NFPA 5000 Is Making Headway, Slowly

The need for a unified building code has long been desired, but until recently, had not been met. Fortunately, the advent of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, as well as the International Building Code (IBC), filled this void (see "NYC Considers IBC on the Eve of 2003 Revision," CSE 02/03 p.


The need for a unified building code has long been desired, but until recently, had not been met.

Fortunately, the advent of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code , as well as the International Building Code (IBC), filled this void (see "NYC Considers IBC on the Eve of 2003 Revision," CSE 02/03 p. 24 ). With an effective date of Aug. 8, 2002, NFPA 5000 was "on the street" by last October. Since its recent inception, no formal revisions have been made to the newest of the national building codes, but it's currently in the cycle for the 2006 edition.

Now, the organization is hoping that the public will recognize the benefits of adopting its new code. Gary Keith, NFPA vice president of building and life safety and regional operations, is particularly optimistic that the process by which the code came to be will be a major aspect of the code's success.

Keith explains that his organization's codes and standards processes are accredited by the American National Standards Institute and points out that NFPA 5000 is the first and only model building code that is developed to an ANSI-accredited process and is ANSI-approved. It is also the only building code featuring an occupancy-based format, one that comes out of the Life Safety Code , which is one of the most widely adopted codes for the built environment in the country; it's been adopted by 34 states and at the federal level through the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

As such, Keith believes that municipalities that are used to the Life Safety Code will find NFPA 5000 very easy to adopt because the latter utilizes the same occupancy-based format. The organization also took the approach of integrating provisions for performance-based design and rehabilitative use of existing buildings into its unified code.

Keith also sees a single code as an appropriate step for NFPA. "I think it's a natural evolution of our code offerings, again, as developed through the ANSI process," he says. "If you look at a traditional building code, the reality is that about 80% comes from fire and life-safety provisions, things that we already had. So for us to take that next step in developing a building code is really not that big of a leap. It's really sort of a natural progression."

Success for NFPA 5000 would mean success for a much larger entity, as well. NFPA has partnered with the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials; ASHRAE; and the Western Fire Chiefs Association to form "C3," the Comprehensive Consensus Codes, a complete set of integrated consensus-based, ANSI-approved codes and standards to cover the built environment. Several other NFPA documents join 5000 in the C3, including 101, Life Safety Code; 70, National Electrical Code; and 900, Building Energy Code.

So far, so good

A major victory for 5000 to date is that it has been accepted by the city of Phoenix, one of the country's largest and fastest growing municipalities. Phoenix is in the final stages of the adoption process right now. Keith explains that the code's adherence to ANSI was a major selling point for the desert city. "Phoenix endorses the ANSI consensus process as a model for how codes in their city should be developed, so when we announced the building code, that was one area where they obviously didn't have a building code that met that requirement," he says.

Pasadena, Texas, also recently voted to adopt the code, which will become effective in that city 90 days from the adoption date of March 4. Keith was pleasantly surprised with how quickly Pasadena chose to adopt the code. "When a code hits the streets, the administrative process to get through an adoption—even when people have good intentions—sometimes takes a long time, many months or even longer in some cases," he says. "So that one came fairly soon."

As for other communities, literally thousands of copies of the code have been sent to various code officials and bodies at the state and local level across the country. "We know that it's under a lot of serious scrutiny in many communities," Keith said.

However, he stressed that it's difficult to ascertain which communities will eventually adopt it, although he has high hopes that California will sign on. "I think it's premature in many cases to specify any one particular community and say yes, they're definitely going to go through with it," he commented. "There are some very public code review processes under way, California being one of them, that we're very much still in the game with."

In the end, Keith and the NFPA realize that municipalities that are reviewing NFPA 5000 will likely be comparing it to the IBC. "I think that's where we're pretty much at these days in terms of what the choices are that are going to be available," Keith says. "Certainly, there are still some current adoptions of the other existing regional model building codes, but for future adoptions, it's going to come down to one of those two codes."

For more information on NFPA 5000 and the NFPA World Safety Conference and Exposition taking place in Dallas this month, visit .

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