2021 IRC, IFC and IEBC Changes – Results of the 2019 I-Code Cycle B Development

The Online Governmental Consensus Vote (OGCV) is an important part of the ICC code development process. It is the last step in developing the 2021 I-Codes, more specifically the IRC, IFC, IEBC and Energy codes. This step ratifies and completes the 2021 editions of the I-Codes and are expected to be published in the fall of 2020. The voting occurred November 18 through December 5, 2019. NFSA members who were validated ICC governmental member representatives (code officials, fire marshals, building inspectors, etc.) were able to vote during this period on the ICC’s cdpACCESS website. The next code development cycle will begin in January 2021 and the NFSA strongly encourages you to get involved by voting, submitting code changes proposals, or serving on code development committees.

There were several notable code developments that affected the fire sprinkler industry. Below, is an abbreviated list of the code change proposals that the NFSA submitted as well as code change proposals of others that the NFSA was tracking, that are specific to the concerns of the fire sprinkler industry.

ADM5 – IRC: Defining a townhouse

The IRC currently contains the terms “townhouse” and “townhouse unit, but only “townhouse” is defined. The new definition will clarify the term “townhouse” as applying to structures that contain three or more dwelling units and “townhouse unit” as applying to a single-family dwelling unit in a “townhouse.” This is consistent with how the IRC uses the term “dwelling” to reference a building with one or two dwelling units

ADM 25 – IFC: High-piled storage permits

The IFC, in Cycle A (F311-16) revised two permit types, attempting to clarify that the 500 square feet referenced in each permit is the size of the high-piled storage area, not the size of the building. This code change adds further clarification as this is an item that is often misinterpreted. Section 105.7.14 is revised to clarify that it is not the structure that must exceed 500 square feet, but rather the high-piled combustible storage area.

EB83 – IEBC: Level 2 and 3 alterations

This code change backfills Section 803.2.4 to Chapter 8 of the IEBC to fill the void that was unintendedly created in the 2018 cycle (EB61-15). Without this change, other areas that require fire protection in the IBC will be missed in Level 2 Alterations. The two new 904 sections (904.1.4 and 904.1.5) for Level 3 alterations correlate with the new threshold of having water available at the site to trigger fire sprinklers in Level 3 alterations created by (Proposal EB61-15) 2018 IEBC. The changes to Section 904 fills a void for increased fire protection for Level 3 alterations.

RB60 – IRC: Townhouse structural independence

This code change provides an additional exception for structural independence requirements of townhouses in the IRC, if townhouses are protected by a fire sprinkler system complying with Section P2904 or NFPA 13D. This is a needed clarification to the IRC that encourages the use of fire sprinkler systems in townhouses in jurisdictions where fire sprinklers systems are not required.

RB64 – IRC: Duplex separation wall reduction

This code changes the current exception to Section R302.3. The current exception will likely never be used due to the cost of installing a full NFPA 13 system in a duplex will far outweigh savings associated with reducing the separation wall rating from one-hour to 30 minutes.

RB67 – IRC: Penetration exception in the IRC

This change allows for listed fire sprinkler piping in wet systems to penetrate fire-resistance-rated wall or floor assemblies in townhouses with additional annular space protection. . Common walls will be permitted to contain water filled sprinkler piping. This option provides for improved sprinkler designs for townhouses by allowing sidewall sprinklers to be deployed from common walls, which unlike exterior walls, are not exposed to freezing exterior conditions.

RB152 – IRC: Habitable attics

This proposal requires that habitable attics to be considered a sprinklered story above grade plane. The current allowance for a “habitable attic” in the IRC creates an inconsistency within the I-Codes. By allowing the creation of a habitable attic, but not considering it an additional story, is allowing a structure that potentially creates unmitigated life safety hazards especially in some states that prohibit residential fire sprinklers.