Mixed Reception for NFPA 5000

Although the goal of the recently released NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code—issued by the National Fire Protection Association (see "Consensus for the Built Environment," CSE, 05/02, p. 33)—is to provide an alternative to the offerings of the International Code Council, it hasn't exactly received a warm reception from some groups in the building and construction indu...

08/01/2002


Although the goal of the recently released NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code —issued by the National Fire Protection Association (see "Consensus for the Built Environment," CSE , 05/02, p. 33)—is to provide an alternative to the offerings of the International Code Council, it hasn't exactly received a warm reception from some groups in the building and construction industry.

"We have concerns with both the development process and the content of the NFPA document," says Larry Soehren, president of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International. "Our members will oppose any efforts to promote NFPA 5000 at the federal, state and local levels in order to ensure that a coordinated and integrated set of building codes are adopted rather than competing, conflicting codes."

Competing codes

On the other hand, there are those who contend that competition among building codes is good.

"Having two building codes out in the marketplace leads to a continuous updating of both codes, says Martin "Mickey" Reiss, P.E., president and CEO of the fire protection and security firm, The RJA Group, Framingham, Mass. "RJA participates with both [code bodies] because we're interested in good fire protection and we believe that this will lead to better building codes."

For example, Reiss contends that the ICC code development process has actually evolved to become more inclusive of different parties as a direct result of competition with NFPA.

But ironically, one complaint of those objecting to NFPA 5000 is that NFPA's code development process hasn't been inclusive enough. "NFPA did not, in my opinion, allow proper input from those who are most affected by the code," claims Ronald Burton, vice president of advocacy and research for BOMA International.

At the same time, NFPA officials have expressed confidence that once the final document is released, concerned groups will find less ground for objection.

"I think that once NFPA 5000 is on the street, people are going to see that it is a very sound document, technically, and I think that people will be very pleased with it," claims Arthur E. Cote, P.E., executive vice president and chief engineer for NFPA.

What about uniformity?

Regardless of what is contained in NFPA's new code, BOMA, along with the American Institute of Architects, has expressed concern that NFPA 5000 will inhibit their joint goal of achieving more uniformity among the codes.

But being that the nature of model building codes is such that local jurisdictions commonly amend codes, it is Cote's opinion that in practical terms, a high level of uniformity isn't achievable.

Cote also expressed confusion about BOMA's reaction, primarily due to the fact that BOMA itself was involved in the development of the NFPA building code.

In response, Burton comments, "Participation doesn't necessarily mean approval." Still, he adds that BOMA intends to continue working with NFPA and keeping the lines of communication open.

David Collins, AIA, a consultant with AIA's codes advocacy program, is optimistic that the two sides can "come together more aggressively with an open mind as to how to make it work."





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