Got Code Questions? ASK KELLY

Got Code Questions? ASK KELLY

by Kelly P. Reynolds ALA Code Consultant

Here are some more answers to your recent code questions

QUESTION? – “In a fully fire sprinklered building, are they also required in elevator hoistways and machine rooms?”

ANSWER: Fire sprinklers can be omitted under the following conditions:

◆ The room is dedicated for elevator equip- ment only;

◆The room is protected by an approved smoke detector system;

  • ◆  The room is separated from the remainder of the building with two hours (one-hour for buildings three levels or less);
  • ◆  No unrelated materials stored in the eleva- tor room;
  • ◆  The elevator machinery is not the hydraulic type;
  • ◆  Sidewall sprinklers required at the bottom of each hoistway no more than two feet above the floor of the pit. A fire sprinkler at the bot- tom of the hoistway is not required if the room is enclosed, noncombustible shafts and does not contain any hydraulic fluids.

    QUESTION? – “What is the difference between emergency and standby power?”

    ANSWER: Emergency power systems are for such life safety systems as egress lighting, emergency communications, fire pumps, high-rise building elevators and hazardous processes. Standy power systems are for loads not as critical and emergency power such as smoke control systems, certain ele- vators, certain hazardous processes, HVAC, and sewage systems.

    QUESTION? “When is a unisex bathroom per- mitted? Must it be handicapped accessible?”

ANSWER: The International Plumbing Code permits a unisex (single) bathroom for an occupancy of 15 or less people. This occupant load of 15 people includes the aggregate total of both employees and cus- tomers. If only one restroom is permitted, then it must meet the handicapped require- ments and be accessible.

QUESTION? “We have a pizza parlor (A-2) that wants to add seating by renting the space next door and removing the demising wall. The only problem is that when you calculate the “allowable” area, it exceeds 100 persons and therefore requires fire sprinklers. The architect wants to reduce the number of seats to under 100 persons. Is that method acceptable?”

ANSWER: No, that concept does not work. The code is based on “allowable area” in Table 1004.1.1 of the IBC. The code does permit cal- culating occupant load by “actual area”, but that does not apply to this situation. Who would monitor the daily occupants load if tables and chairs are added during a busy dinner time? The “actual area” concept would be an occupancy such as a movie theater with fixed seats.

QUESTION? “What are the opening require- ments for duct inspection access required by the International Mechanical Code?”

ANSWER: The duct opening must be identi- fied with a exterior label of a minimum of 1/2- in. lettering “FIRE/SMOKE DAMPER, SMOKE DAMPER” or “FIRE DAMPER”. The minimum access door is 18″ x 16″ when duct size permits. For dampers that are too large for an ordinary person’s arm to reach from the outside of the duct to reset the damper and replace the link, then the access must be at least 24″ x 16″ to

allow a person to enter the duct. Refer to NFPA No. 90A (Air conditioning and Ventilation Systems) for further details.

QUESTION? “When the IPC requires a drink- ing fountain, can the faucet from an employee kitchen be an alternative for compliance?”

ANSWER: NO. Neither a kitchen sink faucet or dispenser on a refrigerator meet the stan- dards for drinking fountains.

QUESTION? “Can an electrical outlet box be placed in a fire-rated gypsum system?”

ANSWER: If it meets certain requirements. Metallic outlet boxes can be installed in wood and steel stud walls and partitions having gyp- sum board facings and rated of 2-hours or less. Individual boxes surface area cannot exceed 16 sq. in. The aggregate surface area of all the boxes is limited to 100 sq. in. per 100 sq. ft. Backed to back boxes on the same wall must be separated at least 24-inches diagonally. No more than one outlet is permitted per stud cavity in a fire-rated system. Approved non- metallic boxes are only permitted where allowable by local code.

QUESTION? “We have a residential duplex that requires a two-hour fire-separation between units. The designer had proposed using two, one-hour walls back-to-back. Is that acceptable?”

ANSWER: The intent of the code is to provide a two-hour fire separation between units. Using two, one hour rated walls back to back is acceptable. However, each wall must meet all the requirements for a one-hour rating, including the finish ratings for both sides.

(continued on p. 45)


QUESTION? “When is rooftop access required for mechanical equipment access?”

ANSWER: The IBC requires a stairway to the roof where the building is located 4 or more stories above grade. Where the building is less than 4 stories the IBC does not require access to the roof. The IMC requires access to a roof that exceeds 16 feet in height from grade where mechanical equipment and appliances are installed on the roof. This sec- tion also has the minimum design criteria for permanent ladders.

In a building that is less than 4 stories but greater than 16 feet in height with mechan- ical equipment installed on the roof a per- manent approved means of access must be provided to the roof. That access can be via a ladder that meets the requirements of IMC. If the building is 4 or more stories in height a stairway is required by the IBC.

QUESTION? “What is ponding and how do you design for it?

ANSWER: Ponding is the accumulation of water or the build up of ice on a roof. The model codes require the design professional to consider loading that could result from the ponding of water on the roof. In 1998, the roof of a casino in Las Vegas collapsed due to the weight of the accumulated water on the roof.

The designer has two options for solving the ponding problem: 1) Install a secondary roof drainage system to relieve the accumu- lation of water through scuppers, overflow weirs or secondary drains; 2) Design the roof structure to support the water load.

QUESTION? “What is slip-resistant flooring? The code calls for it, but how is it measured or determined?”

ANSWER: Slips and falls are the second most work related injury. In 1999, they accounted for $12 billion in lifetime costs. The standard established by OSHA for deter- mining proper slip resistance of floors is 0.5

static coefficient of friction (SCOF) and is measured under dry laboratory conditions. The ADA recommends the standard be raised to 0.6 SCOF, but that is not a statute. Tests have shown that floors having a high coefficient can actually cause more prob- lems as trip hazards. One of the most fre- quently cited standards in U.L. where their benchmark is 0.5 SCOF. However, U.L. does not certify products as slip resistant. Three factors actually affect the slipperiness of flooring: 1) The Surface – flooring material; 2) The Individual – footwear, weight, veloc- ity, vision; 3) The Environment – tempera- ture and humidity.

QUESTION? – “Does a walk-in or freezer for employees only have to be accessible?”

ANSWER: Section 1103.2.15 of the 2012 IBC exempts these locations from having to be accessible.■

If you are an ALA member and have a code question, you can call me at 1-800-950-2633 or e-mail at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s