New Jersey legislation circumvents building, fire officials

Nov 30, 2017

LEESBURG, VA. – American Wood Council (AWC) Northeast Regional Manager Matt Hunter, BCO, submitted a letter in opposition of New Jersey Assembly bill A-96. The bill would amend the state construction code to limit heights and areas of wood-frame construction in large residential multi-family construction.

An excerpt is below and the full written testimony is available here.

“…The proposition to reduce certain building heights and areas has been brought up time and time again and repeatedly fails because the code already addresses the issue of combustible construction through equivalent performance. Despite claims by competing materials, the long-established code development process works very well to ensure that state-of-the-art building code provisions are regularly adopted.

“…shortcomings in the level of building protection associated with NFPA 13R systems have been identified and were recently amended in the 2018 International Building Code (IBC), changing how attics and other concealed spaces will be protected. Similarly, patios, decks, and balconies in multi-family housing will also now require sprinklers to protect against fire hazards associated with these specific threats originating from exterior sources. Accordingly, with regards to monitoring sprinkler systems and alarm conditions, AWC fully supports your proposed language in Bill A-96.

“…AWC urges that legislators recognize that the best building codes do not result from legislation, but rather from a process that employs the best expertise of building and fire officials, along with the building design community. [The International Code Council] provides that very process, ensuring that all code provisions are approved by these very experts employed by governmental agencies. While groups like ours participate in the process, the system only permits those tasked with enforcing the code, such as New Jersey’s building and fire officials, with approving those provisions. And despite entreaties to change the code as A-96 suggests, these experts have long recognized…that while fires in multi-story buildings make great headlines and news clips, their number is very small.”