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October 8, 2018
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October 8, 2018

Fire Protection Systems and the Model Code Process

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OBJECTIVES

At the conclusion of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Define the terms code and model code.
  • Name the two most prominent model code organizations.
  • Describe the International Code Council (ICC) model code development process.
  • Describe the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) model code development process.
  • Define the terms referenced standard and code amendment.
  • Describe the advantages to governments and organizations that adopt model codes.
  • List the two most important code-related conditions that determine the installation requirements for fire protection systems.

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Case Study

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One of the interesting challenges that local and state governments face is when to make changes and what changes to make to building and fire codes. Although code development cycles occur about every 3 years, unfortunate events sometimes require legislative bodies to reconsider existing requirements before the next code development cycle begins. Two such tragic events occurred in the Commonwealth of Virginia, one on October 5, 1989, and the other on December 31, 1994. The 1989 incident occurred at a nursing home where a fire claimed 12 lives. The 1994 incident occurred in a hospital where a fire claimed four lives. In both cases, inappropriate disposal of smoking materials caused the fires and involved bedding materials in a patient room. The nursing home did not have an automatic fire sprinkler system and the hospital did not have an automatic fire sprinkler system in the area where the fire started. In addition, neither the hospital nor the nursing home rooms where the fire originated had smoke detectors. When constructed, the buildings or areas where the fires started were not required to have an automatic fire sprinkler system or in-room smoke detection devices.

The magnitude and impact of these two fire events were significant and resulted in legislative action that directed the responsible state agency to promulgate retroactive regulations relating to fire protection systems. Enacted within 1 year of each fire incident, the legislation required the installation of fire suppression systems in nursing facilities and nursing homes, and the installation of an automatic sprinkler system in hospitals, regardless of when these facilities were constructed. Additional legislation soon followed, requiring the installation of smoke detectors in assisted living facilities, adult day care centers, and nursing homes and facilities. Some people believed the requirements were long overdue; the resulting legislation greatly improved the life safety and property protection at these types of facilities.

Although these incidents illustrate the importance codes play in protecting life and property, opposition to implement retroactive code changes from the public and private sectors still remains.

  1. What is the process by which codes are developed and adopted in your jurisdiction?
  2. Does your jurisdiction have any authority to make retroactive code changes or does the power lie with a higher authority of government?
  3. Why is there still opposition from the public and private sectors to implement retroactive code changes that could save lives and property?

Source:

  1. National Fire Protection Association, Nursing Home Fire, Norfolk, VA, October 5, 1989, Fire Investigations (Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1991).
  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Fire Administration, Hospital Fire Kills Four Patients Southside Regional Medical Center, Petersburg, Virginia, Report 80 (Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Fire Administration, 1995).

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Introduction

Building and fire codes provide uniform and consistent information for all parties involved in the construction of buildings and maintain occupant safety throughout the life of a building. Although design professionals, contractors, government officials, and fire officials deal with codes and standards every day, many do not know or understand the process by which these codes and standards evolve. Because these codes and standards are already in practice, there is little consideration given to the organizations that create them, or to the process of writing, developing, or adopting them. In order to understand the origin and ongoing significance of building, fire, and life safety issues and requirements, it is important to know how the code and standards development process works. This chapter explores the code development process and the model code requirements to install fire protection systems.

A Model Code

In order to understand the model code process, it is necessary to understand the terms code and model code. A code is a system of rules, regulations, or laws that is usually put into effect by government and has statutory authority to be enforced. Simply put, a code states what a person can or cannot do. A model code is a system of rules, guidelines, methods, and regulations typically developed by private, not-for-profit organizations. These organizations provide a forum for interested parties, technical committees, government, and the general public to come together to propose, debate, modify, reject, or approve rules, regulations, and processes by consensus. Once approved, the rules, regulations, and processes form a code that is available for local, state, and federal governments and agencies to adopt. Here, the term “model” implies that the code is a guideline, standard, or rule written by a non-governmental organization. By adopting it into law, the local, state, or federal government agency implements the code for all to follow.

Model Code Organizations

The development of codes and standards was initially led by insurance companies and organizations related to insurance companies attempting to reduce property loss by addressing fire problems. Later, model code organizations such as the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA), the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) championed the cause. These organizations formed and expanded their roles in the code development process to become the primary writers, promoters, and promulgators of model codes and standards.

BOCA, ICBO, and the SBCCI independently developed and published model codes for the region of the country each served up until the mid-1990s, when the organizations merged to form the International Code Council (ICC). Today, the ICC and the NFPA—which has always written and published its codes and standards for a global audience—are the two prominent organizations that develop and publish the model building and fire codes available for adoption by local, state, and federal government agencies. In addition, the NFPA develops and publishes many of the standards used by government, design, and industry professionals. The work of these organizations has led to a national code development process that addresses the issues arising in communities desiring to maintain fire-safe buildings and environments.

Model code organizations are made up of groups or individuals including code officials, design professionals, consultants, trade associations, builders, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, industry experts, government agencies, and other interested parties. These groups and individuals come together to propose, debate, reject, or adopt changes to the existing codes and standards. The purpose of the model code organizations has always been to develop and maintain building, fire, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and other related codes, standards, and recommended practices independent of the influence, affiliation, and pressure exerted by special interest groups. While the model code organizations have staff to support the process, the organization’s membership performs the code development work and then votes on the proposed new codes or changes to existing codes. This process has worked reasonably well, and both the NFPA and ICC remain at the forefront of code regulation by determining the best and safest methods to design, install, handle, and regulate the materials and processes used to construct a building.

International Code Council (ICC)

The ICC evolved in the early 1990s because of two political events with international implications. First, the ratification by the United States Government of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allowed tariff-free trade between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Second, the formation of the European Common Market and European Union (EU) eliminated trade boundaries between many European countries, developed a common currency, and formed a large regional political entity with the purpose of promoting European and global economies. In addition, the EU established a committee on construction that standardized construction practices and materials. These events put the regional code development system under scrutiny because of technical discrepancies between each of the model codes.1 Without uniform codes, the competitive advantage in manufacturing and construction could be lost when working from region to region in the United States and, potentially, throughout the world. One set of codes would permit code officials, design professionals, and contractors to work from the same book no matter where they were in the country and it would allow manufacturers to focus on research and development to compete in the world market instead of spending effort trying to meet three different design standards in the United States.2

To overcome these problems, the BOCA, ICBO, and SBCCI formed the ICC in 1994 to develop and maintain the International Code Series. In 1996, the ICC started the process of developing and publishing the new, collective ICC Model Code Series. At the time, an agreement between the three organizations permitted each to continue publication of its own codes until the entire series of the new international codes was published. All organizations were required to stop publishing their codes independently by the year 2000.

The International Code Council Code Development Process

The ICC code development process is open to anyone but structured to avoid domination by proprietary interests. All meetings are open to the public and held in the public forum. All actions and the reasons for those actions are published. Individuals and organizations with a material interest in the outcome of the code development process participate in the committees that study these issues, but at least one-third of each committee is composed of government officials. Government-affiliated ICC members vote on the code changes brought forward by the committees. In the past, ICC code revisions occurred every 18 months, with new editions of the codebooks published every 3 years. Now, the ICC has divided the fifteen published codes into two review groups; one group of codes is vetted one year and the rest the following year. During the third year of the code development cycle, all of the codes are prepared for publication with an expected publishing date set 6 to 8 months before the next code cycle starts. There are eight basic steps to the ICC code development process and a discussion of each step follows Figure 2-1.3

 

 

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Figure 2-1 ICC code development process.

© Jones & Bartlett Learning

Step 1—Submit Code Changes. Anyone may submit a proposed code change, but it must be received by the announced due date within the review cycle to be considered. Once submitted, the ICC staff will review the proposed changes prior to distribution for public review to make sure they reference current code text and are in the proper format.4

Step 2—Post and Distribute Code Changes. After the ICC staff has reviewed the documents, the ICC posts the recommended changes that will be presented at the code development public hearing on their website page 45 days in advance and distributes the changes via compact disc 30 days in advance. This advance distribution provides adequate time for review of the changes by all interested parties.5

Step 3—Committee Action Hearing. Public hearings of these proposed changes take place at the ICC national conferences. These hearings provide interested parties the opportunity to express their views to the code development committees. After all parties have presented their views on the specific change, the code development committee responsible for a particular code will vote to approve as submitted, approve as modified, or disapprove. Once the committee announces its decision and before the next item of business, the moderator will ask the attendees if there are any objections to the decision. If there are objections, the attendees will discuss the committee’s decision and, once the discussion concludes, only the eligible ICC members present at the conference will vote on the disposition of the change.6

Step 4—Post and Distribute Committee Action Results. All hearing results are posted on the ICC website approximately 30 days following the hearing, with distribution via compact disc in 45 days.7

Step 5—Public Hearing Comment. The public hearing comment step provides an opportunity for any interested parties to consider specific objections to the results of the public hearing and prepare comments for the public comment hearing. The discussion is limited to the following:

  • Consideration of items for which a public comment has been submitted
  • Consideration of items that received a successful assembly action at the public hearing

This step must occur at least 60 days before the annual ICC conference to permit thorough review and consideration of the results before the final action consideration.8

Step 6—Post and Distribute Public Comment. As in step one, the ICC staff receives public comment by the published deadline and reviews these comments to ensure appropriate submission and format procedures. Once released, the published results become the agenda for the public comment hearing, with distribution of the results on the ICC website at least 45 days prior to the public comment hearing and by compact disc at least 30 days before the public comment hearing.9

Step 7—Public Comment Hearing Consideration. Consideration of all the proposed changes takes place at the public comment hearing. The hearing is open to the public and anyone may participate in the floor discussion. However, once all discussion, testimony, and motions are completed, only active ICC governmental members in attendance may cast a vote. By permitting only active governmental members to vote on the final action, the ICC considers the process open, fair, and objective, with no proprietary interests serviced. Depending on the committee action to approve as submitted, approve as modified, or disapprove, either a simple majority or two-thirds majority is required to pass a proposed code change. When a proposed change does not receive any of the required majorities, the final action records as disapproved.10

Step 8—Publish New Edition. As soon as practicable, the final action on all proposed changes are published and made available to interested parties, with any changes in the code text published in the next supplement or new edition of the model code.11

The mission of the ICC is to provide high quality codes, standards, products, and services for all those involved in the safe construction of buildings and structures.12 As such, it is easy to see the need for the many steps in the code development process to ensure an open, balanced, and consensus-based process.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

The origin of the NFPA dates to 1895. At the time, there were nine different fire sprinkler system design and installation standards within 100 miles of Boston, Massachusetts, and it was becoming a problem for the plumbers who installed fire sprinkler systems to keep track of where each standard applied. A group of men affiliated with stock fire insurance organizations and a pipe manufacturer decided to solve the problem by establishing a uniform standard. Impressed with the work of Frederick Grinnell, a pioneer in manufacturing fire sprinkler products, and the success of Factory Mutual at underwriting properties with fire sprinkler systems designed and installed from a consistent and proven standard, the group published Report of Committee on Automatic Sprinkler Protection. During a subsequent meeting of the group in late 1896, articles to form a new association to deal with fire protection issues were outlined and reviewed. The Articles of the Association was adopted by the group and established the organization known as the National Fire Protection Association.13 The 1896 publication, which established rules for the installation of fire sprinkler systems, eventually was renamed NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. Today, it is the most widely used fire sprinkler standard.

Originally, membership was limited to stock fire insurance organizations and their representatives. However, by 1904 many trade, engineering, and industrial associations, organizations, and individuals not affiliated with the insurance companies were able to join.14 As membership in the NFPA grew, the association’s role started to expand into providing public education, engineering publications, disseminating fire research information, and, most importantly, developing codes and standards.

Currently, the NFPA publishes and maintains over 300 safety codes and standards that are revised and completely updated every 3 to 5 years. The codes and standards cover fire, building, electrical, process, and life safety issues. Approximately 7000 volunteers work on over 250 technical committees to administer this process. The NFPA’s 70,000 members come from over 100 nations and include individuals from government, the fire service, business, industry, health care, insurance, design, trade, manufacturing, supply companies, and professional associations.15 All of these entities work to fulfill the NFPA mission to promote science and improve fire protection, prevention, and electrical safety.

The NFPA process starts with the NFPA Board of Directors, who issues all of the rules and regulations regarding code and standards development. The Board appoints 13 people to the Standards Council and this group of appointees is responsible for the code and standards development activities, rules, regulations, and appeals. In addition, the Standards Council is responsible for overseeing the activities of the technical committees and is the primary consensus body that develops and revises the codes and standards. When the Standards Council receives a proposal for a new code or standard, it will evaluate the merits and, if appropriate, request the following information:

  • Comments on the proposed project
  • Organizations that may be involved
  • Available resource material
  • Indication of willing participants if the project is approved16

Once the Standards Council receives and reviews the comments concerning the proposed code or standard development project, it will determine if the project should move forward. If approved to move forward, an existing technical committee or a newly created technical committee will start developing the code or standard. The technical committee members represent the insurance industry, installation and maintenance organizations, manufacturers, end users, special experts, labor organizations, research and testing organizations, consumers, and enforcing authorities. To avoid overrepresentation from any one group, no more than one-third of the members on the technical committee can be from the same interest category. Committee appointments rest on an individual’s technical knowledge, standing in the professional community, commitment to public safety, and ability to represent a viewpoint of a group or interested people. For a technical committee to take action on a proposal, the voting members must reach a consensus.17

The National Fire Protection Association Code Development Process

There are four basic steps to the NFPA code development process Figure 2-2.18 The same steps apply when developing a new document or revising the new edition of an existing document. Depending on the type of document and code cycle, the process can take approximately 101 or 141 weeks to complete. A discussion of each step follows.

 

 

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Figure 2-2 NFPA code development process.

© Jones & Bartlett Learning

Step 1—Input Stage. In the Input Stage, all interested parties are asked to submit written proposals for committee-approved new draft codes or standards, or revisions to existing codes or standards. Once submitted, the proposals are evaluated and voted on, and a first draft report is issued.19

Step 2—Comment Stage. In this step, the responsible technical committee meets to review and take action on all of the submitted comments resulting from the first draft report. The committee will evaluate all public comments, take action, and respond to the public comments. The results are published as a second draft report to be voted on by the committee. The results of these actions are posted for public review so that anyone who disagrees has a chance to make a motion to amend at the next stage of the process. If there are no public comments and the committee agrees that no revisions are necessary, the proposal can go directly to the Standards Council to be issued.20

Step 3—Association Technical Meeting. At this stage, if anyone is not satisfied with the results of the second draft report, they can file a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion. This notification places the issue in front of the NFPA membership at the annual meeting. However, to be included as part of the meeting agenda, the motion must follow proper procedures regarding what type of motion is permitted, who can make the motion, and when the person who makes the motion must sign in. Once debated and voted on, any successful motion must be reviewed and approved by the responsible committee.21

Step 4—Council Appeals and Issuance of Standard. When the Council convenes to issue the new standards, it also hears appeals. The Council reviews all activities associated with the decisions to ensure procedures and rules were followed and the process was fair throughout. Once the Council determines the disposition of all appeals, if appropriate, the standard proceeds to be issued as an official NFPA standard. The decision is final and effective 20 days after approval. However, the decision may be subject to limited review by the Board of Directors. Proposals that do not require any action or debate are sent to the Standards Council and issued as Consent Standards.22

The NFPA’s mission is to advocate “consensus codes and standards, research, and education for safety related issues.”23 The NFPA’s code development process promotes open and fair procedures, where anybody with an interest is encouraged to participate throughout the development cycle. Although anybody can participate and provide input during the process, the responsibility to decide on the merits of any change or proposal ultimately rests with the technical committees that act as the principal consensus body.

Referenced Standards

The model codes cover a wide variety of building, fire prevention, and life safety topics. In order to address all important and related issues thoroughly, the code writers recognize the necessity of looking outside of their organizations for additional information on these issues. To ensure utilization and adoption of the best methods, standards, and practices, the authors of the model codes reference documents published by other nationally recognized organizations that have specific knowledge and expertise to meet the required performance characteristic or design intent. The model codes call these documents referenced standards. When a standard is developed, it must go through the consensus process, be performance based, not specify products or materials, be mandatory, and be readily available before it is considered adoptable. Referenced standards provide specific information relative to the design or installation requirements, and specific standards referenced in model code text become a part of the code and are listed by the year published.

The relationship between the model codes and referenced standards is simple: The model codes determine “what to do and where” and the referenced standard explains “how to do it.” For example, when an architect designs a new high-rise building, both the NFPA and ICC building codes require the installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system throughout the building. Here, both model codes state what to do and where to install a fire sprinkler system throughout the high-rise building; NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems—the design and installation standard—states how to install it.

 

Tip

Both the ICC and NFPA rely on many of the same outside organizations for their referenced standards. However, there are differences between each model code; and the referenced standards listed within each model code are specific to the model code.

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This practice is in the best interest of all parties; instead of trying to write thousands of pages of additional code and text, the model code organizations are able to reference specific documents to facilitate design and installation requirements for a project. Without these standards, effective enforcement would not be possible. The 2012 edition of the International Building Code® (IBC®) lists 55 organizations as providers of referenced standards. In the 2012 edition of NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code®, there are 19 organizations listed as providers of standards, as well as reference to a large number of NFPA standards and other references and publications for review. In addition, both model code organizations rely on standards published by the NFPA when dealing with the different design, installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements for fire protection systems. The NFPA and ICC building, fire, and life safety codes list various fire protection system-related referenced standards Table 2-1.

 

Table 2-1 List of Referenced Fire Protection System Standards

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Code and Standards Development for Government

For most governments, the task of writing and publishing codes, standards, and recommended practices is daunting. It could take years to write a new code or standard and years to adopt it. This process involves a great amount of time and effort, especially when trying to keep up with the latest design innovations, materials, methods, and processes that emerge each day. Instead of writing large volumes of regulations, rules, and codes that cover all aspects of building design and construction, many federal, state, and local governmental agencies adopt codes written by the ICC and NFPA. These organizations devote all of their time and effort to the code and standard development process. As such, it is cost effective and practicable for a government to adopt these model codes which have gone through an extensive review process involving the input and recommendations of many technical experts and interested parties. In addition, by adopting already published model codes, coordinated and compatible documentation is available, and because each code is a companion to another, discrepancies or contradictions are eliminated when applying or enforcing the codes. This does not mean that there is no local or state government in the nation writing building or fire codes. In fact, most governments do to some degree, but the code is usually developed by amending the model code to fit the requirements of the community.

Amendments

Based on years of experience with building and fire problems, the model codes and standards establish a level of performance and risk that is acceptable to all involved in the code development process. The model codes are the minimum acceptable level of performance or risk; therefore, there may be instances where the code is not adequate for the circumstances and additional performance standards are applied. Generally, the level of performance and acceptable risk meets the needs of a jurisdiction, but there may be a situation in a jurisdiction where a problem needs special consideration. Perhaps the problem is unique to the jurisdiction, in which case the community may choose to establish safety and building standards that exceed the normal accepted level. Alternatively, an organization such as an insurance carrier may analyze a risk and determine that a more demanding requirement is necessary in order to qualify for coverage. Under these circumstances, those with the authority may decide to amend the model code and write different requirements. If the code amendment establishes a higher level of required performance, the amendment supersedes the model code and possibly the requirements found in a referenced standard. Usually, this process takes place at the state or local level and requires legislative authority to enact. Therefore, it is important to know who in a state or local jurisdiction establishes the requirements and how the process works with regard to the adoption and amendment of model codes for building, fire, and life safety.

Code-Required Fire Protection Systems

One of the most frequently asked questions of local fire and building departments is, “Why do some buildings have fire protection systems installed and others do not?” The technical answer is this; the building codes that are in effect at the time of the design, approval, and construction and the specific use and occupancy classification for the structure establish the requirement to install fire protection systems Table 2-2. In other words, the code requirements in effect at the time of construction, the function of the structure, and the inhabitants who will be using the structure are the primary determinants for whether fire protection systems are required. Other factors come into play as well including hazards and conditions within the structure; how far people must travel to exit a building; the creation of a fire barrier between use areas; the protection of an opening in a wall; the size of the use or occupancy area within a building; and the number of occupants, products, commodities, and processes. However, the practical answer for why some buildings have fire protection systems and others do not is that current building code requirements for fire protection systems in certain use and occupancy classifications are primarily based on past fire experiences Table 2-3.

 

Table 2-2 ICC and NFPA Use and Occupancy Classifications

 

 

INTERNATIONAL CODE COUNCIL—International Building Code® (2012 Edition)

NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION—NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®/NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code® (2012 Editions)

Assembly

Assembly

Business

Business

Educational

Day care

Factory/Industrial

Detention and correctional

High-hazard

Educational

Institutional

Health care

Mercantile

Health care ambulatory

Residential

Industrial

Storage

Mercantile

Utility and miscellaneous

Residential

 

Residential board and care

 

Storage

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Those interested in solving the fire problem have documented fires in which there was significant loss of life, property, or both. Upon investigation of this history, many of the same factors or conditions played a significant role in the loss, including the building use and occupancy, the materials used to build the structure, the distance to the exits, the capacity of the exits to handle the number of people inside the structure, and the height and area of the structure.

Because of these past fire experiences, building codes were changed to require the installation of fire protection systems, but in many instances, this change only affected new building construction, not existing buildings. For example, high-rise buildings built before the mid-1980s were not specifically required to have automatic fire sprinkler systems installed. However, due to a number of catastrophic high-rise fires, high-rise buildings constructed from the mid-1980s to the present require automatic sprinkler system installation. Many high-rise buildings built before the initiation of this requirement still do not have automatic fire sprinkler systems, including a significant number of residential occupancies. Codes generally do not contain retroactive requirements when a structure has not changed use or occupancy classification from the time of construction completion, unless the code is changed at the state or local level.

 

Table 2-3 Requirements for Systems Based on Occupancy Conditions

Occupancy

Relative Hazard

Assembly

Large number of people

Day Care

People who need care, maintenance, supervision

Detention/Correctional

People under varied degrees of restraint or security mostly incapable of self-preservation

Educational

Large number of children

Large factory/Industrial

High fire load

Hazardous

Dangerous materials

Health care/Health care ambulatory

People mostly incapable of self-preservation due to age, physical or mental disability, or security measures not under the occupants’ control

Institutional

People who are incapable of self-preservation

Large mercantile

High fire load

Covered mall

Large area, high fire load

High-rise buildings

Large area, difficult access for firefighting

Underground structures

Difficult access for firefighting

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Inducements to Install Fire Protection Systems

Because there is such confidence in properly designed, installed, inspected, tested, and maintained automatic fire sprinkler systems, construction codes now permit some increases and reductions in other performance and construction characteristics when building a new structure. Some of the increases include longer travel distances to exits and reductions in the construction requirements for exits based on the assumption that a properly operating fire sprinkler system will offer occupants an equivalent level of protection and time for exiting before conditions become untenable. In addition, some codes include incentives to install automatic fire sprinkler systems in buildings that would not ordinarily be required to have automatic fire sprinkler system protection. For example, when building with a combustible material such as wood, structures are limited in size, height, and the number of stories if there is no automatic fire sprinkler system installed. However, increases are permitted if the building is equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system. These types of incentives encourage the developer or builder to maximize the use of the property, protect the occupants, and protect the building.

Model construction codes attempt to achieve a balance between the hazards posed by the structure itself, the combustible contents, the floor areas above and below ground level that challenge manual firefighting efforts, and the cost of construction. By incorporating fire protection systems in the design, this balance is easier to achieve.

 

Tip

In most jurisdictions, the building codes in effect at the time a structure is built remain in effect as long as the use and occupancy classification of the structure do not change. However, in general, any new building construction in an existing building must follow current code requirements in the area of the building where the construction takes place.

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Tip

As a condition of an insurance policy, many insurance companies require that commercial and industrial building owners install some type of fire protection system. Depending on the hazard, it may be that only fire detection devices are required, but most insurance-required fire protection systems include the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems.

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Mission Essential

Protecting human life is essential, but another reason for a building owner to install a fire protection system is that it makes good business sense. When evaluating a fire loss, the most obvious damage is to the structure and its contents. Although the dollar figure associated with the damage to the structure and its contents is often staggering, it does not represent or account for the total loss. Loss from the interruption of business is often much greater than the damage to the structure. In the aftermath of a fire, many businesses either close or lose their competitive advantage. During the time required to rebuild or relocate, customers must find alternatives and furloughed employees must find other jobs. Unfortunately, there may be few, if any, customers or employees left to sustain the business once it is rebuilt. Minimizing business interruption is one of the many reasons that insurance companies require the installation of fire protection systems in buildings that do not have them. For example, water damage cleanup and repair from a fire sprinkler system does not take as long and, in most cases, cost as much as fire damage cleanup and repair. Frequently, there is a good chance that the business could reopen within hours, days, or weeks following a fire if there is a fire sprinkler system in place. However, fire damage cleanup and repair can take months, years, or, in some cases, may never happen.

 

Tip

Data compiled by the NFPA between 2007 and 2011 revealed that certain occupancies equipped with automatic fire sprinkler systems had an average dollar loss that was between 31 and 76 percent less than properties without sprinklers.24

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WRAP-UP

Chapter Summary

  • Building and fire codes provide uniform and consistent standards and guidelines for all parties to ensure public safety in buildings.
  • A code is a system of rules, regulations, or laws, usually developed by government, that has statutory authority to be enforced; it establishes what a person or entity can or cannot do.
  • A model code is a system of rules, guidelines, methods, and regulations that is typically developed by private, not-for-profit organizations, and is available to governments for adoption.
  • Currently two organizations, the ICC and NFPA, in conjunction with their membership, develop and publish model codes.
  • The model codes establish the minimum level of performance and risk, but there are situations where a problem needs special consideration and the model code does not adequately address the potentially higher risk or hazard. Under these circumstances, those with the authority write amendments to the code and write different requirements.
  • It is important to know who within any state or local jurisdiction establishes the requirements and how the process works regarding the adoption of model codes for building, fire, and life safety.
  • Installations of fire protection systems are generally a result of a code adopted by government to protect life and safety.
  • Fire protection systems are part of code-based inducements that make the installation financially attractive, are a condition of insurance, or are an element to manage risk and ensure business continuity.

Key Terms

Adopt The process of officially accepting and putting something into action.

Automatic fire sprinkler system A network of underground and overhead piping designed to supply water from one or more sprinkler heads.

Code A system of rules, regulations, or laws usually developed by government that has statutory authority to be enforced.

Code amendment The process of revising, changing, correcting, or improving a code.

International Code Council (ICC) A nonprofit member-supported organization that develops and maintains construction codes which are made available to government agencies for adoption.

Model code A system of rules, guidelines, methods, and regulations typically developed through the consensus process by private, not-for-profit organizations.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) A nonprofit member-supported organization that develops and maintains over 300 codes and standards for use by any organization.

Occupancy Building code categorization of buildings and structures based on the manner in which the building or structure, or any part of the building or structure, is used or will be used.

Referenced standard A standard that is incorporated or adopted as part of the model code and provides specific information as a guide or model regarding the performance, design, installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements of systems, materials, and equipment.

Use Building code categorization of buildings and structures based on their use and the characteristics of their occupants.

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