Rise Buildings?

Three classes of standpipe systems determine their purpose and who can use them in case of a fire. So, let’s discuss these classes:

Class I

Class I standpipe systems have 2.5” hose connections. Only professional firefighters can use them during emergencies. These sprinkler standpipe systems are typically in building stairwells and other areas. The high water pressure makes these hoses a bit challenging to control. So, firefighters should bring a specific hose that fits these connections.

Class II

Class II standpipe systems have permanently installed hoses on racks or reels. Anyone can access these 1.5” hose connections during a fire. They’re usually found in building hallways. However, they’ve become less popular because building owners worry about liability if untrained people get hurt trying to fight a fire. You’ll often find them in older buildings.

Class III

These standpipe systems are a mix of Class I and Class II. They have both 2.5” and 1.5” hose connections. The 1.5” connections have hoses always attached. Early Class III systems had a reducer allowing a 1.5” hose to be attached to a 2.5” connection.

Some versions feature a 2.5” connection for firefighters and a separate 1.5” connection with an attached hose. There are also Class III systems with a 2.5” connection, a reducer to a 1.5” connection, and no attached hose.

How Does a Standpipe System Work to Protect Tall Buildings and Structures?

Apart from the three classes, there are five types of standpipe systems. The working of a standpipe system depends on these types, which are as follows:

Automatic Wet Standpipe System

These horizontal standpipe systems always have pressurized water in their pipes. When a hose outlet is opened, water flows instantly. These are unsuitable for freezing environments but work well in tall buildings. It’s impractical for the fire department to pump enough water at high pressure to reach the upper floors.

Automatic Dry Standpipe System

Similar to wet systems, they supply water on demand. However, they’re filled with pressurized air instead of having constantly pressurized water. Opening a valve releases the air, triggering water to flood the system. These are good for freezing environments and high-rise parking garages, often needing an onsite fire pump for enough pressure.

Semi Automatic Dry Standpipe System

These have mildly pressurized air in most pipes but water in the lesser piping. To activate, firefighters connect hoses and signal an alarm panel, activating a deluge valve to release water. They’re suitable for freezing temperatures, typically requiring an onsite fire pump.

Manual Wet Standpipe System

Like automatic wet systems, water is always in the pipes. However, it’s not pressurized. Firefighters must use a pump to push water into the system through the fire department connection (FDC). These are cost-effective but only work in heated buildings.

Manual Dry Standpipe System

Essentially, empty pipes require the fire department to supply water and pressurized air through the FDC. While less expensive and suitable for freezing environments, they are less reliable as leaks are harder to detect. They have become less common as a result.

When a Building Needs Standpipe Systems?

Here are the circumstances in which buildings need a standpipe system:

Building Height or Depth: If a building is more than three stories above or below street level, it must have a standpipe system.

Class III Requirement: A Class III standpipe system is necessary for structures with the highest or lowest story over 30 feet above or below. This ensures that buildings with significant height differences have the essential firefighting equipment.

Specific Building Types: According to Section 905 of the International Building Code (IBC), standpipe systems are also required in the following cases:

Stage Areas: Buildings with stages covering 1,000 square feet or more require a Class III wet standpipe system with hose connections on each side of the stage.

Helipads and Rooftop Gardens: If there’s a rooftop helicopter landing site, a Class I or III standpipe system extending to the roof level is necessary. The same goes for buildings with existing standpipe systems and landscaped rooftop gardens.

Marinas and Boatyards: If the distance from the nearest fire apparatus is over 150 feet, these places need a Class I standpipe system. It ensures proper firefighting capabilities for waterfront locations.


The necessity of a standpipe system in tall buildings becomes evident in its crucial role in fire protection and safety. These systems, acting as internal networks of strategically placed pipes and outlets, respond rapidly to firefighting needs, especially in high-rise structures. Moreover, the benefits of standpipe systems show their significance in safeguarding the building and its occupants. So, installing standpipe systems isn’t a suggestion but is necessary to ensure the safety of tall buildings and the people within them.

Contact Anchor fire for any queries or fire protection services in Los Angeles or Orange County, CA.


Standpipe is a vertical pipe system installed in buildings, designed to supply water to multiple floors.
Standpipes are primarily used to provide a reliable water source for firefighters during emergencies.
Standpipes are static pipes that provide a water supply for firefighters. While sprinkler systems are automated devices that release water directly onto a fire.
The standard for installing standpipe systems requires all building areas within 200 feet of a standpipe outlet in a sprinkled building. However, in buildings with no fire sprinklers, the distance should be 130 feet.