NFPA releases national building code

BY ROBERT P. MADER Of CONTRACTORs staff QUINCY, MASS. The National Fire Protection Association upped the ante in the competition for national building code dominance July 19 when it released its first building code. NFPAs Standards Council issued NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, the first building code, NFPA noted, that has been developed through a consensus-based process that is

BY ROBERT P. MADER

Of CONTRACTOR’s staff

QUINCY, MASS. — The National Fire Protection Association upped the ante in the competition for national building code dominance July 19 when it released its first building code. NFPA’s Standards Council issued NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, the first building code, NFPA noted, that has been developed through a consensus-based process that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

NFPA is competing with the International Code Council, which is composed of Building Officials and Code Administrators, International Conference of Building Officials and Southern Building Code Congress. Currently the International Codes are accepted in some form or another in dozens of states and localities. Only six states do not recognize any of the International Codes, with California being the largest.

The newly released NFPA 5000 contains provisions for every aspect of the design and construction of buildings and structures, as well as the design of integrated building systems for health, safety, comfort and convenience. It provides for the selection and design of building construction types and structural design systems and assemblies, as well as fire protection systems and egress design requirements for life safety and protection. It features an occupancy-based format, along with integrated provisions for both performance-based design options and the rehabilitative use of existing buildings.

Upon publication, NFPA 5000 will be available for free review online by the public through NFPA’s Web site, www.nfpa.org. NFPA 1 Fire Prevention Code is already posted online for free review.

NFPA 5000 will be a cornerstone of the full, integrated set of ANSI-accredited codes and standards, which will give NFPA a full collection of codes to compete with ICC. NFPA is developing the Comprehensive Consensus Codes (C3) set through a partnership involving the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, Western Fire Chiefs Association and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

When completed in 2003, the C3 set will offer coordinated and integrated safety codes, including:

l NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code;

l Uniform Mechanical Code;

l Uniform Plumbing Code;

l NFPA 900, Building Energy Code (ASHRAE 90.1 and 90.2);

l NFPA 70, National Electrical Code;

l NFPA 101, Life Safety Code;

l NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code;

l NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code;

l NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code;

l NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code; and

l NFPA 30A, Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages.

NFPA and ASHRAE are developing an energy code element of the C3 set. When completed, the code will incorporate ASHRAE’s widely used energy standards, Standard 90.1 and Standard 90.2, for energy-efficient new commercial and residential buildings.

Also as part of the C3 set effort, IAPMO is updating the Uniform Plumbing Code and the Uniform Mechanical Code through a consensus-based process that is accredited by ANSI. The UPC and UMC are the most widely adopted plumbing and mechanical codes in the United States, according to NFPA.

“We’re proud to be one of the partners in this effort to deliver a full set of codes developed through an ANSI-accredited consensus process,” said Russ Chaney, executive director of IAPMO.

ICC’s offering includes the International Building Code, the International Fire Code, International Residential Code, International Fuel Gas Code, International Mechanical Code, International Plumbing Code, International Energy Conservation Code, International Zoning Code, International Property Maintenance Code, International Performance Code (which provides designers with modeling techniques to justify unconventional designs), International Private Sewage Disposal Code and the ICC Electrical Code, which is an administrative provision that by reference adopts the National Electrical Code.

The plumbing and mechanical codes were created by melding the BOCA plumbing and mechanical codes with the Standard codes created by SBCC.

Paul Armstrong, vice president/engineering and architectural services for ICC, downplayed the ANSI process that NFPA touts. The industry balance that is part of the ANSI consensus process means that people with a vested interest in what ends up in the code must be part of the initial committee, Armstrong said. After code provisions are passed out of the initial committee, they are approved by the general membership, which is not balanced, Armstrong noted, and final approval is given by a 13-member standards council, which is also not balanced.

ICC, for its part, has a wide range of views, Armstrong said, with membership comprised of manufacturers, home builders, architects, engineers, members of the Building Owners and Managers Association, insurance companies and federal agencies.

More importantly, Armstrong said, code officials vote on the ICC codes whenever they adopt them in their state or locality.

James M. Shannon, NFPA president and chief executive officer, noted: “NFPA codes and standards have served as key elements of building safety for many decades. The issuance of a building construction and safety code developed through NFPA’s ANSI-accredited process is a historic step in enhancing safety.”

As part of the C3 set effort, NFPA and WFCA are currently working to develop NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code, integrating NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code and the Uniform Fire Code, the two most widely adopted fire codes in the United States.

In states that adopt elements of the C3 set, NFPA and IAPMO will make available free training and associated code books to code enforcers.

“The C3 set will allow state governments to select a quality, coordinated set of codes that will strengthen public safety while allowing states to most efficiently manage resources,” Shannon said.