Jacqueline Wilmot: New NFPA tool helps engineers seek out latest codes
It can be daunting to stay current on the codes being enforced in a given county, state or region.
Whether you are an engineer, designer, contractor, building owner or insurance provider, determining which codes and standards are referenced and applied in a specific jurisdiction is critical toward ensuring and maintaining life safety. Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules and/or may follow different codes and standards. Even if two locations reference the same codes and standards, the applicable edition years may differ and include varying requirements.
For anyone who has ever wondered whether there was one place you could go to find which codes and standards (and editions) are in use in a particular area, the National Fire Protection Association has created a new desktop resource that can help. CodeFinder, which launched in June, was developed to help engineers and others identify the codes, standards, and reference standards in effect in different towns, cities, counties and states throughout the U.S. and around the world.
The new web-based interactive tool is not limited to NFPA codes and standards. CodeFinder includes information on NFPA codes and standards referenced within other codes, including IAPMO and ICC. More specifically, it identifies codes and standards being used in U.S. cities with a 250,000 population size and greater, as well as counties with more than 1 million in population size. Internationally, the CodeFinder provides information for provinces and territories in Canada, as well as data for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and several countries in Central and South America.
Users can select any location on the map to view active codes or use the search bar to locate a specific code, standard, key term or abbreviation such as “NEC” for the National Electrical Code. It is important to note the map reflects only the most up-to-date edition of a particular code or standard incorporated by any authority having jurisdiction in the state or country — but not necessarily the edition of the code or standard that controls the entire jurisdiction. For example, if one city in a state has incorporated the most recent edition of an NFPA standard, the color-coding for that state will reflect this more recent edition, even if it has not been incorporated statewide.
In the era of crowdsourcing, CodeFinder also encourages AHJs and professionals in the built environment to submit local code, standard and amendment information to make the content as robust and relevant as possible. NFPA cannot require jurisdictions to report their use of/amendment of NFPA codes and standards, but with enforcement officials and designers proactively adding local documents via CodeFinder’s “Share Your Knowledge” button, engineers and others will have access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
Remembering the context in which codes or standards are referenced when using CodeFinder is essential. For example, a state’s building code might reference NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, but the user cannot assume all new buildings in the state need to install sprinkler systems in accordance with NFPA 13. The context of which NFPA 13 is referenced in this scenario might only require sprinkler systems to be installed in accordance with NFPA 13 for new light-hazard occupancies two stories or greater.
Being able to easily identify the codes and standards enforced in an area where there is an upcoming project not only saves time and effort for designers, but also helps AHJs who often have to review and revisit plans that have been designed to inaccurate or outdated codes and standards. CodeFinder ensures all parties involved in a project are on the same page throughout construction and the lifecycle of a facility. Additionally, CodeFinder can be used by franchise or chain-building owners, architects and engineers before construction even begins to ensure facility design elements are code-compliant across the globe.
NFPA is encouraging the building community to ask code enforcers to populate CodeFinder with applicable codes, standards and reference documents so building plans can be accurate and approved in a timely manner.
The organization also is asking AHJs to inform engineers about CodeFinder so building designs are complete and compliant, and less likely to end up back in the approval process funnel again.