Erie on the ParkOn the night of February 23, a fire was contained to a single condo unit by a fire sprinkler system on the 14th floor of the Erie on the Park high-rise in Chicago. The information was obtained through an email sent to the residents by the property manager of the 24-story, 125-unit condo building at 510 West Erie Street. The building was required by the city to install fire sprinklers when it was completed in 2002.

Situated on an irregularly-shaped site with an acute angle at its southeast corner, the profile of the 24-story building is characterized by a succession of setbacks, culminating in a 2,500 square foot penthouse adjoining a wraparound terrace, according to architects Lucien Lagrange. Nearly all of the residences have a terrace or balcony.

Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, commented on Monday’s fire: “There are hundreds of residential high-rises in Chicago that were built before the city’s fire sprinkler requirements in 1975 that do not contain fire sprinklers,” notes Lia.

Approximately 100 of the older high-rises chose to install fire sprinklers to comply with the city’s Life Safety Evaluation (LSE) ordinance that had a deadline of January 1, 2015. That’s another 100 high-rises that will be in the “with” column for fire sprinklers, leaving less and less high-rises “without.”

Yet, the majority of the remaining high-rises chose other measures that will not fully protect residents unprotected from fires.

“As evidenced by last night’s sprinkler save, fire sprinklers are the only technology that actively control a fire and provide residents with a safe route of escape,” adds Lia. “High-rise owners, residents and prospective buyers must be mindful of the presence or absence of fire safety features, especially fire sprinklers, in their buildings.”

Rendering courtesy Lucien Lagrange