A Look at Possible Changes to the 2012 Building Code Cycle
May 14, 2010

The International Code Council (ICC) hearings to complete proceedings on development of the 2012 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) begin tomorrow in Dallas. A number of proposals relating to fire-rated glass and glazing will be heard. Thom Zaremba, the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) consultant for the Glazing Industry Code Committee Fire/Structural/Safety Code, provided USGNN.com™/USGlass magazine with information on some of these key proposals.


If adopted, FS4-09/10 would add a new section, 703.4, to the IBC, which would require all fire-resistance rated systems tested to ASTM E 119 Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials to be tested without the use of automatic sprinklers or other fire suppression systems incorporated into the test assembly. The Fire Safety Committee recommended adoption, but two public comments challenging that recommendation were submitted. The first asks that the proposal be adopted, but modified to clarify that nothing in it is intended to limit the discretion of building code officials under IBC sections 104.10 or 104.11. These sections allow the use of alternate materials or methods to comply with the building code if it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the building code official that they provide equivalent performance. The second public comment asks that the proposal be disapproved. It argues that the proposal is aimed at overruling the use of a specific ICC ES Report, namely, Report 2397, which approved a system using sprinklers as an equivalent to systems using fire-resistance rated materials tested to ASTM E 119.


FS107-09/10 re-writes significant portions of Chapter 7 of the IBC dealing with how fire-rated glazing must be marked. Although its provisions are too extensive to list in detail, the heart and soul of this proposal are contained in three tables.

The first table, 715.3, is new. It correlates the various test procedures applicable to fire-rated glazing to the designations used to mark the glazings and to the types of assemblies where those types of glazing assemblies may be used. There are three basic test standards applicable to fire-rated glazing, and products tested to each of these standards are assigned unique marks. Glazing tested to ASTM E 119 is marked with a “W.” Use of that mark indicates that the glazing meets the criteria established for a fire wall assembly. Glazing tested to NFPA 257 is marked with an “OH” which indicates that it meets the criteria established for fire window assemblies (opening protectives), including the hose stream test. Glazing tested to NFPA 252 can feature several possible marks. First, it will always be marked with a “D” to indicate that it meets the test criteria for fire doors. In addition, it may be marked with an “H” if it passes the hose stream test and it may also be marked with a “T” if it meets a 450º F temperature rise requirement for 30 minutes. All of the marks must include the time in minutes for which the glazing assembly has been rated.

The other two tables addressed by this proposal are Tables 715.5 and 715.6. Both of these exist in the current code, but the proposal modifies them to include, as to each fire-rated application, the markings that fire-rated glazing assemblies used in those applications must bear.

If adopted, the marking system detailed in the proposal and its tables will make it easy for architects and specifiers to design fire-rated construction and match the “right” fire-rated glazing to the “right” application. It will also make it easy for building code inspectors to determine whether the “right” fire-rated glazing is being used in the “right” application.


Also being considered is E113-09/10, which deals with fire-protection systems required in educational occupancies (E-occupancies). Currently, E-occupancies with fire areas less than 12,000 square feet (typically small schools often in rural areas) are not required to include automatic sprinkler systems, though 1-hour fire-rated exit corridors are required. In fire areas exceeding 12,000 square feet, however, the code does require the installation of automatic sprinklers, but the 1-hour fire-rated exit corridor requirement is eliminated.

If adopted, E113-09/10 would require both automatic sprinklers and 1-hour fire-rated exit corridors in E-occupancies with fire areas greater than 12,000 square feet. There are several reasons for this. First, there are more than 5,000 school fires in this country every year and most of those fires break out while students and teachers are in their classrooms. Second, in the lessons learned from Columbine and other violent events involving schools, school administrators have decided to backtrack from rules requiring occupants to immediately exit school buildings when a fire alarm is sounded out of concern that false fire alarms could be used to draw students out of their classrooms and into the open where they could be victimized. Instead, school systems are now moving to the use of “lockdown” procedures, where students are literally locked in their classrooms until a school official signals that the area is free of intruders intending harm.

While these new lockdown procedures reduce the risk that students will be victims of violence, they increase the risk that they will become victims of fire by virtue of increasing the amount of time that they are compelled to remain in a burning building after a fire alarm is sounded. One effective way to mitigate this increased risk is to add passive fire-protection systems to the active or automatic sprinkler systems that are already required.

The ICC’s code change proposals will take place May 15-23 in Dallas. Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for code change proposal updates all next week.

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