This past fall saw a number of revisions, additions and clarifications to the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code that apply directly to fire safety and will take effect March 2, 2020. These revisions to the code are being added in an effort to improve fire safety for educational facilities, colleges and universities, residential buildings that have a shared attic, and others.

Fire Safety Code:  Colleges and Universities

A new condition was added to Section 903.2.3 of the New Jersey version of the International Building Code regarding sprinkler systems in education facilities. The new condition will require the installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system in educational occupations that have an occupancy of 300 or more persons. In addition, section 917.1 was added to the NJ version of the International Building Code for college and university campuses. This new section requires colleges and universities to conduct a mass notification risk analysis prior to construction of any new buildings that require a fire alarm system and will have 1000 or more occupants. If the risk analysis finds a need for a method of mass notification, an approved mass notification system must be provided in accordance with the analysis findings. While this new condition of the code is applicable to all new construction, it is particularly applicable to dormitories.

Since most colleges and universities in New Jersey already have mass notification systems as part of their fire safety planning, this new section of the New Jersey version of the International Building Code should be of little concern when new construction takes place.

Fire Safety Code: Construction Sites

Chapter 33, Safeguards During Construction, is also adding a new section to the New Jersey version of the International Building Code addressing fire safety. This new section gives Fire Officials the authority to require a fire watch during non-working hours when construction of combustible Type III, IV, and V structures over forty feet in height is taking place. This addition to the code was added to make sure there is a way to identify, monitor and control fire hazards when workers are not on the construction site during off-hours. The current code requires construction contractors to provide a person to act as a “Fire Warden” on the construction site at all times.

Fire Safety Code: Shared Attic Space

To limit or control fire spread in common cockloft and shared attic spaces associated with single family residences (row houses or townhouses) or large multifamily residences including hotels and motels, apartment/condominium buildings, fraternities and sororities, etc. the New Jersey version of the International Building Code added three new elements to provide additional fire protection.

Beginning in March 2020, attics in all new multi-occupancy residences with rooflines fifty-five feet or more from ground level will be required to have one of the following four methods to limit fire spread and improve fire safety.

  1. an automatic sprinkler system
  2. construct the attic/common space using non-combustible materials
  3. construct the common space with fire retardant wood, or
  4. fill the space with non-combustible insulation.

When a heating system or other fuel fired equipment is installed in an attic or common cockloft space, there must be an automatic fire sprinkler system with at least one head installed above the equipment. In addition, whenever an attic is being used as living space or for storage, it too must be protected by a sprinkler system.

While these additions to the code may seem trivial, they are all part of improving fire safety for everyone.