Industrial-strength design: Codes and standards

Manufacturing and industrial facilities tackle heavy-duty projects during their day-to-day operations—so it makes sense that engineers working on such structures face a number of tough challenges. Engineers offer advice on how to work with the various codes and standards that govern the design of these buildings.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer June 29, 2015


Jerry Bauers, PE, NEBB Qualified Professional, National Program Executive, Outcome Construction Services, Kansas City, Mo.

Jason R. Gerke, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CxA, Mechanical and Plumbing Group Leader, GRAEF, Milwaukee

Mark O’Connell, PE, Manager of Facilities Engineering, Matrix Technologies Inc., Maumee, Ohio

CSE: What codes, standards, or guidelines do you use as you work on these facilities?

Gerke: There are a few codes that may be requirements for various project types. Generally, our projects typically fall under some version of the International Code Council (ICC) codes. We also do work in many states and municipalities that have their own codes and code adaptations to follow. It is important to do research early in the design process, preferably in a study phase, when conditions allow. Many, if not all, manufacturers to which we provide design services use insurance provided by major companies that might have their own design requirements to reduce risk to insured assets, not people. Most projects require multiple chapters of NFPA to be followed for design requirements to reduce safety issues.

O’Connell: Besides all the traditional guidelines/codes/standards (International Building Code, NFPA, OSHA, ASME, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), UL, ASHRAE, etc.), we see an increase in acknowledgement of the requirements for machine safety. We use standards such as ANSI/ISO 12100, Risk Assessment and Risk Reduction; ANSI B11.TR3, Risk Assessment for Machine Tools; ANSI/PMMI B155.1, Safety Requirements for Packaging; ISO 13849-1, Safety-Related Parts of a Control System; and ANSI B11.19, Performance Criteria for Safeguarding.

CSE: How have International Building Code, Unified Facilities Criteria, Energy Star, ASHRAE, NFPA, U.S. Green Building Council, etc. affected your work on manufacturing and industrial facilities? What are some positive/negative aspects of these guides?

Gerke: Many projects start out with broad goals of sustainability. However, many of our heavier industrial clients tend to shy away from the highly sustainable goals once costs are brought into play. We have assisted clients with Energy Star rating exercises and conducted LEED charrettes, but many times this is to satisfy an upper level of management that seeks to reach these goals prior to construction budgeting. One program that is gaining ground for site development is the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure Envision rating system. We have a number of people on staff with this certification, and we strive to use it for projects with significant site development.

CSE: Which code/standard proves to be most challenging in such facilities?

Gerke: As previously stated, the LEED or super-sustainable goals are hard to achieve in heavy industrial settings. It becomes more important in these types of facilities to comply with standards for asset and personnel protection. We have found that ASHRAE standards are important to maintaining a higher level of design for manufacturing facilities, and adherence to those standards provides a high-quality product.

O’Connell: One challenge we face is convincing the owner that a Machine Risk Assessment is required, and that all personnel who interface with the machinery are required to participate. (This is now documented in NFPA 79: Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery as a requirement.)

CSE: Do you find codes affecting manufacturing and industrial structures to be more or less taxing than those impacting work on other building types? If so, in what ways?

Gerke: Adherence to FM Global or NFPA standards for manufacturing and industrial buildings brings a different set of requirements than just following building codes for a commercial building. An NFPA standard might bring with it requirements that exclude a typical building system product. An example would be related to HVAC heating components, where a gas-fired radiant heater does not meet FM Global requirements for UL or CGA certification and thus another product needs to be used. This other product may be less energy-efficient, require more space, or not be the ideal fit in the project team’s opinion.