"There is a serious danger that fire policy will be developed on the basis of work carried out in the context of the market place rather than being underpinned by research which has been subjected to full process of academic rigour and peer review" Professor D Drysdale (European Vice-Chair, International Association of Fire Safety Sciences) and D T Davis (Chair of the Executive Committee, Institution of Fire Engineers). Fire Engineers Journal 61, 10, 6-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Azarang Mirkhah, P. E.  (1998) Challenges Confronting the Application of Performance Based Fire & Life Safety Codes, Thesis for Master of Public Administration University of Nevada, Las Vegas, www.fitting-in.com/ozzie.htm

 

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ABSTRACT

 

   By the year 2000, the International Code Council (ICC) will not only combine all of the three different regional prescriptive building, fire and life safety codes into a single nationwide prescriptive codes, but more importantly, it will publish this country’s first performance based building, fire and life safety codes.

The major difference between the prescriptive codes and performance based codes is in their approach to the concept of design.   Basically, the prescriptive codes design approach could be labeled as the “cook book” approach.  Just like in the “cook book”, with the prescriptive codes approach the engineers design to a set of predetermined requirements identified in the codes, based on generic occupancies, construction, or hazard classifications.

The performance based codes concepts are fundamentally different from the prescriptive codes.   In the performance based codes approach, the engineers design to comply with the desired fire and life safety objectives, outlined as the design criteria, and agreed upon and approved by the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), during the preliminary phases of the project.  The engineers then have the design freedom and flexibility to accomplish the set goals based on any and all available engineering solutions.

   The main purpose of this descriptive research paper is to outline some of the major technical challenges and obstacles confronting the AHJs and the code enforcers in the implementation and application of the performance based codes, and to develop recommendations to address the deficiencies.

Since the performance based codes will be heavily dependent on engineering solutions, lack of  technical engineering expertise on the part of the AHJs could present major problems in successfully implementing the performance based codes.  The question then is, in the relatively short time remaining, how could the AHJs obtain the necessary technical expertise to enable them to successfully implement the performance based codes?

The AHJs have two basic choices.  They could either depend on the technical expertise of the fire protection consulting firms in the private sector, and obtain their services as their technical consultants, or hire a fire protection engineer as their in house technical expert.

The most important recommendation, that could prepare the AHJs to address the challenging obstacles of the performance based code era, is having a staff fire protection engineer on board.  By having an experienced and qualified fire protection engineer on their team, the AHJs will have the technical expertise to be able to determine the design objectives and the “acceptable solution”, as the design criteria for the performance based designs, at the conception phase; evaluate and analyze the computer fire modeling and calculations and determine the integrity of the fire and life safety designs, during the plan review and approval phase; and participate in the field testing, final acceptance and approval, during the installation and completion phase of the projects.  Active participation of the staff fire protection engineer in the entire project cycle, from the conception phase to the completion phase, would provide the concise communication, quality control, consistency and continuity, necessary for the success of any complex project.  This approach is applicable to all complex projects whether designed based on the prescriptive codes or the performance based codes.

As a variation to this alternative, another option which is more feasible to the smaller jurisdictions is to join resources to hire a staff fire protection engineer, cooperatively utilize his/her technical expertise, and divide the financial burdens amongst themselves.  Another similar option could be for a jurisdiction to hire a staff fire protection engineer, and by marketing his/her technical services to the other jurisdictions, reduce their budgetary impacts by charging the other jurisdictions for the technical services rendered.

As stated before, the AHJs could also rely on the private sector for their technical expertise.  The AHJs could implement a system of peer review, in which the building owner pays a review fee at the time the designs are submitted for approval.  The AHJs then submit the designs to a private sector fire protection engineering firm for a peer review.

To be able to successfully implement the performance based codes by the end of the century, the AHJs need to enhance their technical expertise.  Most importantly though, the AHJs need to educate the political and administrative leadership of the jurisdiction about the performance based codes.  After all, their political support is essential for AHJs success.

 


 

 

 

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CHALLENGES CONFRONTING THE APPLICATION OF PERFORMANCE BASED FIRE & LIFE SAFETY CODES by Azarang Mirkhah, P.E. Fire Protection Engineer Las Vegas Fire Department

 

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Public Administration

 

Department of Public Administration

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

May 1998

ã 1998 Azarang Mirkhah, P.E.

All Rights Reserved

The Thesis of Azarang Mirkhah, P.E. for the degree of Master in Public Administration is approved.

Chairperson, Dr. William N. Thompson, Ph.D.

Examining Committee Member, Dr. Karen S. Layne, Ph.D.

Examining Committee Member, Mr. Robert H. Cullins, Jr., M.P.A.

Graduate Faculty Representative, Dr. Robert F. Boehm, Ph.D., P.E.

Dean of the Graduate College, Dr. Ronald W. Smith, Ph.D.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

May 1998

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract                                                                            

Introduction                                                                     

Background And Significance                                               

Literature Review                                                              

Defining the Performance Based Codes                                         

Computer Fire Modeling                                  

New Terminology                                                                                   

Challenges                                                                                               

Procedure                                                                                    

Results                                                                                          

Discussion                                                                                   

Recommendations                    

References                                                                      

APPENDIX - A (WORKING DEFENITIONS)                          

APPENDIX - B (EQUIVALANCY CODE SECTIONS)                      

APPENDIX - C (LIABILITY CODE SECTIONS)                                 

 

 

 

Want help with your bibliography? Go to Research Advice

 

INTRODUCTION

   The first laws and regulations for building construction can be traced back to Babylon’s famous Code of Hammurabi, 1790 BC.  Since then, construction codes and standards have been the regulating guidelines in the building construction industry.  The current building and fire codes in the United States can be categorized as primarily “specification-based,” or “prescriptive”.  Prescriptive refers to providing, in great details, the exact requirements in terms of specific measurements, materials, methods and so forth.  The requirements in the prescriptive codes generally have been derived through the accumulated judgment of a group of experts, or by actual field experiences, and represent the practical knowledge and experiences accumulated throughout the years.

Prescriptive codes and standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the other three dominant U.S. model code developing agencies,  International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), and Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA), are all similar in their approach toward fire and life safety system designs.

ICBO is the dominant model code agency for the states west of the Mississippi, the southern states utilize the model codes developed by SBCCI, and BOCA model codes are adopted by the northeastern states.   These model code agencies develop building, plumbing, mechanical, structural, electrical and fire codes for their regions.  NFPA is the only code development agency that is focused solely on the fire protection issues and has developed 12 volumes of fire codes and standards for various types of occupancies and industrial installations.  Model codes developed by ICBO, SBCCI, and BOCA have all adopted and extensively referenced some of the various NFPA fire codes.  Thus, by virtue of being a supplement to these regional model codes, some (not all) of the NFPA codes are being utilized nationally. 

The magnitude of regionalism in the code enforcement community could be better understood realizing that while adopting these models codes, each jurisdiction (state, county, city) also supplements them with their own local requirements.  For example, while the model codes developed by the ICBO have been adopted by both the Clark County and the City of Las Vegas, their local supplements are different.  Simply stated, buildings north of the Sahara Avenue are subject to different codes than the ones south of it.  It should not be difficult to visualize the vast differences between the codes in different states. 

This regional approach to the codes might have been adequate a couple of decades ago, when the majority of the design projects would have been developed by the local architectural and engineering firms.  For example,  it would have been cost prohibitive and impractical for an architect or an engineer from New York to design a project in Sacramento.  Lack of expertise in the local codes would have been the least of the architect’s/engineer’s problems, compared to the logistical problems associated with communications, submittals, plan review, permitting, construction, and final acceptance testing of the project.

However, in this day and age of global communication, overnight mail delivery, Fax, E-mail, cellular phones, and the Internet majority of the logistical obstacles mentioned above have been removed.  Now a days, it is quite feasible for an architect/engineer from one side of the country (or even the world) to develop the design package for a project located on the other side.  However, the differences in the regional codes are still the remaining ball and chain dragging the pace of the progress.

In an attempt to remove this obstacle, in 1994 the  model code developing agencies planned a merger to form the International Code Council (ICC).  ICC was formed with the intent of not only developing a single model prescriptive code for the entire country by the year 2000, but most importantly, to introduce for the very first time the revolutionary concept of the performance based codes.

The performance based codes are fundamentally different from the prescriptive codes  described above.  A performance based code system takes a proactive approach by clearly stating the intention of the code and by providing references to the tools or methodologies needed to meet the intent.  Rather than stating the exact design methodology as the prescriptive codes do, a performance based code provides guidance on how the intent could be achieved.  This could include the application of prescriptive codes and standards currently in use, as well as, analysis and design using engineering methods, or a combination of both methods.

Simply stated, the major difference between the prescriptive codes and performance based codes is in their approach toward the concept of design.   Basically, the prescriptive codes design approach could be labeled as the “cook book” approach.  Just like in the “cook book”, with the prescriptive codes approach the engineers design to a set of predetermined requirements identified in the codes, based on generic occupancies, construction, or hazard classifications.  However, with the performance based codes approach, the engineers design to comply with the fire and life safety goals as the preset criteria, identified at the preliminary stages of the project development.  The engineers then have the design freedom and flexibility to accomplish the set goals based on any and all available engineering solutions.

It is important to note that the dawn of the performance based codes era does not mean a dusk for the prescriptive codes.  Both approaches are valuable and will continue to be jointly applied for decades to come.  Developing a performance based design alternative as an equivalent to the design criteria identified in the prescriptive codes may require extensive computer fire modeling and engineering research and calculations, which make the performance based designs cost prohibitive for a majority of the relatively small and ordinary buildings.  For the majority of these ordinary and routine projects, it may simply be more feasible to comply with the existing design requirements identified in the current prescriptive codes.  It might be that only the unique and complex projects with the big budgets will be the ones that could afford being innovative and utilize the performance based codes extensively.

The performance based design and the prescriptive codes might even be jointly applied in the same building.  For example, the entire building might be designed based on the prescriptive codes and the design engineer may utilize the performance based design approach and propose installing a fire sprinkler system in the building as an equivalent to the interior walls fire resistive rating requirements identified in the prescriptive codes.  Most likely at the initial stages, the performance based codes will be utilized more frequently in conjunction with the prescriptive codes, as an equivalency to some of their requirements. 

The performance based designs are being developed mostly by the engineers who are the strong proponents of the performance based codes.  They argue that engineering fields are based on the hard core fundamental sciences which have global application, thus designs should not be restrained and limited by the regional prescriptive codes.  With the performance based codes unleashing ingenuity and innovation in designs, it could be expected that the designs based on the performance based codes will be heavily dependent on technical expertise and engineering judgments.

The engineers have many years of academic and technical training preparing them for the task.  On the other hand, the majority of the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) and the code enforcers responsible for review and approval of the fire and life safety designs do not possess the extensive technical engineering and practical expertise necessary to evaluate the performance based designs.  Across the country, a majority of the fire inspectors and plan checkers in the fire departments, are either retired firefighters from other fire departments, or are firefighters unable to perform the fire suppression tasks due to job related disabilities.  The majority of plan checkers and inspectors in the building departments are recruited from the construction trades in the field.  Historically, the blue- collar nature of these jobs demanded more hands on experience rather than higher education.  High school level education might have sufficed for enforcing the “cook book” design approach outlined in the prescriptive codes, however, with the performance based codes, lack of academic education and technical experience will be detrimental.

The intent of this section is not only to explain the differences between the prescriptive codes and the performance based codes, but most importantly to identify the external factors that are the driving force behind the change that will be imposed on the code enforcement community by the turn of the century.  The code development and the engineering communities, who are the initiators of this transformation, are welcoming the change.  The code enforcement community on the other hand, is faced with the implementation of the changes imposed upon them by the external forces, which could explain their lack of preparedness for such a monumental transformation.

Change Management Models (CMM) identify analysis, planning, implementation, and evaluation/institutionalism, as the four major phases for the strategic management of change.  If the drive for change was internal, following the steps outlined in the CMM would have been the most logical approach.   But since AHJs are the reluctant participant in this transformation, they are lagging behind and have not even fully comprehended the magnitude of the problem, let alone planning for this change.  Basically, the code enforcement community is heading for the implementation phase without having completed the problem analysis and planning phases.

By the year 2000, the AHJs must be adequately prepared to implement the new performance based codes.  The question is how could the AHJs prepare for this transformation and develop the required technical expertise essential for the successful implementation of the performance based codes?

In this descriptive research paper, the intent is to focus on the problem analysis and planning phases of the CMM, that the code enforcement community seems to have skipped.  The main purpose of the paper is to outline, and identify some of the major technical challenges and obstacles confronting the AHJs in the implementation of the performance based codes, and to develop recommendations on how to address those technical deficiencies. The reason for the emphasis on the word “ some” in the purpose statement above, is that the performance based codes are not scheduled to be published before the year 2000, and the first draft has not even been published yet, therefore it is not possible to forecast all of the problems.

Due to the inherent ambiguity of long range forecasting, the scope of this paper is limited to depicting only the outlines, rather than exploring the specific details.  Since the issue of performance based codes is still in the infancy stages, there has been limited research conducted on the subject,.  Lack of statistical data and absence of first hand historical research conducted on this subject present limitations for this paper.


BACKGROUND & SIGNIFICANCE

On December 9, 1994, the three model code development agencies in the United States, ICBO, SBCCI, and BOCA, formed the International Code Council (ICC), with the intent of developing a single nationwide model prescriptive code by the year 2000.  With this merger the code developing community is moving full speed in accomplishing the task of unification.  Interestingly enough, the other giant in the code development arena, NFPA, has also been proactive in analyzing the current trends, and on March 27, 1997, the presidents of NFPA and ICC announced that the two organizations have reached an agreement to jointly develop the International Fire Code (IFC) by the year 2000.  The following “Statement of Purpose” was printed in the very first issue of the Codes Forum, ICC’s monthly publication.

As the twenty-first century approaches, what are the issues facing those of us in the code enforcement field?

Everyone involved in code enforcement, as well as in the design and construction industries, is concerned with this far-reaching question.  The computer age has brought us within seconds of reaching people anywhere in the world.  Technology has evolved to make us members of a world community; we can no longer afford to think strictly in terms of “our jurisdiction” or “our region.”  All of us need the tools and information to stay knowledgeable and competitive in this new world community, regardless of the model code organization with which we are affiliated (Codes Forum Editorial, 1996, p.1).

 

The convergence of all of the regional prescriptive codes into a single document for the entire country will be a monumental accomplishment.  The most significant development, though, is the fact that for the first time in this country performance based codes are also being acknowledged and are being developed in parallel to the prescriptive codes.    ICC has established a two tier parallel process and assigned to a Prescriptive Drafting Committee and a Performance Drafting Committee the task of developing the respective codes separately.  In June 97, the ICC Board of Directors authorized the creation of the ICC Code Scoping Coordination Committee, with the responsibility of coordinating the work of the two committees to ensure consistency.

The current plan is to compile performance based provisions in an independent document.  This document will contain general intent and scoping statements and a set of topic-specific intent statements.  These topic-specific statements will explain, in detail, the expected performance of various building-related aspects such as egress, structural stability and spread of fire.  As discussed previously, these expectations could be met by applying a prescriptive approach, a performance approach or a combination of the two.  The prescriptive International Building Code (IBC), will therefore exist independently as an acceptable means of complying with the performance based document.  In fact, the performance based code system will not be complete, and will not work properly, without the prescriptive code.  Additionally, keep in mind that a performance based code structure will no longer consider a performance based design as an alternate to the code, but instead will give equal weight to all types of designs, whether performance or prescriptive in nature.  As always, the authority to accept any design will remain in the hands of the enforcer (Armstrong, P., Bowman, D., & Tubbs, B., 1997, p.4).

 

The concept of performance based design, and the future designs based on the performance based codes, will be heavily dependent on technical expertise and engineering judgments.  The engineers have many years of academic and technical training, preparing them for the task.  But how do the AHJs and the code enforcement communities perceive these changes?  The following quotation from an article in the NFPA Journal, the monthly magazine of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), explains some of the difficulties.

It takes a qualified engineer to develop a performance based design, and right now there’s no standardized approach to use.  So how does a code official ask critical questions about a performance based design, or decide if it really is equivalent to a building that meets prescriptive codes?  How can prescriptive codes evolve to include performance based options?  These are the questions with which the building and fire protection industries are dealing right now (Seaton, M., 1997, p. 75).

 

The engineers who are the strongest proponent of the performance based codes, are also concerned and have their doubts about the successful implementation of these codes at the initial stages of the adoption phase.  The following quotation from an article co-authored by Brian Meacham, P.E., the Technical Director for the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), identifies some of these concerns.

There are, however, a number of perceived disadvantages to performance based design.  Especially in the early stages of performance based fire safety engineering, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) may be reluctant to approve designs because of a lack of understanding or experience with the approach.  This is due in part to the lack of a generally accepted framework for performance based design and the uncertainty in the applicability of tools used within the process (Custer, R., & Meacham, B., 1995, p38).

 

The majority of the AHJs responsible for review and approval of the fire and life safety designs do not possess the technical expertise necessary  to evaluate the performance based designs.  This deficiency is one of the most important obstacles that must be addressed before the performance based codes are implemented.  The major challenge is that by the year 2000, every single jurisdiction in our country will need to have addressed this deficiency.  What is considered a challenge now will be a difficult problem at the turn of the century if solutions are not sought.

On a more local note, the question might be how will all these new developments and changes impact the AHJs in the City of Las Vegas?  Las Vegas has always been on the leading edge of building and construction technology.  Magnificent structures with complex fire and life safety designs are constantly erected on a grand scale in Las Vegas.  These unique designs present complicated fire and life safety challenges, requiring innovative solutions, that could only be developed utilizing all available technological resources, in addition to the codes and standards.  Enforcement of the prescriptive codes and evaluation of the performance based design for equivalencies, have always been the crux of City of Las Vegas’ approval process.  Historically, based on the complexity of the design, both the prescriptive codes and the performance based design, have been implemented to enhance the fire and life safety designs.

The City of Las Vegas Fire Department already has one Fire Protection Engineer (FPE) and two Assistant Fire Protection Engineers (AFPE) on board who are familiar with the concept of performance based designs and computer fire modeling.  Consequently, the impact of the new performance based codes in the City of Las Vegas will be relatively minor compared to the jurisdictions which do not have any previous exposure to this approach.  In the City of Las Vegas, the anticipated major impact would only be the increase in the quantity of the designs utilizing the performance based design concepts.

 


LITERATURE REVIEW

The concept of the performance based code is not such a new idea.  The earliest code of law, the famous Code of Hammurabi, can be traced back to Babylon , 1790 BC.  This code was purely performance based, consisting of five basic provisions intended to protect life and property.

If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction firm and the house which he has built collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death.

If it causes the death of the son of the owner of the house, they shall put to death the son of the builder.

If it causes the death of a slave of the owner of the house, he shall give to the owner of the house a slave of equal value.

If it destroys property, he shall restore whatever it destroyed; and because he did not make the house which he did built firm and it collapsed, he shall rebuild the house which collapsed at his own expense.

If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction meet the requirements and a wall falls in, that builder shall strengthen the wall at his own expense (Dillon, M., 1996, p.11).

 

      The Code of Hammurabi may be considered harsh by today’s standards, but the intent, to protect the life safety of the occupant, is clear.  In the following centuries, urbanization, and the associated problems such as fire, health, sanitation etc., underlined the importance of the building codes.

In time, concerns for fire protection of adjacent and individual property emerged and eventually grew into a voluminous body of regulations…There are two important issues to note in this long evolution of building regulations.  First, the regulations were always reactionary - a problem was observed and the reaction was to mandate a supposed solution.  Second, the regulations were always provincial - the supposed solution was based on the local level of understanding, the local techniques and materials, and the local ability to incorporate and fund the solutions (Dillon, M., 1996, p.11).  

      For many years, all of the prescriptive codes in our country have contained sections addressing alternative materials and methods of construction.  The “alternate materials and methods”, or the “equivalency” sections in all of the prescriptive codes have allowed the AHJs to approve an equivalency if it complies with the intent of the code and sufficient evidence or proof to substantiate it is provided.

In today’s litigious society, the AHJs are deeply concerned not only with their jurisdiction’s liabilities but also with their own personal liabilities.  The “relief from personal responsibility”, or the “liability” sections in all of the prescriptive codes, protects the AHJs from personal liability if “malicious intent” was not involved, and “the provisions of such codes or other pertinent laws or ordinances were implemented”.  To most AHJs even approving the “equivalency” section allowed by the prescriptive codes means trusting “the design engineer”, which they may view as “leaving the fox in charge of the hen house”.   For some of the AHJs the code is a cocoon providing a sense of security.  Stepping out of this secure surrounding into an arena, which they may not be technically prepared for, is a giant leap of faith, which most of them are neither prepared for nor willing to take.

The “alternate materials and methods”, or the “equivalency”; and the “relief from personal responsibility”, or the “liability” sections, from the most recent edition of all of the regional prescriptive codes and standards from around the country, were reviewed and are compiled in the appendices B and C respectively at the back of this paper.

The similarities in the language and content of these sections in all of the prescriptive codes point out to the uniformity in the AHJs positions, on the performance based design issue, throughout the country.

Defining the Performance Based Codes

What is a performance based code?

A performance based code is defined as one that gives the engineering design specifications for meeting stated performance objectives and identifies acceptable calculation methods…  Developing performance-based design standards will require a change in attitude and philosophy.  We will need to stop focusing on whether a specific fire protection feature should be required.  Rather, we should work toward developing the various design standards to indicate the performance expected of a feature such as smoke detection and its impact on performance objectives (Koffel, W., 1995, p.24).

 

The quotation above, explained the overall concept of the performance based codes, but the design criteria, parameters and the tools need to be further defined.  The following quotation identifies in detail the four major factors in the performance based fire safety engineering designs, and compares them to the current prescriptive codes.

Performance based fire safety engineering is defined as an engineering approach to fire protection design based on (1) agreed upon fire safety goals, loss objectives and performance objectives, (2) deterministic and probabilistic evaluation of fire initiation, growth and development, (3) the physical and chemical properties of fire and fire effluents, and (4) quantitative assessment of design alternatives against loss and performance objectives.  It is a systematic approach that considers fire as an integral part of the structure, process or component being protected, where one views fire growth and development as a design objective, not simply a consequence of a pre-determined design.  Performance based fire safety engineering may also be called performance based fire protection design.

This is quite different from the way most fire protection measures are designed today.  Current fire protection engineering practice is largely based on the application of perspective requirements whereby the engineer designs to predetermined requirements based on generic occupancies or class of hazard or risk.

Prescriptive codes set forth minimum requirements for protection and are generic by occupancy…By contrast, performance based fire safety engineering considers the entire fire-building system interaction, as a result, often results in designs that exceed individual code requirements…Finally, performance based engineering designs are based on an agreed upon loss potential for the individual structure, process, or component being protected.

The tools for the two approaches to fire protection are also quite different.  Tools for prescriptive design include the National Fire Codes of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); model building codes promulgated by the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA), International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), and the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI); state and local requirements; the requirements of insurance carriers; and engineering judgment.

Tools of performance based fire safety design include deterministic hazard analysis and probabilistic risk assessment techniques, fire dynamics, and fire modeling, as well as fire and building codes, state and local requirements, the requirements of insurance carriers, and engineering judgment.  Although some may argue that risk assessment, fire dynamics, etc. are “built-in” to the code development process, the built-in component remains relatively small and difficult to identify or quantify when necessary.  Furthermore, the current codes and standards making processes establish only minimum requirements (Custer, R., & Meacham, B., 1995, p.39).

 

But how would the AHJs evaluate and approve the performance based designs if they are not familiar with “deterministic hazard analysis”, “probabilistic risk assessment techniques”, “fire dynamics”, and “fire modeling”?  How would the AHJs apply the “engineering judgment” in assessing the validity of the assumptions and design criteria if they do not have the technical expertise and the engineering qualification necessary for such an evaluation?

What separates good fire safety from bad ones are good choices and assumptions.  What separates good choices and assumptions from bad ones are the skill, knowledge, experience, and integrity of the people who set the design, and the authority having jurisdiction, who reviews and approves both the design and the analysis that says it achieves safety.  What bothers fire officials such as Fleming is that there’s no consensus on what constitutes an appropriate, reasonable, conservative assumption.  “For most of these assumptions, such as egress speed and flow time, there’s a whole range of values in the literature”, says Fleming.  “There are no guidelines or rules to prevent someone from picking any number they want.”

Doug Beller, NFPA fire modeling specialist, agrees.  “Anyone can take one of these models, put some data in, push the buttons, and get an answer…In performance-based design, if you play with the model enough, you can get almost any answer you want…That’s the big stumbling block - that so few people are really qualified to do the modeling” says Beller.

That, according to Beller, is why fire officials still prefer the prescriptive approach.  They can just look at the recipe, and if there’s an ingredient missing, they don’t approve it.  With the performance-based codes, they have to go through and question each assumption made by the designer.  That’s something few fire marshals feel qualified to do, especially when the design contain 20 pages of computer printouts on timed egress and smoke buildup.  How are they supposed to know what kinds of critical questions to ask?  How will they know if these 20-page printouts are really equivalent to prescriptive methods?

“Fire officials look at these printouts and say, ’You want me to trust this stuff?’” says Casey Grant, technical director of Codes and Standards at NFPA (Seaton, M., 1997, pp. 73-77).

Computer Fire Modeling

Performance based designs are heavily dependent on the concept of computer fire modeling, and calculations.  However, the current state-of-the-art computer fire modeling programs are in their infancy stages, and require numerous assumptions and expert engineering judgment, which a majority of the design engineers are not qualified to make, let alone the AHJs.

Fire safety engineers are being challenged by the new technologies emerging from the research community.  Those technologies include both hardware (equipment) and software (calculations techniques) that require very high skill levels for appropriate use.  They also require a higher knowledge of the dynamics of fire and fire systems to be able to ascertain the boundaries of acceptable performance.  All of these developments are occurring rapidly and will require a higher level of academic training for fire safety engineers and a higher level of continuing education during their careers.  This deficiency is, in part, being addressed by the academic community as new fire safety engineering programs begin in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom and by conferences and courses offered by professional societies.  Unfortunately, many practitioners have not yet accepted the fact that they need this additional training and generalists still control much fire safety engineering decision-making (Richardson, K., & Meacham, B., 1996, p. 8).

 

   In the above mentioned article, the authors identify the lack of “higher knowledge of the dynamics of fire and fire systems”, and not keeping up with the advancements in new technologies emerging from the research community as a “deficiency”.

The quotation also points out that design engineers (practitioners, generalists)  do not posses the adequate technical knowledge and expertise to be able to utilize the new computer fire modeling technologies.  This being the case then, how are the AHJs supposed to trust the capabilities of these design engineers who are developing the performance based designs?  The following excerpts are from an article in the Journal of Fire Protection Engineering magazine, the official publication of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), written by Vytenis Babrauskas, a fire scientist, and a well recognized authority on the subject of computer fire modeling.

…The above list of limitations is quite sobering.  It clearly indicates that, today, fire models can be used in fire safety engineering (FSE) based design under some specialized circumstances only, and not for general design problems…Performance based building codes require that computational tools be available for various aspects of fire behavior and of response to fire.  At the present, the tools which are presumed to exist are simply unavailable or incapable of doing the job by themselves (Babrauskas, V., 1996, p 90).

 

This article ruffled the feathers of some of the fire protection engineers, who may have simply been exaggerating, to the AHJs, about their abilities to “predict fire behaviors” by utilizing state-of-the-art computer fire modeling programs.  The following issue of the Journal of Fire Protection Engineering magazine, printed this letter from an offended fire protection engineer.

The current state of fire modeling does not model fire.  Only the effects of fire are modeled, i.e. smoke, heat, gases, etc.  The fire’s characteristics are prescribed by the model user.  We are a long way from truly modeling a fire and its growth on ordinary combustibles.

The author of the subject paper implies with an elitist attitude that there is great misuse in the input of data into zone fire models involving rate-of-heat-release, etc.  While I somewhat agree with that, I would add that there are a lot of applications being done by qualified engineers, (“non-world-class” fire scientists) who understand many of the model limitations and approach fire modeling with a conservative attitude…

The author states that the only successful credible fire modeling is conducted by “world-class” fire scientists working on litigation cases.  That’s ridiculous!  We’ve seen several cases where such efforts have been wrought with mistakes and bad assumptions, and led to erroneous published results.

The author also implies that there is sort of a “crisis state” in fire modeling because the state-of-the-art doesn’t provide the appropriate tools for all the performance based design work going on or envisioned.  I believe that fire modeling is in a positive state of evolution.  As the demand for performance based codes and applications grows, funds will be allotted for producing better tools (Mniszewski, K., 1997, pp. 153-154).

 

In the above quoted letter, it appears that Mniszewski agrees with the intent of  Babrauskas’ article, however his ego seems to be bruised by what he believes to be Babrauskas’ pompous and “elitist attitude”.   A response by Babrauskas was printed in response to Mniszewski’s letter.

With regards to Mr. Mniszewski’s point that some designers are already using fire models, even without the availability of necessary physics components, I also agree.  However, I view this more as a cause for concern than as cause for celebration.  Again, Mr. Mniszewski identified the crux of the matter: ”engineers…who…approach fire modeling with a conservative attitude.”  From what I have seen occurring in the profession, I do not find the conservative attitude to prevail.  One can readily recognize the motivation: the designer usually takes a performance based approach in the interest of saving his client money.  Now, saving the client money is fine, if one can make sure that the designer understands enough of fire science to be able to make assumptions and approximations which actually are conservative.  But as the wording in some of our fire standards now recognizes, “fire is a complex phenomenon.”  Indeed, the reason why some important features are absent from today’s models is that even university professors and specialist researchers find the phenomena difficult to capture.  Thus, while there is no doubt that design practitioners are providing estimates to fill in the holes in the models, there is no basis for assuming that these estimates are, in fact, conservative.

Finally, I wish to point out there are two solutions to the present mismatch of model capabilities against designer needs: accelerate the development of the models, or slow down the use of performance based designs.  I sincerely, hope that we see the former and not that the latter (Babrauskas, V., 1997, p.154).

 

Margaret Law, an international authority on the subject of computer fire modeling, acknowledges all of these limitations.  Law underlines her emphasis on the importance of conservatism in design and utilizing the computer fire models just as a tool and an “aid to judgment”, rather than “as a prediction” and the final judgment.

In the design process, a model is more likely to be used as an aid to judgment than as a prediction.  It is here that the design differs from litigation or research, where a scientific need to understand exactly what happened is paramount.  The numbers produced by a spreadsheet do not describe the safety measures needed, but give an assessment of the significance of various effects and assumption.  The fire protection engineer (FPE) is not working in a vacuum, but within a culture of existing practice based on prescriptive codes.  In proposing variations from existing code requirements or in designing for circumstances outside those covered by the code, the FPE at the moment almost inevitably argues on the basis of equivalence.

The further a design is from the prescriptive code, the more conservative the design becomes, and that is as it should be, until we have more knowledge (Law, M., 1997, pp.154-155).

 

But if the “world-class fire scientists”, “university professors,”  “specialist researchers,” “design practitioners,” and “fire protection engineers” have “difficulty capturing” the concept of the “complex phenomenon” of fire, how can they determine the “acceptable risk level”, as the criteria for the performance based designs.  How can the AHJs verify that the design proposed is “more conservative” than the prescriptive codes?

New Terminology

An important term in the design development phase of a project utilizing the performance based codes is the term “acceptable solution”.  But what is an acceptable solution?  It is simply the solution acceptable both to the design professionals and the AHJs.  Acceptable solutions specify the aspects of the system’s performance that is being established, the methods that are used to measure performance and criteria that are used to evaluate success or failure.  The acceptable solution may meet the objectives of the performance based code by either the performance approach (testing, modeling, calculation, etc.), or prescriptive approach, or a combination of prescriptive and performance.   Identifying the acceptable risk level at the conceptual stages of the design, outlines the design criteria, objectives and the parameters. 

Performance-based engineering and performance based codes, while quite compatible, are far from identical.  In performance-based fire safety engineering, as discussed in this paper, the “client,” the AHJs, the fire protection engineer and other interested parties (e.g., insurance representatives) set the maximum acceptable loss objectives (or loss threshold).  In essence, this process establishes a level of risk acceptable to those parties involved.  The fire protection engineer then translates the “client’s” loss objectives into quantifiable engineering terms and proceeds to develop and evaluate design alternatives (outlined later in this paper) based on the agreed upon objectives.  (The term “client” is used to reflect any person, organization, or entity that is receiving a service.)

In performance-based codes, the code writers set the client’s loss objective by specifying fire safety goals and objectives.  In this case, the code writers are essentially quantifying the level of risk acceptable to society (the “clients” or users of the code).  This is much more difficult to agree upon compared with quantifying the acceptable level of risk for an individual client (Custer, R., Meacham, B., 1995, p. 39).

 

The other aspect of performance based designs that need to be addressed is the proponent’s emphasis on the concept of  “cost effective designs” as a major benefit of the performance based codes.

The benefits of performance-based fire safety codes fall into four areas: economic, clarification of intent, facilitation of global trade, and increased technology use.  Often, these four benefits overlap.  However, each is a separate benefit, and consequently, a different reason for introducing performance-based fire safety codes.

Perhaps the most obvious is the economic benefit.  Performance-based fire safety codes permit the use of any option that meets performance objectives.  Thus they provide economic benefits through the selection of potentially cost-effective and innovative alternatives (Richardson, K., 1997, p. 73).

 

However, realizing the fact that all prescriptive codes claim to define only the minimum level of protection, then anything below the minimum could be perceived as inadequate and substandard.  In this light, the “cost effective design” terminology could easily be misinterpreted as inadequate and substandard. The AHJs will unquestionably not compromise on the issues of fire and life safety and assume a tremendous liability in the interest of saving money for the client.

The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) recognizes the future challenges that will be confronting the code enforcement community in their initial attempt to implement the performance based codes.  In their national publication the Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, SFPE outlines their approach to addressing these difficulties. 

Many people fear what they do not understand.  Performance based regulations and performance based fire safety designs are no different; the latter can be a mechanism to achieve the objectives in the former, but can be broader, too.  Where no common vocabulary, concepts or framework for performance based design exist, and the tools and methodologies have not been evaluated as to their ability to perform as needed, a reluctance to accept a performance based design is understandable.  Many of the fears can be overcome with education and awareness.  To assist in these areas the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), in addition to the educational programs mentioned earlier, has initiated a focus group of key members of the fire and building community in the United States to discuss a common vocabulary and fundamental concepts of a framework for performance-based fire safety design in the United States.  By bringing fire officials, building officials, other code officials, building owners and managers, architects, engineers, researchers and others together to discuss the concepts and to map a strategy for the future, it is hoped that many of the fears will be assuaged.  In addition, the SFPE efforts on evaluation of computer models and development of engineering practice documents will help to alleviate fears related to the capability of the engineering tools and methodologies being used (Richardson, K., & Meacham, B., 1996, pp. 8-9).

Challenges

In summary, the intent of the Literature Review section is to clearly identify the extent of the problems by reviewing the current literature in the building, fire and life safety fields.  This section not only defines the concept of performance based codes, but also underlines some of the challenges and concerns.   The literature points out:

·        The performance based codes are heavily dependent on technical expertise and engineering judgments.  Higher knowledge of the dynamics of fire and fire systems, deterministic hazard analysis, probabilistic risk assessment techniques, fire dynamics and computer fire modeling are essential tools for developing performance based designs.

·        The AHJs do not posses the extensive technical expertise and the academic background necessary for the successful implementation of the performance based codes.

·        Many of the design engineers might also not possess the extensive technical expertise to develop performance based designs.

·        Computer fire modeling is an important tool that could be utilized as an aid to engineering judgment rather than a tool for prediction of fire behavior.  Computer fire modeling is still in the infancy stages, and at the present, the tools which are presumed to exist to predict exact fire behavior are simply unavailable and incapable of doing the job by themselves.  Computer fire modeling is dependent on many factors, variables and assumptions.   Anyone can input some data and the computer will spit out some answers, but is it the correct one?  Simply stated the tools are not perfected yet.  Most importantly they are not fool proof.

·        Where no common vocabulary, concepts or framework for performance based design exist, and the tools and methodologies have not been evaluated as to their ability to perform as needed, a reluctance to accept a performance based design should be understandable.

·        Uncommon vocabulary and ambiguity of subjective terms such as “acceptable risk level” or “cost-effective designs” are also an obstacle since they are interpreted differently by the design engineers and the AHJs.

 


PROCEDURE

Clear depiction of the procedures and identifying the limitations are of significant importance and quite essential for replication purposes.  The intent of this descriptive research paper is to identify some of the major technical challenges and obstacles to the implementation of the performance based codes due to be published by the year 2000.  However, attempting to predict the implementation impacts of any administrative policy scheduled to be enforced three years down the line presents a unique challenge.  The magnitude of this challenge is increased exponentially if the subject matter does not have an extensive history and, especially, if implementation requires fundamental changes demanding a paradigm shift.  Such is the subject of this paper.

Before getting more involved with the procedures, it is important to point out that the building construction industry is quite fragmented, with many powerhouses playing major roles, and at times pulling in many different directions.  Each one of these major players are focused extensively in their own trade organizations and publications and have very limited exposure to the others.  For example, in the design professionals arena the architects are members of the American Institute of the Architecture (AIA), the engineers are subdivided in their own specific fields, like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), etc.

In the construction contracting field, also, each of the separate contracting fields has its own professional organization in its specialization fields.  On the regulators side, the code enforcement and the AHJs have their own separate organizations.  Additionally, they are further subdivided based on their current alliance with the three different regional prescriptive codes. The Fire Chiefs and Fire Marshals have their own separate organizations and so do the Building Officials and Code Enforcers.

The key point is that each of these various organizations are strictly focused on their own specific fields and there is virtually no official interorganizational communications between them.  Thus, the membership of these organizations are unaware of the developments in the other related fields that might have a direct impact on them.  Development of the performance based codes will have a tremendous impact on all of the above mentioned organizations.  However, many of them are either completely unaware of or at the best have a very limited exposure and a restricted view, rather than a complete and global understanding, of  the issues.

To develop a global perspective, to be able to understand the extent of the problem and realize the full impact of the performance based codes, the available literature from all of the different organizations needs to be reviewed and analyzed.  The different pieces of the puzzle will need to be put together to reveal the bigger picture.

Reviewing the current literature in the code development and fire protection engineering communities; such as the NFPA Journal, Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Codes Forum, and Building Standards; one can identify the timetable, and some of the challenges associated with the implementation of the performance based codes.  The prescriptive codes from the three regional code development agencies; ICBO, SBCCI, and BOCA, in addition to the National Fire Codes published by NFPA; have also been reviewed for technical contents.  The restrictive code requirements in all of these prescriptive codes not only identify the predetermined requirements based on generic occupancies, constructions, class of hazard or risk, but also spell out the design approach.

The “alternate materials and methods” or the “equivalency” sections of the prescriptive codes (see Appendix B) clearly delegates to the AHJs the authority to approve any engineering approach that could exhibit an equivalency to the intent of the requirements established by the codes.  The concept of “equivalency” is the essence of the performance based codes.  The question is, if this concept has previously been included in the prescriptive codes, then what is the significance of the new performance based codes?   What is the big deal after all, if this concept already existed in the codes?  Why is it considered a fundamental change?

These questions point out that, at times, it is more important to read between the lines than just the printed words.  It might be beneficial to use a simple analogy to clarify this point.  The concept of human rights and civil liberties, for example, decorate the constitution of all of the dictatorial governments around the world, but they are rarely practiced.  In the prescriptive codes era, the probability of the performance based design obtaining the AHJs’ approval  is just as rare.  Simply stated, just because it is printed in the code books does not mean that it gets a chance to be practiced.  Both the AHJs and the design  professionals could attest to the rarity of occasions that the “equivalency” sections of the codes are practiced.

The significance of the new performance based codes is that after their adoption, the AHJs will be legally forced to treat the performance based design as an equal to the prescriptive code requirements.  If previously the AHJs could dodge the issue, and had a way out of dealing with the “equivalency” and the performance based designs, now there is no way out, and ready or not, the AHJs must legally acknowledge the performance based designs.

The articles reviewed point to the AHJs’ lack of technical expertise as the main reason for their reluctance to approve any designs not specifically addressed in the prescriptive codes.  Based on reviewing the “liability” sections of the prescriptive codes (see Appendix C), it is clear that if “the provisions of the codes are enforced”, and there is no “malicious intent”, the AHJs are protected from personal liability exposure.  For the AHJs, not having the technical engineering expertise is a detriment.  For the AHJs, approval of a design that they are unfamiliar with, and not specifically identified in the prescriptive codes could expose them to personal liability.  Even if  “malicious intent” was not the case and could not be proved, approval of a design the AHJs are not familiar with, could certainly lay the legal ground work for a “negligence” case against them. 

 The above paragraphs explain the logical process based on which this paper is developed.  To be able to replicate this process, it is important to identify where the information came from, what the information was all about, who formulated the information, and how some of the obstacles are identified.  The existing prescriptive codes, and the technical publications from 1994 up to now, are the main resources for this paper.  The authors of the articles referenced in the literature review section of this paper are all well established and recognized authorities in the field of fire protection.  The conclusions were formulated not only based on what was depicted in those articles, but also based on reading in between the lines, and deductive reasoning, as previously explained.

Since the concept of performance based codes are relatively new, and the code development process is still in the preliminary stages and even a first draft has not been published yet, a lack of first hand historical data presents some limitations.   Due to the limitations in the amount of  first hand materials, secondary sources of information are utilized extensively in this paper.   In addition, the inherent ambiguities associated with long range forecasting could also be identified as a limitation for this paper.

Outlining the frameworks for future studies in this field could also be of significant value.  It could be an interesting prospect for the future researchers to evaluate the impacts of the performance based codes five or ten years down the line after the implementation deadline.  Presuming availability of solid statistical national data in the year 2005 or 2010,  researching some of the following subjects could prove to be valuable.

·        The total number and percentage of the structures constructed based on the prescription codes versus the performance based codes.

·        The number of performance based code designs in the metropolitans, cities and rural jurisdictions.

·        The increase/decrease in the number of the jurisdiction’s liability cases associated with the failure of the approved fire and life safety systems, and the associated costs.

·        The mode, median, and mean cost of fire protection systems based on performance based codes versus the prescription codes.

·        The increase/decrease of mode, median, and mean level of education in the AHJs and the code enforcement community.

·        The increase/decrease in the total number of fire protection systems.

·        The increase/decrease in the total number of insurance claims and the premiums.

·        The increase/decrease in the total number of fire fatalities and casualties.

·        Comparing the total number of fire fatalities, casualties and costs in structures with fire protection systems designed based on performance based codes versus prescription codes.

·        The logistical/tactical impact of the performance based codes systems on the fire departments’ suppression operations.

·        The increase/decrease of the preplanning and training time for the fire fighters to become familiarized with the different varieties and inconsistencies in the fire protection systems in various buildings.

·        The time and budgetary impact of higher education and training of the fire prevention inspectors.

·        The increase/decrease in the number of students enrolled in the fire protection engineering programs in the universities around the country.

·        The increase/decrease in the number of jurisdiction with staff fire protection engineers.

 

Researching some of these subjects could provide invaluable insight for the last phase of the Change Management Model (CMM), which is the evaluation/institutionalization phase.  The successful implementation of any policy change could only be measured after the completion of the evaluation/institutionalization phase.  Until then the jury is still out.

 


RESULTS

In conjunction with the convergence of all of the prescriptive codes into a single model code for the entire country, for the first time in the United States, performance based codes are also being acknowledged, and are also scheduled to be published by the year 2000.  The date has been set, and the count down has begun.

As stated previously, the performance based design approach is quite different from the way the systems are designed based on the prescriptive codes.  In the performance based design approach, the engineers design to comply with the fire and life safety goals, as the preset criteria, identified, agreed upon, and approved by the AHJs, at the preliminary stages of the project development.  The engineers have the design freedom and flexibility to accomplish the set goals, based on any and all available engineering solutions.

   Based on the articles reviewed in the previous sections of this paper, it could be concluded that the new performance based design codes will be focusing heavily on the engineering solutions, utilizing computer fire modeling and other engineering tools, which require extensive engineering and technical expertise.  The majority of the AHJs do not have the level of technical expertise and engineering education and experience to be able to evaluate, analyze and approve the performance based designs.

   The referenced articles also identify fire as  a “complex phenomenon”, and that even the “university professors” and “specialist researchers” have difficulty in grasping and capturing all of the many intricacies involved with it.  The current state-of-the-art computer fire modeling programs are still in their infancy stages, and have numerous limitations that require extensive technical knowledge and qualifications, which only the “world-class fire scientists” may possess.  The biggest stumbling block is that so few people are really qualified to perform the computer fire modeling.  These are qualifications that most of the design engineers do not have, let alone the AHJs.

The computer fire modeling programs rely heavily on the inputting of assumptions that the design engineer makes.  Just like all other software and computer programs currently available in the market, anyone can take these computer fire models, input some data, and the computer will spit out several pages of results.  These programs could easily be manipulated to reach a desired conclusion which might not even be the correct answer.  But how would the AHJs know if the answers are right or wrong?

The articles identify that a lack of expertise is not a deficiency limited only to the AHJs, but many of the design professionals may also lack the technical expertise necessary to utilize the currently available computer fire modeling and calculation programs.  Obtaining the technical competency is of paramount importance to the AHJs not only for having the ability to determine the correct solutions, but also since it will enhance the level of communication between the design engineers and the AHJs.   Clear, concise and consistent communication between the AHJs and the design professionals is essential in determining the design objectives and parameters in the performance based design approach.

The political pressures and the legal liability issues in the public arena could also present additional difficulties for the AHJs in approving the performance based design concepts.  The most important design criteria for the development of the performance based design is determining the “acceptable risk level”.  The “acceptable risk level” must be evaluated, analyzed, agreed upon, and approved by the AHJs.  The articles depict the tremendous political pressures on the AHJs, and the consequences of incorrect decisions.

There’s tremendous pressure on the enforcers in this country.  The first time you have a fire and people are killed, they’re the first ones in court trying to defend their actions.  They need something clear, while models and any codes based on them are complex (Seaton, M., 1997, p. 76).

 

Attorney and fire protection engineer Timothy Callahan, P.E., points out that the AHJs are not immune from liability.

From a legal standpoint, the limitation on the use of new design techniques is also due to the limited authority of the regulatory community to unilaterally accept them, and some consequent personal and municipal liability in accepting such technology(Callahan, T., 1991, p. 17).

 

 

The AHJs must seek the approval, and the political support of the political and administrative leaders in their jurisdiction.  Defining the “acceptable risk level” in the community is a difficult task, not necessarily technically, but politically.  A task that could be better addressed by a task force team, consisting of the AHJs and the political and administrative leaders, rather than by the AHJs alone.  Political support is essential for the successful implementation of the performance based codes.

Based on the above paragraphs, it should be clear that the AHJs must obtain the technical expertise necessary for the successful implementation of the performance based codes.  The AHJs can enhance their technical capabilities by either having a staff fire protection engineer on board, or rely on the private sector consultants as their technical resource.

By having an experienced and qualified fire protection engineer on their team, the AHJs will have the technical expertise to be able to determine the “acceptable risk level” as the design criteria for the performance based design during the conception phase; evaluate and analyze the fire modeling calculations and determine the integrity of the fire and life safety designs during the plan review and approval phase; and participate in the field testing, final acceptance and approval of the project during the installation and completion phase.  Active participation of the staff fire protection engineer in the entire project cycle, from the conception phase to the completion phase, would provide the concise communication, quality control, continuity, and consistency, necessary for the success of any complex project, whether it was designed based on the prescriptive codes or the performance based codes.

It is important to mention that the problems outlined above are not limited to this country.  Last year, New Zealand adopted their performance based codes.  The following quotation not only identifies the similarities of the New Zealanders’ concerns to ours, but most importantly, it presents an interesting approach to resolving the problem.

For example, New Zealanders have found a great way to help fire officials evaluate computer models.  They have a system of peer review in which the building owner pays the government a review fee at the same time he or she submits performance-based designs.  The government then sends these designs to a competitor for a peer review…How will a fire marshal who barely has time to inspect new buildings make sure that these innovative fire protection systems are being maintained?  In New Zealand, the fire protection engineers who design the building system also create an owner’s manual that tells the owners how the fire protection systems in their buildings work and how to maintain them.  Once a year, the owner delivers a report to his or her inspector saying that everything is in good working order, and the government issues a certificate for public displays.  Then the liability falls on the building owner (Seaton, M., 1997, p. 77).

 

The AHJs in our country could also apply the New Zealander’s approach in evaluating the fire and life safety systems designed based on the performance based codes.  The AHJs could implement a system of peer review, in which the building owner pays a review fee at the time the designs are submitted for approval.  The AHJs then submit the designs to a competitor private sector fire protection engineering firm for a peer review.  With this approach, the liability falls on the fire protection engineer responsible for the peer review and approval of the design.  Since New Zealand has just recently implemented their performance based codes, the verdict is still out, and ranting about their success or predicting their doom is premature.

But, there might be some limitations with the New Zealand’s approach.   In the New Zealander’s approach the peer review process starts at the design submittal phase of the project, and not at the preliminary phase, when the design criteria is established.  Identification of  the “acceptable risk level” at the preliminary phase of the project could pose an obstacle to the AHJs if they don’t have a staff fire protection engineer on board.  If the AHJs feel comfortable and technically competent to develop the design objectives and parameters, they could develop the design criteria at the preliminary stages of the project, and then by utilizing the peer review process, reduce the jurisdiction’s liability exposure.

 


DISCUSSION

As the fire protection engineer for the City of Las Vegas, it is my responsibility to analyze, review, evaluate and approve the fire and life safety design packages submitted by the builders.  Our jurisdiction’s experiences and the long history of exposure to the performance based design concept, could provide some insights in identifying the challenges confronting the application of performance based codes, scheduled to be published by the year 2000.  Also in my thirteen years of experience as a design professional, designing fire and life systems in many of the major metropolitan areas, I had the opportunity to work with many AHJs in different jurisdictions, all across the west coast.  Having the unique opportunity of being on both sides of the fence, previously as a design professional in the private sector, and the last four years as an AHJ in the public side, I have experienced the challenges and concerns confronting both camps in dealing with the performance based design issues.

   The intent of the above paragraph is not self-glorification, but to emphasize that the purpose of this paper is to remain unbiased, and impartially evaluate the challenges confronting the implementation of the performance based codes.  The perspective of this article is of neither an AHJ’s responsible for the approval of the designs, nor of a fire protection engineer on the design professional side responsible for the development of the design.  Any deficiencies identified, or solutions proposed, is for the betterment of the fire protection engineering field in general, and is not intended to be overly critical or offensive to/of either side.

The concept of performance based design is not a new idea.  For many years, the “alternate materials and method”, or the “equivalency” sections in all of the prescriptive codes, have allowed the AHJs to approve an “equivalency”; if it complies with the intent of the code, and sufficient evidence or proof to substantiate it, is provided.  The codes have determined that the burden of proof is the responsibility of the engineers, and the responsibility for review and approval rests with the AHJs.  Therefore, if after all these years, the performance based design is still in its infancy stages, it is not far fetched and unreasonable to point to the communication gap between the AHJs and the design professionals, as one of the main reasons for the slow pace of the development.

The importance of clear and concise communication in the success of any project can not be disputed.  However, with the performance based codes, clarity of communication plays a monumental role in establishing a common ground between the design professionals and the AHJs.  For communication to be successful though, it is not only important to have open channels of communication, but also for all the parties involved to share a common technical language and to be able to comprehend one another.

I believe by having a staff fire protection engineer, the AHJs will enhance their technical capabilities in closing this communication gap.  This gap is widening at an astronomical pace as the computer technology opens new horizons in the upcoming millennium.

With this approach, both sides will have experts, who not only have the necessary technical expertise and experience, but also speak the same technical language.  This will elevate the levels of communication, bring the two sides closer together, and increase the probability of achieving a common goal.

The issue of liability exposure is also a tremendously significant factor in AHJs’ reluctance in embracing the performance based designs.  The “relief from personal responsibility”, or the “liability” sections in all of the prescriptive codes, protect the AHJs from the personal liability, if “malicious intent” was not involved, and “the provisions of such codes or other pertinent laws or ordinances were implemented”.  Basically what this means is that, if the AHJs follow the exact code requirements spelled out in the prescriptive codes, they can not go wrong, and they are protected from personal liability exposures.  However, the jurisdiction’s exposure is still not decreased, since the jurisdictions are the ones with the deepest pockets, and therefore the favorite targets.

To most AHJs, even approving designs based on the “equivalency” section currently allowed by the prescriptive codes, means trusting “the design engineer”, which some view, as “leaving the fox in charge of the hen house”.  They do not trust just any “Joe Engineer”, right out of college, “selling them a bill of goods”.  Generally, the AHJs have been exposed to the computer technology, long enough to know the famous “garbage in, garbage out” concept.  They know, well enough, that just because a bunch of calculations are performed by computers, it does not necessarily make them right.

Putting ourselves in the AHJs’ position, and looking at this issue from their point of view, we can see that basically the AHJs want to feel secure.  They do not want to go out on a limb and be liable just because the design engineers claimed that their design would perform.  After all, why should the AHJs stick their neck out for some engineer, and assume personal liability, when they can play it safe instead?

For the majority of AHJs, the code is a cocoon providing the sense of security.  Stepping out of this secure surrounding, into an arena which they may not be technically prepared for, is a giant leap of faith, which most of them are neither prepared for nor willing to take.

While this might be true now, since there are no performance based codes around, it will change by the year 2000, when the performance based codes are published.  Now, the performance based design concept is only an “alternative approach”, or an “equivalency”, that the AHJs have the luxury of either accepting or rejecting, based on their courage or willingness to step out of the “cocoon”.  By the year 2000, when the performance based codes are adopted, the AHJs will be dragged out of their “cocoon”, willingly or not.  The AHJs will be legally obligated to entertain and evaluate any/all engineering designs developed utilizing the performance based codes, and treat them just as they would the prescriptive code designs.

For the engineers, the “liability” issue will remain unchanged.  They are always responsible for the integrity of the design, regardless of whether the design was based on the prescriptive codes or the performance based codes.  Since the AHJs are the ones that will be losing the “warm and cozy feeling” of security, in their “cocoon”, they are the ones that must change their paradigms, and get ready for the realities of the coming years.

Lack of trust on the part of the AHJs is a major contributing factor to the communication barrier between the two camps.  It is important for the AHJs to realize the fact that the registered architects/engineers also have a lot to lose, if their designs fail to perform.  In addition to being exposed to personal liability, the design professionals have their professional registrations and licenses on the line, which if revoked, ends their professional career.

It is true that incompetence could be found in any profession, and certainly architects/engineers have had their share of failures.  But failures have also been attributed to the inadequacies in the prescriptive codes.  Historically, failures have been the primary reasons for the changes in the prescriptive codes.  After all, prescriptive codes have always been reactive in nature, and it is usually after a catastrophe that the codes are reevaluated and their requirements are modified.

For the AHJs to realize that the design professionals are as much interested in the success of the design as the AHJs, is the first step toward acknowledging the commonality of their problems.  This would reemphasize the necessity of teamwork and cooperation between the two sides, in addressing the challenges, and removing the obstacles confronting both sides.

It should be realized that there is no fast, easy, and  general solution to resolve the lack of trust.  It is not possible to expect all of  the individuals in the AHJs camp to simultaneously begin trusting the design professionals on the other side of the fence, right at the turn of the century, when the performance based codes are adopted.  Trust is an individual matter, that could only develop and grow with the passage of time.  Continuous technical communication and cooperation could build up trust between the individuals on the two sides.  In the long run, this could in turn enhance the overall quality of the technical relationship, and the level of trust between the two camps.

   If we believe in the importance of maintaining clear communication and developing trust, as a means of bridging the gap between the two camps, we should also be cognizant of the adverse impact of ambiguity.  Lack of clarity, in the definition of a couple of the key criteria in the development of the performance based designs, such as the “cost effective design”, and the “acceptable risk level”, has added to the ambiguity and has created more confusion in the AHJs camp.

Since the majority of my professional career has been in the private sector as an engineer, I can understand the importance of both these design criteria in developing the performance based codes designs.  However, as an AHJ, I find the “acceptable risk level” a politically difficult concept to adopt.  For the AHJs, functioning in a political environment, in the aftermath of a catastrophe, it will be impossible to explain that the fire and life safety systems performed adequately, in accordance with the approved “acceptable risk level”, established by the performance based codes.   The AHJs can visualize being grilled by the media, asking:

·        How did you determine that loss of three lives and two million dollars in property damage was an “acceptable risk level”?

·        Who gave you the authority to play “God”, and make life and death decisions with the life of the innocent citizens?

·        Don’t you think, if the building had a fire protection system designed based on the prescriptive codes rather than performance based code and the concept of “cost effective design”, it wouldn’t have “cost”  the victims their lives?

·        How do you put a price tag on a human life?

These are the political realities in the public sector, which the AHJs can not ignore.  For the AHJs, the negative exposure from such an experience will ruin their professional career, destabilize them financially, and the burden of guilt will haunt them for the rest of their lives.     

As stated before, inadequate performance and incompetence could be found in any field, not excluding the design professionals.  All across the country, the AHJs routinely come across inadequacies in the designs, signed and sealed by design professionals. Based on this less than impressive track record, the AHJs find it difficult to just “trust” the design professionals with the appropriateness of the designs.

In the prescriptive codes approach, there are at least three built in quality control mechanisms to recognize and address those deficiencies.  The “plans examiners” during the plan review phase; the “contractors” during the shop drawings development and construction phases; and the “inspectors” during the installation and final acceptance phases of the projects.  Since the prescriptive codes have been around for a long time, all three, the “plan examiners”, the “contractors”, and the “inspectors”, are supposed to be at least familiar, if not adequately trained in the application of the prescriptive codes.  They all are an integral part of the system, and instrumental in the over all quality control process.  Just ask any of the “plan examiners”, the “contractors”, and  the “inspectors”, from all around the country, the following questions: 

·        How many plans have the “plans examiners” seen, that were 100% correct when they were first submitted, and did not have to be revised to incorporate deficiencies noted by the “plans examiner”, during the plans review process?

·        How many projects can the “contractors” remember, that were designed correctly and with such clarity, that the “contractors” did not have to submit any Request for Information (RFI) and Change Orders (CO)?

·        How many times have the “inspectors” failed the final acceptance tests just before the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), due to numerous deficiencies and inadequacies in the installations?

The answers will be quite sobering, since they all will point to the fact that the myth of  the “perfect design”, does not exist in the real world.  Even with the prescriptive codes that have been around for many years, that all parties involved are supposed to be familiarized with them, there are so many deficiencies, inadequacies and mistakes that not only justifies the professional existence of  the “plans examiners” and the “inspectors”, but also develops a new sense of  appreciation for them. 

Some design professionals may believe that the “plans examiners” and the “inspectors” are all uneducated, poorly trained, or even incompetent individuals whose authorities are way beyond their capabilities.  Even if this was true, one should remember that these same individuals will be the ones that must bear the responsibility of reviewing, and approving the performance based designs in the field.  If they are believed to be incapable of applying the prescriptive codes, then:

·        How well would they do with the performance based codes?

·        Is the fire and life safety of the community enhanced by eliminating the existing quality control mechanisms?

·        How would the quality control issue be addressed in the performance based codes?

Going back to the subject of communication, it is important to realize that to bridge the gap and enhance communication, both sides must search for a more appropriate terminology and suitable vocabularies.  This is not impossible.  After all, the concept of “acceptable risk level”  has always been an integral part of the prescriptive codes language.  Each of the different classes of construction, occupancy, and hazard identified in the prescriptive codes have their own requirements, which have been developed based on the concept of  “acceptable risk level”.  That is the reason for the different type of structures and occupancies having a different type and level of fire and life safety systems and protection, if any at all.

However, for the AHJs, adopting and implementing the prescriptive codes is relatively easy, since the concept of “acceptable risk level” is well camouflaged in the body of the prescriptive codes.  Yet, the boldness of the same concept in the performance based codes is politically unpalatable.  It is essential to be cognizant of the political realities, when developing the exact language in the performance based codes.  Attempts should be made to reduce the obstacles, rather than create additional ones.

In New Zealand where they have recently implemented their performance based codes, the AHJs have the support of the entire central political structure.  The central government in New Zealand, proposed, developed, and approved their performance based codes, and directed and authorized the AHJs to proceed with their implementation.  However, in our country, with the existing decentralized and fragmented governmental structure, obtaining the approval of all political entities would be rather difficult, if not quite impossible.  It is most important to recognize that this political support is essential and must be obtained prior to adoption and implementation of the performance based codes.  The AHJs must obtain the political support and backing of their jurisdictions.  The “acceptable risk level” in any jurisdiction shall be defined and accepted by the jurisdiction’s political and administrative leadership, prior to implementation by the AHJs.  This could prove to be difficult, yet not impossible.

Interestingly enough though, the political and administrative leadership of any/all jurisdictions have a long history in determining the level of desired fire and life safety in their jurisdictions.  Every year, they evaluate and approve the annual budget for the fire departments.  When they decide on closing fire stations, laying off personal and downsizing, denying equipment requests, and reducing or freezing the annual budgets, they are practicing nothing else but defining the “acceptable risk level” they are willing to pay for and live with.  If they can make such a decision for an entire community, determining the “acceptable risk level” for a single structure should not present any difficulties to them.

The intent is not passing the buck and dodging the responsibility, but the AHJs alone can not make these kinds of a political decisions without the support of the political and administrative leadership.  Even with this support, undoubtedly, there is a strong probability that the AHJs will be used as the scapegoat, and crucified by the politicians and the professional bureaucrats.   But without it the AHJs will not even have a prayer and will find their own head on a silver platter the very first time a catastrophe occurs.

Once the objectives are outlined, the parameters are drawn, and the “acceptable risk level” is identified, the design professionals can proceed with the development of the design.  The AHJs’ staff fire protection engineer is responsible for the quality control. The fire protection engineer must personally be involved in all aspects of the project, from the moment of conception until the final acceptance and completion of the project.

 


RECOMMENDATIONS

The previous sections identified some of the technical challenges and obstacles confronting the application of the performance based codes.  Lack of AHJs’ engineering and technical expertise in evaluating, analyzing, and approval of designs based on the performance based codes was identified as the crux of the problem.  To  obtain the necessary technical expertise, the AHJs could either depend on the external resources in the private sector, just like the New Zealanders have done, or develop their own in-house technical expertise.

I believe that the most important recommendation that could prepare the AHJs to address the challenging obstacles of the performance based code era is having a staff fire protection engineer on board.  By having an experienced and qualified fire protection engineer on their team, the AHJs will have the technical expertise to be able to determine the “acceptable risk level”, as the design criteria for the performance based designs, at the conception phase; evaluate and analyze the fire modeling calculations and determine the integrity of the fire and life safety designs, during the plan review and approval phase; and participate in the field testing, final acceptance and approval, during the installation and completion phase of the projects.  Active participation of the staff fire protection engineer in the entire project cycle, from the conception phase to the completion phase, would provide the concise communication, quality control, consistency, and continuity, necessary for the success of any complex project.  This approach is applicable to all complex projects, whether designed based on the prescriptive codes, or the performance based codes.

By having a staff fire protection engineer on board the AHJs could also enhance the level of technical communication with the design professionals.  In addition to having the technical engineering background and expertise, the staff fire protection engineer is also capable of communicating with the design professionals at their technical level , utilizing the global scientific language.   This could be a significant step toward bringing the two sides closer, and bridging the existing communication gap; a gap which is widening at an astronomical pace, as the computer technology opens new horizons in the upcoming millennium.

In an effort to reduce the budgetary impacts to the jurisdictions, another option which could be more feasible for the smaller jurisdictions is to join resources and cooperatively share the technical expertise of the staff fire protection engineer.  The concept of resource sharing is not new and similar agreements have previously been developed in the other fields.  For example the Fire Departments from the City of Las Vegas, Clark County, and the City of North Las Vegas, just like many others around the country, jointly operate the same emergency dispatch and communications center.  This approach could serve as a model for sharing the common fire protection engineering staff.  Intergovernmental agreements would need to be drafted to iron out obstacles, identify the liabilities, and spell out the exact budgeting details.

Yet, another similar approach could be for a jurisdiction to hire a staff fire protection engineer, and by marketing their technical services to the other jurisdictions, reduce their financial impact by charging the other jurisdictions for the technical services rendered.  Once again the intergovernmental agreements should be developed to identify the liability exposures and the contractual agreements.  

Having a staff fire protection engineer could also be extremely beneficial in providing the essential in-house on-the-job training (OJT) for the current workforce consisting of plan examiners and field inspectors.  Training the current workforce should be an organized, systematic and continual process.  The Human Resources (HR) department in each jurisdiction has the overall responsibility for recruitment and training.  HR can provide invaluable information and assistance in developing the game plan for the recruitment and training programs.  Technical training is an important issue facing the American workforce in its entirety.

Quite simply, there is an education and training crisis in the United States that increasingly will affect the quality of human resources available to employers.  One estimate by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) is that approximately 42% of the U.S. workforce (about 50 million workers) need or will need new or enhanced workplace training to adapt to the myriad of job and technological changes (Mathis R. & Jackson J., 1994, p.43).

 

Needless to say, HR will need to play a major part in training the existing workforce.  The three major phases of training are assessment, implementation, and evaluation.  Assessment includes determining the training needs, identifying the training objectives, development of the training criteria, and determining the best training methods.  Since HR will know absolutely nothing about the technical aspect of the subject of fire and life safety, it is quite important for the AHJs to get actively involved and assist HR in the assessment phase of the training.  Realizing that the year 2000 is just around the corner, it is important for the AHJs to focus on immediate implementation of the training, in order to be  adequately prepared.

The AHJs should realize that it is not possible to expect the entire current workforce to be adequately trained to be capable of performing at the same level as a fire protection engineer.  However, basic training should be provided to enhance the plan examiners’ and the field inspector’s technical expertise since they are intimately involved during the construction phase of the projects.

The training and certification process of other technical fields that train the personnel with a high school level of education, to be able to function as expert technicians, could serve as a valuable model.  Paramedics training for example, is an excellent model.  In the paramedic training program, individuals with the high school educational level are selected and trained to be able to perform highly specialized and technical tasks.

As an example, currently in order to obtain the paramedics certification, the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)/firefighters in Las Vegas Fire Department are required to complete a 20 week paramedics training course, conducted by the professional staff at the University Medical Center (UMC).  The UMC paramedics program subjects the EMTs/firefighters to intense scientific, medical and technical training, in order to provide them with adequate expertise to perform the first response emergency medical attention.  Upon successful completion of the program, the graduates are required to complete the annual training courses and pass the exams in order to maintain their certifications. 

The example of the paramedics training could serve as a model for the AHJs.  The AHJs could utilize the local institutions of higher education and private sector professional fire protection engineering firms for the in-house or satellite classroom training.  Training the existing workforce will not have an immediate impact, however, it should be a long term commitment.  As stated previously, HR will play an important role in establishing the training programs.

HR also has a major role in the recruitment and selection process of the staff fire protection engineer.  In this process, HR will rely on the AHJs for the development of the job description and specifications.  It is important to realize that since technical expertise in the field of fire protection engineering is highly dependent on the length and type of experience, the AHJs should mainly focus on recruiting experienced registered professional engineers from the design and consulting engineering fields rather than fresh graduates from the academic arena.

The reason for it is, initially the new graduates do not posses the necessary technical experience to be able to have an immediate impact.  The AHJs should be able to rely on the technical expertise of the in-house engineer to resolve their technical problems and provide technical training for the current staff.  Most AHJs do not posses the technical expertise to train a newly graduated engineer.  Being hired by an AHJ to serve as their sole source of technical expertise is not beneficial for the carrier development of the newly graduated engineer either.  In order to obtain their Professional Engineering (P.E.) registration, the new engineers must have four (4) years of work experience under the direct supervision of a registered professional engineer.  Without it, they will not be able to become registered professional engineers.  Therefore investing in a newly graduated engineer as the only source of technical expertise will not benefit the jurisdictions in the long run, since they will not be able to obtain their professional engineering registration.  For the AHJs, having a an experienced registered professional engineer is the most prudent investment. 

Obtaining the services of an experienced fire protection engineer is quite essential for enhancing the technical expertise of the jurisdiction.  However, in this day and age that the technology is developing at an astronomical pace, maintaining their technical expertise is not only essential for the AHJs, but also mandatory for the fire protection engineers.  In all of the states throughout this country, the State Board of Technical Registration for the Professional Engineers requires the professional engineers in all of the engineering fields to maintain their competency.  The Boards require the engineers to attend courses and seminars to acquire the specific number of Professional Development Hours (PDH), and submit the documentation to the board in order to maintain their professional registration.  In Nevada for example, the Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) requirements identified in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS 625.398), mandates a minimum of 30 PDH for the two year period in between the scheduled license renewal dates.

Therefore, the AHJs should support their staff fire protection engineer in maintaining a high level of technical expertise and competency.  Since the majority of the technical training and seminars in the field of fire protection would require out of state travel, the budgetary costs might be considerable.  The reason for identifying all of this detailed information regarding the need for hiring an experienced engineer versus a new graduate, the P.E. registration process, and the PDH training was to clarify the pros and cons and the budgetary impacts to the AHJs.

As stated before, another approach the AHJs could apply is the New Zealander’s approach.  The AHJs could implement a system of peer review, in which the building owner pays a review fee at the time the designs are submitted for approval.  The AHJs then submit the designs to a private sector fire protection engineering firm for a peer review.  With this approach, the liability falls on the private sector fire protection engineer responsible for the peer review and approval of the design.  Removing the burden from the code enforcers and assigning the responsibility and the associated liability to the engineering community, and relaying on their extensive technical expertise for quality control and inspection, presents interesting prospects.  However, since New Zealand’s approach has not been in place for more than just a few months, ranting about it’s success is premature.   The available literature on this subject, as it develops, will need to be further researched and analyzed before forming a conclusive judgment.

All of the approaches discussed above could still be implemented within the limited time remaining before the deadline.  For the AHJs it is essential not only to enhance their technical capabilities but also to bridge the existing communication gap between them and the design professionals.  Developing the technical expertise is an important step toward preparing for the successful implementation of the performance based codes by the year 2000.

As previously stated political pressure is a tremendously important factor that the AHJs must always keep in mind.  The political pressures and the legal liability issues in the public sector arena could also present additional difficulties for the AHJs, in implementing the performance based design concepts.  Prior to the adoption of the performance based codes, the AHJs must seek the approval and the support of the political and administrative leaders in their community.  Defining the “acceptable risk level” in the community is a difficult task, not technically, but politically.  This task could be better addressed by a task force team consisting of the AHJs and the political and administrative leaders, rather than by the AHJs alone.

Political support is essential for the successful implementation of the performance based codes.  It is important for the AHJs, code enforcers, Building Officials, Fire Chiefs, and political and administrative leaders of the jurisdiction, to be familiar with not only what the performance based codes mean, but also the detailed impact it will have in their jurisdiction.  They should all be aware of the human resources and budgetary impacts, and should be prepared to embrace this significant transformation that is scheduled for the turn of the millennium.

 

 


REFERENCES

Armstrong, P., Bowman, D., & Tubbs, B., (1997).  Performance Based Codes - What are they anyway? Building Standards, Vol. LXVI, No.3, Whittier, CA:   International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO).

Babrauskas, V., (1996).  Fire modeling tools for FSE: are they good enough?, Journal of

Fire Protection Engineering, Vol.8, No.2. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineer (SFPE).

Babrauskas, V., (1997).  Editorial reply, Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Vol.8, No.3. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineer (SFPE).

BOCA National Building Code, (1996). Country Club Hills, IL: Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCAI).

BOCA National Fire Prevention Code, (1996). Country Club Hills, IL: Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCAI).

Callahan, T., (1991).  Strategies for Shaping the Future, A Report on the Conference on Fire Safety Design in the 21st Century : Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Worcester, Massachusetts.

Codes Forum, Vol.1, No. 1 (1996). Whittier, CA; Country Club Hills, IL; Birmingham, Al: Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCAI),  International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).

Custer, R., & Meacham, B., (1995). Performance based fire safety engineering: An introduction of basic concepts, Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Vol. 7, No. 2. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineer (SFPE).

Dillon, M., (1996).  Another point of view on the need for a single set of building codes in the United States, Codes Forum, Vol.1, No.1, Whittier, CA; Country Club Hills, IL; Birmingham, Al: Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCAI),  International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).

Koffel, W., (1995).  Recycling existing codes, NFPA Journal, Vol. 89, No.4, Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Law, M., (1997).  Letters to the editor,  Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Vol.8, No.3. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineer (SFPE).

Mathis, R., & Jackson, J., (1994). Human Resources Management, 7th edition. Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco: West Publishing Corporation.

Meacham, B., (1997). Concepts of a performance-based system for the United States: Report of the 1996 activities of the SFPE focus group on concepts of a performance-based system for the United States, January 1997. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineer (SFPE).

Mniszewski, K., (1997).  Editorial reply, Journal of Fire Protection Engineering, Vol.8, No.3. Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineer (SFPE).

  NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, (1992). Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

NFPA 101, Code for Safety to Life from Fire in Buildings and Structures, (1994). Quincy, MA:  National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Richardson, K., 1997.  Performance Based fire Codes - Why we need them? NFPA JOURNAL, Vol. 91, No.1, Quincy, MA:  National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Richardson, K., & Meacham, B., How the Society of Fire Protection Engineers is addressing international issues in fire safety engineering, (Fall 1996). SFPE Bulletin, Boston, MA: Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE).

Seaton, M., 1997.  Performance Based fire Codes - How we make them work? NFPA JOURNAL, Vol. 91, No.1, Quincy, MA:  National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Standard Building Code, (1994). Birmingham, AL: Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).

Standard Fire Prevention Code, (1994). Birmingham, AL: Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).

Supplement to the National Fire Codes, (1996).  Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Uniform Building Code, (1997). Whittier, CA:   International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO).

Uniform Fire Code (1997). Whittier, CA:  International Fire Code Institute (IFCI).

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

APPENDIX - A

WORKING DEFINITIONS


Accepted Methods:   Any method, such as an engineering standard or engineering practice, or engineering tool, such as a computer fire model, that has been widely challenged in a peer review process (literature, conference proceedings, etc.), or has been developed in or received positive evaluations in a consensus process among qualified engineers, educators and researchers, and has been validated in its ability to generate outcomes consistent with those claimed by the developer when used in accordance with the appropriate documentation.  Safety and reliability factors that are included, or are required to be added, should be explicitly stated and based on accepted engineering theory, engineering practice or statistics.

 

Acceptable Solution:            A solution that has been determined to comply with the societal goals, functional objectives and performance requirements of a performance-based code.  These may be specific prescribed/specified solutions, provided in or referenced by the code, or performance-based solutions derived using accepted methods provided in or referenced by the code.  (For example, current code provisions, if determined to comply, may constitute acceptable solutions.)

 

Active Fire and Life Safety Systems:   Fire and life safety systems that require electrical or mechanical power to activate, operate or perform their intended fire detection, suppression or control function.  (Active fire and life safety systems include, but are not necessarily limited to, automatic and manual fire detection, alarm, signaling and communication systems, automatic and manual water- or chemical-based fire suppression and extinguishing systems, electrically or mechanically powered ventilation systems used for smoke management and/or control.)

 

Approved:           Approved as to materials and types of construction refers to approval by the Building Official or the Fire Chief as the result of investigation and tests conducted by the Building Official or the Fire Chief, or by reason of accepted principles or tests by recognized authorities, technical or scientific organizations.  Acceptable to the “Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)”.

 

Authority Having Jurisdiction:      The “Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)” is the organization, office or individual responsible for “approving” equipment, an installation or a procedure.

 

Building Official:         Building Official is the officer or other designated authority charged with the administration and enforcement of the building codes, or the Building Official’s duly authorized representative.

 

Computer Fire Model:          A fire model that has been adapted for use on a computer.

 

Deterministic Evaluation:   An engineering methodology, based on physical relationships derived from scientific theories and empirical results, that for a given set of initial conditions will consistently produce the same outcome within expected tolerances.

 

Engineering Judgment:      The process exercised by a professional who is qualified because of training, experience and recognized skills to complement, supplement, accept or reject elements of a quantitative analysis.

 

Engineering Methodologies:        Engineering analysis and design processes or procedures.  (See also engineering standard and engineering practice document.)

 

Engineering Practice Document:           An engineering document, developed within and accepted by a recognized engineering discipline, that relates specifically to an engineering analysis or design process or procedure related to the expertise of that discipline.

 

Engineering Standard:        A standard, typically written in mandatory language, that relates specifically to an engineering analysis or design process or procedure.

 

Engineering Tools:    Calculation techniques, models and related resources that can be applied to an engineering analysis or design.

 

Fire Chief:           The chief officer of the fire department serving the jurisdiction or the chief officer’s authorized representative.

 

Fire Hazard:      Any thing or act which increases or could cause an increase of the hazard or menace of fire to a greater degree than that customarily recognized as normal by persons in the public service regularly engaged in preventing, suppressing or extinguishing fire or any thing or act which could obstruct, delay, hinder or interfere with the operation of the fire department or the egress of occupants in the event of fire.

 

Fire Model:         A model that is used for predicting one or more effects of well-defined fire.

 

Fire Protection Engineer:   A fire protection engineer, by education, training and experience: (1) is familiar with the nature and characteristics of fire and the associated products of combustion; (2) understands how fires originate, spread within and outside of buildings/structure, and can be detected, controlled, and/or extinguished; and (3) is able to anticipate the behavior of materials, structures, machines, apparatus and processes as related to the protection of life and property from fire; (4) is able to use appropriate quantitative fire protection engineering tools and methodologies with an understanding of the techniques utilized with respect to assumptions, limitations and uncertainties; and (5) is aware of fire safety management requirements, including the role of fire prevention and the risks to building fire safety associated with construction, installation, operation and maintenance.

 

Fire Protection Engineering:        The application of science and engineering principles to protect people and their environment from destructive fire.  It includes analysis of fire hazards and risks; mitigation of fire damage by proper design, construction, arrangement, and use of buildings, materials, structures, industrial processes and transportation systems; the design, installation, and maintenance of active and passive fire and life safety systems; and post-fire investigation and analysis.

 

Fire Safety Goal:         A societal goal related to the level of fire safety expected in a building.

 

Fire Scenario:   A set of parameters, circumstances and conditions that defines the initiation, development and spread of fire and fire effluents (combustion products) within a compartment, in many compartments or throughout a building, based on such factors as ignition sources, type, loading and configuration of fuel, compartment characteristics (e.g., enclosure volume, construction, contents and opening), active and passive fire and life safety systems, use of the compartment, building or structure, occupant characteristics, loading and location, and environmental conditions (e.g., seasonal characteristics, time of day, day of week.)

 

Functional Objective:           A statement of how a building or its systems function to meet a societal goal for the building.

 

Hazard:    An event that in a particular set of circumstances has the potential to give rise to unwanted consequences.

 

Jurisdiction:       Any state, county, city or town , or district or other political subdivision which adopts the building and fire codes for administrative regulations within its sphere of authority.

 

Listed:                 Equipment or material included on a list published by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, inspection agency or other organization concerned with product evaluation that maintains periodic inspection of production of labeled equipment or materials, and whose listing states that equipment or materials meet nationally recognized standards and have been tested and found suitable for use in a specified manner.

 

Model:                 A structured approach to analyzing a problem, typically using a physical representation or mathematical relationship to represent or predict an outcome based on a set of definable input variables.

 

Objective-Based:        Being described in terms of an objective or intent to be achieved through the use of a material, product, component or system.

 

Occupancy:       The purpose for which a building, or part thereof, is used or intended to be used.

 

Passive Fire and Life Safety Systems:           Fire and life safety systems that do not require electrical or mechanical power to activate, operate or perform their intended fire detection, suppression or control function.  (Passive fire and life safety systems include, but are not necessarily limited to, fire resistive construction of structural support systems (e.g., load bearing members) and barriers (e.g., fire and smoke walls and partitions), containment and drainage systems, and opening protection devices.)

 

Performance-Based:            Being described in terms of the measurable performance of a material, product, component or system.

 

Performance-Based Code:           A document that expresses requirements for a building or building system, in terms of societal goals, functional objectives and performance requirements, without specifying a single means for complying with the requirements.  Acceptable solutions and accepted methods for demonstrating compliance with code requirements shall be referenced by the code.  (This definition also applies to objective-based code.)

 

Performance-Based Fire Safety Design:       An engineering approach to fire protection design based on  (1) agreed upon fire safety goals and objectives, (2) deterministic and probabilistic evaluation of fire scenarios, and (3) a quantitative assessment of design alternatives against the fire safety goals and objectives using accepted engineering tools, methodologies and performance criteria.

 

Performance-Based System:       A regulatory framework for the built environment that consists of (1) performance- or objective-based codes, (2) performance-, objective- and prescriptive based engineering practices (standards), and (3) engineering tools and methodologies.  The use of the word performance implies that the performance of materials and systems can be verified under the expected conditions.  The use of the word objective implies that the expressed intent (objective) of materials and systems can be shown to be met under the expected conditions.  (See also performance requirements and functional objectives.)

 

Performance Criteria:           The metrics against which building materials, assemblies, systems, components, design factors and construction methods will be evaluated on their ability to meet specific performance requirements.  (These criteria may be provided in the code, engineering standards or practices, or other accepted methods and references, and may be stated in terms of absolute values (threshold values) or ranges of values (e.g., between x and y, within one standard deviation of the mean, in the 95th percentile, etc.)  Several performance criteria may be applied to any single design problem.  Performance criteria may be situation dependent.  A performance criterion should be a metric, but not the measurement tool.)

 

Performance Requirement:          A statement of the level of performance that must be met by building materials, assemblies, systems, components, design factors and construction method in order for a building to meet the societal goals and functional objectives.  (This statement should provide the basis for evaluating how the building design and features will meet the societal goals and the functional objectives.)

 

Permit:      An official document or certificate issued by the Building Official authorizing performance of a specified activity.

 

Prescriptive-(Specification) Based:      Being prescribed or specified in terms of dimensions, materials or operation.

 

Probabilistic Evaluation:    An evaluation based on a series of sequential events or states wherein mathematical rules govern the transition from one event to another and probabilities are assigned to each transfer point based on analysis of relevant experimental data, statistical data and deterministic evaluation.

 

Reliability Factor:       An adjustment made to reflect uncertainty in the reliability of a material, component or system to perform its intended function at the time it is require.

 

Risk:          The potential for realization of an unwanted event, which is a function of the hazard, its probability and its consequences.

 

Safety Factor:   An adjustment made to reflect uncertainty in the assumptions made, the tools and methods used, and the limiting value of a parameter or item being measured.  (It should be noted that safety factors may be present in many components of an analysis or design.  Careful attention should be given to both the lack of safety factors and the possibility that multiple safety factors are present.)

 

Societal Goal:  Broad statement that reflect society’s expectation of the level of health, safety or amenity provided in a building.  These statements, although generally qualitative, should be stated in such a manner that compliance with the goal can be evaluated using accepted methods.  (This is the statement in the code that reflects what we expect from the building.)

 

Standard:            A consensus document that provides a set of rules, conditions, or requirements concerned with: definition of terms; classification of components; delineation of procedures; specification of dimensions, materials, performance, design or operations; description of fit or measurement of size; or measurement of quality and quantity in describing materials, products, systems, services or practices.  (These may be written in mandatory or non-mandatory language.)

 

Validated:           Has been demonstrated (proven) to meet the stated objective or intent through the use of accepted methods.

 

Verified:   Has been demonstrated (proven) to meet the stated objective or intent through the use of accepted methods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Working Definition Appendix was developed based on extensive utilization of the report titled  “Concepts of a Performance-Based System for the United States” by Brian J. Meacham, P.E.


 

 

 

 

APPENDIX - B

EQUIVALANCY SECTIONS


The “alternate materials and methods”, or the “equivalency” sections from the most recent edition of the Uniform Building Code (UBC), Standard Building Code (SBC), National Building Code (NBC), Uniform Fire Code (UFC), Standard Fire Prevention Code (SFPC), National Fire Prevention Code (NFPC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards have been compiled in this appendix.

 

·        Section 104.2.8 of Uniform Building Code (UBC), 1997 edition.

·        Section 103.7 of Standard Building Code (SBC), 1994 edition.

·        Section 106.4 of National Building Code (NBC), 1996 edition.

·        Section 103.1.2 of Uniform Fire Code (UFC), 1997 edition.

·        Section 102.6 of Standard Fire Prevention Code (SFPC), 1994 edition.

·        Sections F-104.4, 104.4.1, 104.4.2 of National Fire Prevention Code (NFPC), 1996 edition.

·        Section 2-2 of National Fire Code (NFC), 1996 edition.

·        Sections1-6.1 & 1-6.3 & 1-6.4 of NFPA - 1, 1992 edition.

·        Sections 1-5.1 & 1-5.2 & 1-5.3 of NFPA - 101, 1994 edition.


 

Uniform Building Code (UBC), developed by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO),  the dominant building code west of the Mississippi, states:

            The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the use of any material, alternate design or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided any alternate has been approved and its use authorized by the building official.

            The building official may approve any such alternate, provided the building official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the provisions of this code and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in suitability, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability, safety and sanitation.

            The building official shall require that sufficient evidence or proof be submitted to substantiate any claims that may be made regarding its use.  The details of any action granting approval of an alternate shall be recorded and entered in the files of the code enforcement agency (UBC, 1997, section 104.2.8,  p.1-2).

Standard Building Code (SBC), developed by the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI),  the dominant building code in the southern portion of the country, states:

The provisions of the technical codes are not intended to prevent the use of any material or method of construction not specifically prescribed by them, provided that any such alternative has been reviewed by the building official.  The building official shall approve any such  alternate, provided the building official finds that the alternate for the purpose intended is at least the equivalent of that prescribed in the technical codes, in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability, and safety.  The building official shall require that sufficient evidence or proof be submitted to substantiate any claim made regarding the alternate (SBC, 1994, section 103.7, p.6).

National Building Code (NBC), developed by the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA),  the dominant building code in the northern portion of the country, states:

The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or method or to prohibit any method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that any such alternative has been approved.  An alternative material or method of construction shall be approved when the code official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability, and safety.  Code official shall accept the report of such inspection from an approved licensed professional engineer or architect.  Such inspection and report shall specify any violation of the requirements of this code in respect to the posting of floor load, occupant load and use group of the building (NBC, 1996, section 106.4, p.2-3).


Uniform Fire Code (UFC), developed by the International Fire Code Institute (IFCI),  the dominant fire prevention code west of the Mississippi, states:

            The chief is authorized to approve alternate materials or methods provided that the chief finds that the proposed design, use or operation satisfactorily complies with the intent of this code and that the method of work performed or operation is, for the purpose intended, at least equivalent to that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety.  Approvals under the authority herein contained shall be subject to the approval of the building official whenever the alternate material or method involves matters regulated by the Building Code (UFC, 1997, section 103.1.2, p.1-1).

Standard Fire Prevention Code (SFPC), developed by the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI),  the dominant fire prevention code in the southern portion of the country, states:

The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the use of any material or method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided any alternate has been approved by the fire official.  The fire official shall approve any such alternate, provided he finds that the alternate for the propose intended is at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, fire resistance, durability and safety.    The fire official shall require that sufficient evidence or proof be submitted to substantiate any claim made regarding the alternate (SFPC, 1994, section 102.6,  p.3).

National Fire Prevention Code (NBC), developed by the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA),  the dominant fire prevention code in the northern portion of the country, states:

The provisions of this code are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or prohibit any method of construction not specifically prescribed by this code, provided that such alternate has been approved.  An alternative material or method of construction shall be approved when the code official finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this code, and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended is at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this code in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety (NFPC, 1996, section F-104.4,  p.3).

Sufficient technical data shall be submitted to substantiate the proposed installation of any material or assembly.  If it is determined that the evidence submitted is satisfactory proof of performance for the proposed installation, the code official shall approve such alternative subject to the requirements of this code.  The cost of all tests, reports and investigations required under these provisions shall be paid by the applicant (NFPC, 1996, section F-104.4.1,  p.3-4).

  Supporting data, where necessary to assist in the approval of all materials or assemblies not specifically provided for in this code, shall consist of valid research reports from approved sources (NFPC, 1996, section F-104.4.2,  p.4).

In the National Fire Codes (NFC), developed by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the official definition for the term “Approved” is stated as acceptable to the “Authority Having Jurisdiction”, with the following explanatory note:

            The National Fire Protection Association does not approve, inspect or certify any installation, procedures, equipment or materials; nor does it approve or evaluate testing laboratories.  In determining the acceptability of installations or procedures, equipment or materials, the Authority Having Jurisdiction may base acceptance on compliance with NFPA or other appropriate standards.  In the absence of such standards, said authority may require evidence of proper installation, procedure or use.  The Authority Having Jurisdiction may also refer to the listings or labeling practices of an organization concerned with product evaluations which is in a position to determine compliance with appropriate standards for the current production of listed items (National Fire Codes Supplement 1, 1996, section 2-2 , p.iv).

NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code is NFPA’s version of a national building code similar to the UBC, SBC and the NBC, developed by the other regional code developing agencies.   NFPA 1, the Fire Prevention Code is NFPA’s version of a national fire code similar to the fire codes, developed by the other regional code developing agencies.  Based on the agreements achieved between the three major code developing agencies and NFPA, by the year 2000, NFPA 1 and the other three fire codes will all be incorporated into a single prescriptive code, the International Fire Code (IFC).  Currently, both NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 have identical statements:

            Nothing in this code is intended to prevent the use of systems, methods, or devices of equivalent or superior quality, strength, fire resistance, effectiveness, durability, and safety as alternatives to those prescribed by this code, provided technical documentation is submitted to the authority having jurisdiction to demonstrate equivalency, and the system, method, or device is approved for the intended purpose (NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, 1992, section 1-6.1, p.5, & NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 1994, section 1-5.1, p.2).

            The specific requirements of this code may be modified by the authority having jurisdiction to allow alternative arrangements that will secure as nearly equivalent safety to life from fire as practical, but in no case shall the modification afford less safety to life than that which, in the judgment of the authority having jurisdiction, would be provided by compliance with the corresponding provisions contained in this code (NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, 1992, section 1-6.3, p.6, & NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 1994, section 1-5.2, p.2).

            Each application for an alternative fire protection feature shall be filed with the authority having jurisdiction and shall be accompanied by such evidence, letters, statements, results of tests, or other supporting information as may be required to justify the request.  The authority having jurisdiction shall keep a record of actions on such applications, and a signed copy of the authority having jurisdiction’s decision shall be provided for the application (NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, 1992, section 1-6.4, p.6).

 

 

 “Buildings with alternative fire protection features accepted by the authority having jurisdiction shall be considered as conforming with the code” (NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, 1992, section 1-6.3, p.6, & NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 1994, section 1-5.3, p.2).

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX - C

LIABILITY SECTIONS

 
The “relief from personal responsibility”, or the “liability” sections from the most recent edition of the Uniform Building Code (UBC), Standard Building Code (SBC), National Building Code (NBC), Uniform Fire Code (UFC), Standard Fire Prevention Code (SFPC), National Fire Prevention Code (NFPC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards have been compiled in this appendix.

 

·        Section 104.2.6 of Uniform Building Code (UBC), 1997 edition.

·        Section 102.5 of Standard Building Code (SBC), 1994 edition.

·        Section 104.6 of National Building Code (NBC), 1996 edition.

·        Section 101.5 of Uniform Fire Code (UFC), 1997 edition.

·        Sections 101.2.2 & A101.4.6  of Standard Fire Prevention Code (SFPC), 1994 edition.

·        Sections F-105.6 & F-1 of National Fire Prevention Code (NFPC), 1996 edition.
      The building official charged with the enforcement of this code, acting in good faith and without malice in the discharge of the duties required by this code or other pertinent law or ordinance shall not thereby be rendered personally liable for damages that may accrue to persons or property as a result of an act or by reason of an act or omission in discharge of such duties.  A suit brought against the building official or employee because of such act or omission performed by the building official or employee in the enforcement of any provisions of such codes or other pertinent laws or ordinances implemented through the enforcement of this code or enforced by the code enforcement agency shall be defended by this jurisdiction until final termination of such proceedings, and any judgment resulting therefrom shall be assumed by this jurisdiction. 

This code shall not be construed to relieve from or lessen the responsibility of any person owning, operating or controlling any building or structure for any damages to persons or property caused by defects, nor shall the code enforcement agency or its parent jurisdiction be held as assuming any such liability by reason of the inspections authorized by this code or any permits or certificates issued under this code (UBC, 1997, section 104.2.6,  p.1-2).

Any officer or employee, or member of the Board of Adjustments and appeals, charged with the enforcement of this code, acting for the applicable governing authority in the discharge of his duties, shall not thereby render himself personally liable, and is hereby relieved from all personal liability, for any damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in discharge of his duties.  Any suit brought against any officer or employee or member because of such act performed by him in the enforcement of any provision of this code shall be defended by the department of law until the final termination of the proceedings (SBC, 1994, section 102.5,  p.4).

The code official, officer or employee charged with the enforcement of this code, while acting for the jurisdiction, shall not thereby be rendered liable personally, and is hereby relieved from all personal liability for any damage accruing to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of official duties.  Any suit instituted against an officer or employee because of an act performed by the officer or employee in the lawful discharge of duties, and under the provisions of this code shall be defended by the legal representatives of the jurisdiction until the final termination of the proceedings.  The code official or any subordinate shall not be liable for costs in any action, suit or proceeding that is instituted in pursuance of the provisions of this code; and any officer of the department of building inspection, acting in good faith and without malice, shall be free from liability for acts performed under any of its provisions or by reason of any act or omission in the performance of official duties in connection therewith (NBC, 1996, section 104.6,  p.2).

The chief and other individuals charged by the chief with the control or extinguishment of any fire, the enforcement of this code or any other official duties, acting in good faith and without any malice in the discharge of their duties, shall not thereby be rendered personally liable for any damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act or by reason of any act or omission in discharge of their duties.  Any suit brought against the chief or such individuals because of such act or omission performed in the enforcement of any provisions of such codes or other pertinent laws or ordinances implemented through the enforcement of this code or enforced by the code enforcement agency shall be defended by this jurisdiction until termination of such proceedings, and any judgment resulting therefrom shall be assumed by this jurisdiction.         

This code shall not be construed to relieve from or lessen the responsibility of any person owning, operating or controlling any building or structure for any damages to persons or property caused by defects, nor shall the code enforcement agency or its parent jurisdiction be held as assuming any such liability by reason of the inspections authorized by this code or any permits or certificates issued under this code (UFC, 1997, section 101.5,  p.1-1).

Any officer or employee, or member of the Board of Adjustments and appeals, charged with the enforcement of this code, acting for the applicable governing body in the discharge of his duties, shall not thereby render himself personally liable, and is hereby relieved from all personal liability, for any damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in discharge of his duties.  Any suit brought against any officer or employee or member because of such act performed by him in the enforcement of any provision of this code shall be defended by the Department of Law until the final termination of the proceedings (SFPC, 1994, section A101.4.6,  p.390).

The inspection or permitting of any building or plan by any jurisdiction under the requirement of this code shall not be considered in any court as a warranty of the physical condition of such plan.  No jurisdiction nor any employee thereof shall be liable in tort for damages for any defect or hazard or illegal condition or inadequacy in such building or plan, nor for any failure of any component of such building, which may occur subsequent to such inspection or permitting (SFPC, 1994, section 101.2.2, p.1).

The code official, officer or employee charged with the enforcement of this code, while acting for the jurisdiction, shall not thereby be rendered liable personally, and is hereby relieved from all personal liability for any damage accruing to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of official duties.  Any suit instituted against an officer or employee because of an act performed by the officer or employee in the lawful discharge of duties, and under the provisions of this code shall be defended by the legal representatives of the jurisdiction until the final termination of the proceedings.  The code official or any subordinate shall not be liable for costs in any action, suit or proceeding that is instituted in pursuance of the provisions of this code; and any officer of the department of building inspection, acting in good faith and without malice, shall be free from liability for acts performed under any of its provisions or by reason of any act or omission in the performance of official duties in connection therewith (NFPC, 1996, section F105.6,  p.4).

The jurisdiction shall not be liable under this code for any damage to persons or property, by reason of the inspection or reinspection of structures or equipment authorized herein, or failure to inspect or reinspect such structures or equipment or by reason of the approval or disapproval of any structure or equipment authorized herein (NFPC, 1996, section F105.7, p.4).