Mixed reception for NFPA 5000

August 21, 2002 |

Although the goal of the recently released NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code — issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) — is to provide an alternative to the International Code Council (ICC) offerings, it hasn’t exactly received a warm reception from some groups in the construction industry.

“We have concerns with both the development process and the content of the NFPA document,” said BOMA President 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.”

On the other hand, others contend that competition among building codes is good.

“By having two building codes out in the marketplace, the competition leads to a continuous updating of both codes, says Micky Reiss, president and CEO of the fire protection and security firm, The RJA Group, Framingham, Mass. “RJA participates with both because we’re interested in good fire protection and we believe that this will lead to better building codes.”

For example, Reiss notes that the ICC code development process has actually evolved over the years 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 the 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. Coty, executive vice president and chief engineer for NFPA.

However, 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 goal of achieving more uniformity among codes adopted throughout the country.

But being that the nature of model building codes is such that local jurisdictions commonly modify and amend codes, it is Coty’s opinion that in practical terms, a certain level of uniformity isn’t so achievable.

Coty also expressed confusion about the nature of BOMA’s initial reaction to the release of NFPA 5000 due to the fact that BOMA itself was involved in the development of the building code.

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

Offering a little perspective, David Collins, a consultant with the American Institute of Architects codes advocacy program, points out that 10 years ago it would have been unimaginable to think that the Building Officials and Code Administrators International, International Conference of Building Officials and Southern Building Code Congress International would have united to create the ICC.

Similarly, Collins projects that ideally, NFPA and ICC should be able to resolve some of their differences and better combine efforts, but the key is the two organizations to “come together more aggressively with an open mind as to how to make it work.”

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