Major Changes for Commercial Buildings in 2009 Codes

April 16, 2009

Building owners and other professionals will face critical questions as the 2009 editions of the Intl. Building Code, the Intl. Fire Code, the Intl. Existing Building Code

Major changes for new and existing commercial buildings have been included in the family of model codes published by the Intl. Code Council (ICC). Building owners and managers, as well as other professionals in the commercial real estate and design communities, will face critical questions as the 2009 editions of the Intl. Building Code, the Intl. Fire Code, the Intl. Existing Building Code, and any of the other 10 ICC model codes are considered for adoption by state and local governments.

BOMA Intl.’s codes and standards advocacy team waged an aggressive campaign representing the commercial real estate industry in the development of the 2009 ICC codes, and was successful in minimizing the negative impact of many proposed code changes. Several major changes, however, were approved that will add expensive and onerous requirements for new and existing buildings. Here are the 12 most critical changes of concern to the 2009 ICC codes …

1. Emergency Responder Radio Coverage
All new buildings will be required to ensure that emergency responder radio coverage is provided throughout the building, including on-site signal strength testing and the addition of signal repeaters and wiring, in many cases. Existing buildings must provide coverage where the jurisdiction adopts a specific phase-in deadline, or where existing hard-wired communication systems fail and can’t be repaired.

2. Photoluminescent Markings in Exit Stairs in High-Rise Buildings
Additional exit path markings will be required in stair enclosures in new and existing buildings. Photoluminescent markings will be required on step edges, landings, handrails, perimeter enclosure walls, and any obstacles in the enclosure.

3. Additional Exit Stair in New High Rises Taller than 420 Feet
Portrayed as an easy fix to heightened concerns about evacuating very tall buildings, this change mandates an extra exit stair in new buildings taller than 420 feet. BOMA was successful in gaining approval of a modification that will allow the elimination of this extra stair if occupant evacuation elevators are provided.

4. Firefighter Access Elevator in New High Rises Taller than 120 Feet
This change will require at least one elevator in new buildings taller than 120 feet to have increased elevator enclosure and protection requirements to increase the length of time the elevator could be utilized during a fire incident. ICC also approved a minimum elevator lobby size of 150 square feet, and a new 1-footcandle hoistway lighting level during fire-service operation.

5. Increased Bond Strength for SFRM in High Rises
The minimum bond strength of spray-applied fire-resistive material (SFRM) on steel structural members has been increased. Previous codes required minimum bond strength of 150 psf. New requirements mandate 430 psf starting at the 75-foot level, and an increase to 1,000 psf starting at 420 feet.

6. Annual Inspection of Fire-Rated Construction for All Buildings
Annual inspection of all rated assemblies (walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs) and firestopping will now be required for all existing buildings. This change provides minimal guidance, however, regarding the level of inspection that is required, and provides no guidance on recordkeeping requirements.

7. Marking of Rated Walls, Ceilings, and Floors in New Construction
Fire-rated and smoke-resisting assemblies in accessible concealed spaces will be required to be marked with notations stating, “Fire and/or Smoke Barrier – Protect All Openings.” BOMA was successful in defeating other changes that would’ve required these markings on all rated assemblies, concealed or not, and would’ve applied to every wall, floor, and ceiling, as well as to the exterior side of rated exterior building walls.

8. Increased Egress Capacity in all New Sprinklered Buildings
A longstanding exception that adjusted the egress capacity factor used to calculate overall exit width for sprinklered buildings was deleted from the code, resulting in up to a 50-percent increase in the required overall egress path width. This change will be felt most in large-occupant-load facilities, such as malls, convention centers, stadiums, casinos, and theaters.

9. Increased Size of Fire Command Center in New High Rises
The minimum size of the required fire command center in high-rise buildings was increased from 96 square feet to 200 square feet to accommodate the growing list of equipment required in these spaces, as well as the number of emergency personnel during an incident.

10. Additional Requirement for Exit Stairs in New High Rises
This change establishes a new, far smaller minimum separation distance between exit stair enclosures in new high-rise buildings, increasing the potential for additional exit stairs in the design.

11. Sprinkler Riser Redundancy in New High-Rise Buildings
New buildings taller than 420 feet will require sprinklers on alternate floors to be served by different risers so the loss of one riser will not affect water flow to more than one adjacent floor. Additionally, the water supply for fire pumps must now come from two separate water mains or two separate connections off the same main.

12. Requirement for Stair and Elevator Enclosures in New High-Rises
A change to add moderate impact-resistance requirements to stair and elevator enclosures was approved, increasing the cost to construct these enclosures. BOMA was successful in defeating more restrictive blast-type impact-resistance requirements.

The 2009 ICC codes will be considered for adoption in many cities and states in the near future. It’s critical that commercial real estate professionals are armed with the facts and involved in regulatory proceedings where building-code issues are debated. Development of building codes and their adoption throughout the country is a major issue for building owners and facilities professionals, and BOMA’s codes and standards advocacy team is ready to assist with your questions and concerns.

For more information on this and other issues, call BOMA Intl. at (202) 408-2662 or visit www.boma.org.

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