Building Code Consulting
States and local jurisdictions typically adopt and adhere to model building codes and standards, such as the International Building and Fire Codes (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Model codes are written for a broad spectrum of buildings, which results in the need for interpretation. Building code consulting refers to guidance on the intent of code language for design teams and building owners based on years of experience in the application and interpretation from building code officials throughout the world. Serving on codes and standards committees is excellent preparation for interpreting the intent of building and fire codes.
Building Code Alternatives & Equivalencies
Prescriptive requirements in model codes are open to interpretation. Some outside-the-box application of the code might fall into a grey area and simply not meet the prescription requirements of the code. As a result, most model codes allow for Alternate Means and Methods in order to provide an equivalent level of fire and life safety during building design, construction, and use. Many times, building code alternatives and equivalencies are combined with negotiations with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
The International Code Council Performance Code defines performance-based design as “an engineering approach to design elements of a building based on agreed upon performance goals and objectives, engineering analysis and quantitative assessment of alternatives against the design goals and objectives using accepted engineering tools, methodologies and performance criteria.” Generally, performance-based design can be utilized to demonstrate that the intent of a fire and life safety code requirement can be met even though compliance with the prescriptive code requirement is not met. Analysis tools such as Computer Fire and Smoke Models (Fire Dynamics Simulator, CONTAM, Heat Transfer Software) and Egress Models (FDS-EVAC, PathFinder) are often used to substantiate that the building design meets the intent of the code requirement. This is commonly used to demonstrate that occupants have ample time to evacuate a building under fire conditions.
Fire Protection System Design & Testing
Fire protection systems can be active or passive. Active systems require interface and are typically thought of as fire sprinklers, fire alarms, gaseous clean agents, dry chemical, foam water, and standpipes. Passive fire protection systems consist of building safety systems that do not require any interface, such as fire/smoke rated barriers and walls, rated structural members, and opening protectives like doors and dampers. Projects are more likely to succeed when both active and passive systems work together. Design can be something as simple as a required design criteria narrative based on the building and hazards or fully detailed designs. Testing may include third-party acceptance, system commissioning, or developing test plans for building owners to self-perform.
Smoke Control Design & Testing
systems. A few examples are smoke exhaust systems, stair pressurization, elevator pressurization, high-rise floor pressurization, and passive systems. Smoke control design should consist of an engineering evaluation of the space geometry, use, and potential fire load. This information is incorporated into a smoke control design rational analysis which outlines the assumptions, design considerations, and performance criteria of the smoke control system. Calculations for smoke control design can be as simple as algebraic equations or as complex as Computational Fluid Dynamics modeling. Once a smoke control system is evaluated, designed, approved, and installed, most jurisdictions require a third-party special inspector to evaluate and test the installed system to ensure it meets the approved design and performance criteria set forth in the rational analysis.
Litigation Support & Expert Witness
Litigation Support and Expert Witness services are provided to clients in many circumstances. Often you will want an expert to independently evaluate the situation so that you know more about your exposure and can make a better decision about whether to settle or move forward with a case. A better understanding of the underlying issues can lead to a mutually acceptable solution that avoids litigation. When there are serious or numerous problems, we can help identify and document these to improve your outcome in litigation. When necessary we will provide depositions and testimony in court.
Fire/Smoke & Egress Modeling
When evaluating a space for tenable conditions, smoke must be defined and compared to calculated egress from the space. This can be utilized in conjunction with smoke exhaust, such as in an atrium or arena, or it can be used in large spaces without exhaust, as in a warehouse with inadequate prescriptive exiting. The goal is to illustrate that occupants have an available safe egress time (ASET) that exceeds the required safe egress time (RSET). In layman’ terms, the engineering analysis should show that people are able to exit the building before impacted by a fire. A few common tools are FDS, PathFinder, and algebraic calculations.
Third-party review refers to when an engineer with expertise in the subject matter reviews designs or portions of a design for technical quality. Many times, performance-based designs or alternate means and methods fall outside the area of comfort for AHJ’s and they require a third-party review at the owner’s expense.