Efforts to water down sprinkler codes fall short

The largest U.S. building code organization brushed off calls for more manageable rules, citing the need for stringent safety in buildings vulnerable to attacks.

09/24/2008


The International Code Council (ICC) has rebuffed requests by the General Services Administration (GSA) and Building Owners and Managers Assn. (BOMA) to weaken skyscraper code enhancements, which had been adopted last year in response to the World Trade Center attack, reveals a New York Times article . The groups’ objections focused on requirements for additional emergency stairwells, stronger fireproofing, and use of glow-in-the-dark paint in stairwells. Two of the objections were withdrawn before the ICC meeting last week; a third (which would cut a requirement for an additional stairwell in buildings taller than 420 ft) was defeated in a vote.

One compromise pushed by the GSA did past muster: in office skyscrapers higher than 420 ft, an additional stairwell will not be required if the building includes special elevators that can be used to evacuate occupants during an emergency. The elevators would have to continue running during a fire, even if sprinklers were activated. The traditional ban on using an elevator during a fire would be lifted in the new towers.

Other building code revisions put forth by the ICC include requirement of a backup water supply for sprinkler systems, so that if the primary supply is terminated (as was the case in the World Trade Center attack), sprinklers will remain functional.

In addition, ICC members moved to require a minimum of 30 ft between emergency stairwells in buildings 75 ft or higher, or about six stories, to prevent an event, from blocking all the exits, as also happened in the north tower of the World Trade Center.





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