GSA opposes new high-rise building provisions: STORY UPDATED

The dispute reflects a debate among safety officials and real estate executives nationwide as to how to respond adequately to the 2001 attacks.

By Amara Rozgus September 12, 2008

STORY UPDATE
GSA, after further evaluation, has clarified its position on two matters under consideration by the International Code Council.

GSA will withdraw its proposal to change (or reduce) the requirements for fireproofing (bond strength of sprayed fire resistive materials) applied to steel structures in tall buildings.

GSA will also withdraw its comment on an additional stairwell as there is now a comment to allow elevator evacuation to be considered. GSA’s proposal to use elevators for occupant evacuation helps to better evacuate buildings by providing an alternative means to safely. GSA’s goal has been that building designers should have options available to provide occupant evacuation, and those options can be applied to the individual circumstances of site, configuration, materials and building use.

Importantly, GSA will continue to support, as will NIST, four additional proposals that improve occupant safety—all of which support recommendations in the NIST World Trade Center report:
*Strengthen the code to plan for more stair capacity
*Add requirements for two-way communication systems between the elevator landing and the fire control center—this aids people with limited mobility to use stairwells
*Require a written fire safety and evacuation plan
*Strengthen the exit stair size requirement.

GSA’s greatest responsibility is the safety and well being of people—a key way that GSA upholds this responsibility is by supporting and advocating construction standards that make our buildings safe and secure.

A New York Times story reports that the General Services Administration has joined some of the nation’s biggest landlords in trying to repeal stronger safety requirements for new skyscrapers that were added to the country’s most widely used building code last year, arguing that they would be too expensive to meet.

The new provisions, which include requiring tall office buildings to have more robust fireproofing and an extra emergency stairwell, were enacted as a result of an exhaustive federal study into the collapse of the twin towers at the World Trade Center seven years ago this week.

The General Services Administration, which serves as the federal government’s property manager, is now opposing the tougher standards, even though they were based on a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology , which issues recommendations for safety standards after investigating fires and other building catastrophes.