Monday, February 25, 2013

Wrong Amendment to the State Fire Code

I am very concerned about the amendment placed on the fire code, 2013 HB 217, this morning in the House. I have dealt with building codes for 35 years and fire codes much of that time.

As an architect, it is important that I know what the building and fire codes are when designing a building. Currently, there is a process for a local amendment through the Utah Building Code Commission and their recommendations to the Business and Labor Committee. Today's floor amendment allows changes to go around this system and, effectively eliminates a state wide fire code. I am concerned similar attacks will be made on the Building Code and Energy Code.

I believe the solution to the various complaints should be in Chapter 1 of the Fire Code as well as the Building Code, 2012 IBC 104.10.

The House Floor amendment today I consider a disaster for life safety in the state. We can solve the concerns with a simple change and then the amendment made this morning can be deleted in the Senate. We don't need a new process.

This is from the 2012 IFC

 [A] 104.8 Modifications.
Whenever there are practical difficulties involved in carrying out the provisions of this code, the fire code official shall have the authority to grant modifications for individual cases, provided the fire code official shall first find that special individual reason makes the strict letter of this code impractical and the modification is in compliance with the intent and purpose of this code and that such modification does not lessen health, life and fire safety requirements. The details of action granting modifications shall be recorded and entered in the files of the department of fire prevention.

 [A] 104.9 Alternative materials and methods.
The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that any such alternative has been approved. The fire code official is authorized to approve an alternative material or method of construction where the fire code official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety.

The words "special individual reason" in the first paragraph I believe are the problem. The words also appear 2012 IBC 104.10.

They should be changed. We want the building and fire departments to use common sense. If we allow them to do so, we don't need to create new building and fire codes for each county.

Delete the words "special individual" from both the IFC and the IBC in these sections of chapter 1 and allow the building officials to use "reason" and keep the state amendment process we have with the codes.

[Update: The amendment was removed in the Senate Committee. ]