ICC Approves New Additions to Fire Safety Codes, Disapproves Familiar Proposals
May 21, 2010

The International Code Council (ICC) approved several changes to the International Building Code's (IBC) Fire Safety section during this week's final action hearings.

Among the proposals was one that added a new exception to section 714.4 on curtainwall/floor intersections (FS88); it was approved as modified. The code states in section 714.4 on exterior curtain wall/floor intersections:

Where fire resistance-rated floor or floor/ceiling assemblies are required, voids created at the intersection of the exterior curtain wall assemblies and such floor assemblies shall be sealed with an approved system to prevent the interior spread of fire. Such systems shall be securely installed and tested in accordance with ASTME 2307 to prevent the passage of flame for the time period at least equal to the fire resistance rating of the floor assembly and prevent the passage of heat and hot gases sufficient to ignite cotton waste. Height and fire-resistance requirements for curtain wall spandrels shall comply with Section 705.8.5.

The proposal from James P. Stahl Jr., representing Specified Technologies Inc., added this exception:

Voids created at the intersection of the exterior curtain wall assemblies and such floor assemblies where the vision glass extends to the finished floor level shall be permitted to be sealed with an approved material to prevent the interior spread of fire. Such material shall be securely installed and capable of preventing the passage of flame and hot gases sufficient to ignite cotton waste where subjected to ASTM E119 time-temperature fire conditions under a minimum positive pressure differential of 0.01 inch (0.254 mm) of water column (2.5 Pa) for the time period at least equal to the fire-resistance rating of the floor assembly.

Stahl says that the proposed change would reinstate an allowance for testing some curtainwall assemblies, specifically those which incorporate full height vision glass, based on fire exposure to an ASTM E119 time-temperature curve, an allowance that was removed in the 2009 edition of the IBC.

During the code change hearing opponents of the proposal expressed concern that allowances should be made to a standard developed specifically for fire resistance protection.

Maureen Traxler, representing the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development, requested disapproval of the change. In her comments on the proposal, Traxler wrote, "The reason given for introducing the exception is 'there is a problem for certain types of assemblies in terms of being able to meet the new performance criteria.' In other words, the assembly shouldn't be required to be tested because it can't pass the test."

Howard Hopper of Underwriters Laboratories further commented that the change indicates manufacturers can pass a test instead of complying with the standard, but that no information was give about how to conduct that test appropriately.

Traxler further noted, "Testing according to ASTM E 2307 is required because there is a danger of fire lapping from floor to floor on the interior side of curtain walls. That danger is no less when glass extends to the floor. This code change proposal should be disapproved because no technical justification was provided to show why this construction should not be required to comply with the ASTM standard."

Vickie Lovell, representing 3M, told the ICC assembly yesterday, "If there's a problem with leapfrogging, that's an exterior building problem, that needs to be addressed in a different way. [The proposal] doesn't solve the problem of exterior leapfrog effect on the curtainwall."

ICC also approved as submitted a proposal that removes an exception to 715.4.4.1 on glazing in doors and allows for the use of fire resistance-rated glazing larger than 100 square inches in doors (FS100). The section, with the change, would now state:

Fire-protection-rated glazing in excess of 100 sq inches (0.065 m2) is not permitted. Fire resistance rated glazing in excess of 100 sq inches (0.065 m2) shall be permitted in fire door assemblies when tested as components of the door assemblies, and not as glass lights, and shall have a maximum transmitted temperature rise of 450o F (250o C) in accordance with 715.4.4.

William F. O'Keeffe of SAFTI First reasoned that the change "will make the size limits fire protection glazing in 60-and 90-minute doors in exit enclosures and passageways consistent with size limits for 60-and 90-minute doors elsewhere in the code."

The now deleted exception had stated:

The maximum transmitted temperature end rise is not required in buildings equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1 or 903.3.1.2.

According to O'Keeffe, "The presence of sprinklers in the building does not eliminate the life safety and fire spread hazard posed by unrestricted transmission of radiant heat flux through large sizes of fire protection rated glazing panels in 60-and-90-minute doors, especially when those doors are protecting exit enclosures and exit passageways deemed essential for occupant life safety."

O'Keeffe also proposed a modified change to the method of labeling fire-rated glazing that ICC approved as submitted (FS101). The code addition states:

1703.5.4 Method of labeling. Information required to be permanently identified on the product shall be acid etched, sand blasted, ceramic fired, laser etched, embossed or of a type that, once applied, cannot be removed without being destroyed.

O'Keeffe explained that the language for providing a method of permanently identifying information required by the code on the label was taken from Section 2403.1, which applies to the permanent identification of information on glazing required by Chapter 24. "This clarifies that the same method of permanent identification applies to other labeling required in the code, and specifically, Chapter 7," O'Keeffe commented.

The assembly approved as modified by a comment a proposal that clarified language in section 715.5 by changing references to glazing and fire windows to "fire window assemblies" (FS102). O'Keeffe explained that this proposal clarifies "that fire protection-rated window assemblies are subject to area limits. Since there are some window assemblies that are fire resistance rated to ASTM E119, this code change aids the user in clarifying that fire protection rated window assemblies are subject to these limits."

The section has added the language underlined below:

… Fire-protection rated glazing in fire window assemblies shall be tested in accordance with and shall meet the acceptance criteria of NFPA 257 or UL 9.

… The total area of the glazing in fire-protection rated windows assemblies shall not exceed 25% of the area of a common wall with any room.

In addition to yesterday's approved code changes, several glazing-related items were disapproved. Among the disapproved proposals was FS90, another proposal regarding the intersection of the exterior curtainwall and floor assemblies. Among other things, the change would have required the materials used to seal the "void" between the floor and exterior wall carry a fire rating.

Jesse Beitel, representing proponents representing Centria, Trespa North America and Alcan Composites, explained during the hearing, "We have rated walls meeting rated floors, that's fine … the biggest problem we have seen is a non-rated wall meeting a rated floor. How do you address that?" As he pointed out, one side of the product sealing that intersection will have no fire protection. "That's what we were trying to clean up."

He added, "I'm not trying to change ASTM E2307, I'm trying to change how it applies."

Doug Evans, a fire protection engineer with Clark County, Nev., asked, "Do I really need to maintain this to the level of the slab or of the wall? If a non-rated wall fails and that stuff falls out, why is that unexpected? Do I need to make the wall 2-hour rated too?"

Ultimately, the proposal was disapproved.

Also disapproved was a proposal from SAFTI FIRST that would have allowed for testing of a 20-minute door assembly, including side lites and transoms, to NFPA 252 without hose stream when the assembly is in a half-hour rated corridor or fire partition (FS97). According to O'Keeffe, "Since a half hour wall tested to ASTM E119 is not required to be hose stream tested, there is no fire safety reason to require the door assembly component in that wall to meet a hose stream test."

"In an assembly that is not required to pass hose stream test there should be no need for the transom and side lites to pass hose stream test," concurred Jeff Inks with the Window and Door Manufacturers Alliance.

O'Keeffe and other proponents of the change pointed to the lack of data showing instances of failure of 20-minute products.

Zaremba noted, "There isn't going to be any data because this simply isn't the way it's been done." He added that the issue had been overwhelmingly voted down during the 2009 cycle.

Inks countered, "There is no data to show that there's a need to require the hose stream test for these 20-minute assemblies." He added, "Just because it's in the code doesn't mean it's justified to be there."

As Hopper pointed out, "This has been a contentious issue for quite some time."

As the issue was voted down again this year, it may continue to arise in the future.

CLICK HERE to read about the changes to fire-rated glazing marking.

The ICC code change proposal hearings are taking place this week through May 23 in Dallas. Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for further updates.

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