Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Nov 10 2010


Category: FDAILori @ 1:39 am Comments (5)

I spent most of today traveling to Connecticut to do a Code Jeopardy presentation for 31 building inspectors there.  I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy when I said that we were going to play a game, but they enjoyed it and learned something, and I was able to keep them awake even though they had just eaten a big slab of meatloaf.  If you want to learn about codes in a fun an interactive way, let me know and I’ll try to arrange Code Jeopardy for your group.

One of the highlights of the day was when we drove past the Lock Museum of America in Terryville, Connecticut.  I can’t believe I have NEVER been there!  Unfortunately the museum is closed for the winter, but I’m going to make it a priority next spring and I’ll share some photos of their collection here (with their permission, of course).

Anyway, it was a long day and I’m beat.  So I’m going to cheat and post something that I’d like your input on.  This comment was left by an architect on my FDAI resources page recently:

“Lori – I love your blog and have encouraged others in our firm to read it! Please keep up the great work!

FYI – Regarding Fire Door Inspections, regardless of the benefits of it, it is important to note that mere reference to NFPA 80 does not make inspections a REQUIREMENT (this seems inferred at the top of the IR FAQ document). I have verified in writing with ICC that while IBC 2009 references NFPA 80 it does not require fire door inspections (it only references NFPA 80 for “installation”, not “maintenance”. Meanwhile IFC 2009 does require the inspections.

Some of our clients are squeemish about the possible costs and paperwork of fire door inspections. So knowing that it is not a requirement has been a relief to them.”

Tell me what you think and I’ll chime in tomorrow after I’ve gotten my 5 hours of sleep.  :-\

By the way…there’s a scary but interesting discussion here about FDAI.  Check it out.

UPDATE:  I had posted a discussion related to this post on LinkedIn, and I asked the LinkedIn commenters if I could include their input on this blog post (see comments).  There’s a wealth of information there from some industry experts (thanks!).  The bottom line (IMO) is that ensuring that fire and egress doors are installed correctly is worth the nominal cost of having the initial inspection done.  Including this inspection as part of the specification requirements will reduce the cost of the inspection because it will be competitively bid, and the door assemblies will be installed correctly or corrected at no cost to the owner.  Compared to the cost of correcting the deficiencies at a later date when the inspection requirement is enforced, the price of an initial inspection during the warranty period is a bargain.

Here’s a link to some recommended FDAI language that could be included into a specification.

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5 Responses to “FDAI”

  1. Keith Pardoe says:

    [From Lori – I copied this from a discussion on LinkedIn with Keith’s permission.]

    Technically, your architect is correct. However, there are a few pionts that all architects need to bear in mind regarding inspecting fire door assemblies in new construction projects. First, poor installation is the single most problematic issue that affect fire door assemblies on new projects. Second, the majority of project specifications are not well written and consequently affect the supply and installation of fire door assemblies.

    We have enough experience with the inspection of fire door assemblies to know that the majority of fire door assemblies are NOT being installed properly. Even though the Building Code (pick any generation of any building code) requires fire doors to be installed with NFPA 80 (1992, 1995, 1999, 2007, etc.) the architects cannot rely solely on the contractor’s ability to properly install them.

    In the 2007 and 2010 editions of NFPA 80 section 4.9 Testing requires new fire door assemblies to be tested immediately after installation and a written record of the testing is to be maintained on site. (The unfortunate wording of 4.9 focuses the testing on the closing mechanismm, which is only one element that needs to be verified.)

    In the 1999 edition of NFPA 80 section 1-10 contained similar requirements for the immediate testing of all fire door assemblies, without the limitation of testing the closing device. However, the 1999 editon did not require a written report to be maintained on site. Similarly, the 1995 edition of NFPA 80 had the same requirements under 1-9.

    Regardless of the edition of NFPA 80 that might be in play in a jurisdiction, NFPA 80’s overarching premise is that fire door assemblies are installed properly. As I pointed out earlier, we have sufficient experience to know that the majority of swinging fire doors with buidlers hardware are not being properly installed.

    In September, at the DHI Convention and Trade Show, I gave a presentation to the Chicago CSI Chapter on the inspection of fire door assemblies. The title of the presentation was simply. “Fire Rated Door Assembleis: Getting What You Specified.” The major points that I stressed in the presentation were that ALL types assemblies are not being properly and that the owners are not getting what they are paying for on their new projects.

    I showed them that by writing inspection requirements into their project specifications they can enforce compliance with NFPA 80 for the installation of fire door assemblies – regardless of whether the local building code or AHJ’s office is currently enforcing NFPA 80’s inspection requirements. Understanding that there might be a nominal charge for the actual inspection (if it it is performed by a third-party inspector) of the door assemblies, the inspections could increase the cost of the overall project. On the other hand, however, I asked them to consider the additional costs their clients would incur when they needed correct installation (and other deficiencies) when NFPA 80’s inspections are enforced — as they surely will be at some point in time.

    Approaching this issue from the perspective that of the building owners, they are expecting that all of the fire door assemblies in their newly constructed properties are in compliance with the applicable building, fire, and life-safety codes. Imagine the conversations that will ensue once the owners are made aware of non-compliance issues that should have been handled by the architectural firms…

    One other aspect of this issue is that the individuals charged with enforcing building, fire, and life-safety codes typically do not have the requisite expertise to be able to fully assess the installation of fire door assemblies on new projects. Architects and Building Owners rely on the AHJ’s ability to accurately enforce the codes, which is a problem.

  2. Mark Lineberger says:

    [From Lori – Copied from LinkedIn with Mark’s permission.]

    I think there is a timing element that is being missed with the architect’s comment. Keith’s point regarding the “getting what was paid for” concept, I feel, is spot on. By dismissing any inspection as not being a viable tool to protect their client perpetuates what we all see in the field with the impossibly poor installation practices – for all openings – leading up to CO issuance. A properly written – and enforced – specification would cost the client nothing additional. One could argue that a fire door inspection would result in additional cost to the owner. However, based on our collective experiences, we know that problems identified and corrected prior to occupancy cost the owner far less. The responsibility for performance falls back on the GC – where it should be.

    Following the CO issuance, IFC is in effect. Say 5 years after occupancy they have an inspection and a fire/egress door assembly inspection is required. Typical GC warranty is 1-year. Corrective action costs are now borne completely by the owner, unless they decide to get lawyers involved (which will still cost $$). I know that corrective action costs to the owner for a building inspected at the time of installation are significantly less than one that was not. I’ve been directly involved in both of these situations.

    While his documented comments from ICC may be correct, I think the cost-saving assumption is off target due to when the IFC – and therefore required inspections – is enforceable.

    I am assuming, as do most of us, that the owner does in fact care that they are “getting what they paid for” when it comes to doors in their buildings.. It is an assumption I am questioning more frequently.

  3. Mark L says:

    Read the “scary discussion” link. It was actually disheartening to see the number of different people posting comments that were uninformed and just plain wrong (among a litany of key missing points). The positive part is that there is specific discussion of fire doors and inspection. It does highlight the fact that more effort needs to go into FDAI awareness to create a better understanding of what the real deal is instead of rumor and supposition. Thanks for posting that link. Made me think more about what needs to happen with some of our industry efforts.

  4. Ian Childs says:

    [From Lori – Copied from LinkedIn with Ian’s permission.]

    Surely there is a requirement to maintain these installed doors and check their operation by someone? We’ve probably all experienced nightmare post installation hardware additions on doors being assessed.

    From a due-diligence perspective, any owner that didn’t periodically (min. annually) check the operation of such doors may find it hard to answer the coroner or regulator and the penalties for such non-conformance identified by a regulator may be significant.

    Here in Oz – whenever fire doors are installed as an essential services measure to AS/NZS1905.1, the maintenance standard for passive systems, AS1851.17 calls for monthly routines to annual routines. As the monthly routines are reasonably straightforward these checks are done by individuals with minimum training such as: security guards in commercial, industrial & retail or building managers, owners corporation nominees, etc. then the building owner’s nominee must promptly ensure remediation of any deficiencies prior to the next service – Then for the annual, the assessment is conducted by an accredited assessor based upon the installation standard and the maintenance standard all issues and remediation needs to be recorded in an auditable logbook at site.

    For residential strata (apartment entry) doors, assessors can find great difficulty in checking the hardware and operation of these due to the need for access arrangements. We have prepared a checksheet for the lot-owner/occupiers for them to attest to the operation of the door closer and while deadlatch locksets are approved, deadbolt and barrelbolt locks are strictly forbidden (we have a flyer showing what is ok and what isn’t). As we do the other measures which may be within the residential lots, we include domestic smoke detectors, etc. when appropriate.

  5. Mark Lineberger says:

    That requirement exists and has for many years. It was – and still is – left up to the owner. The typical owner either has not or does not inspect and repair them. Until the inspection requirements in the US are properly enforced – which now require documentation with NFPA 80-2007 – there will be little change in attitude towards fire rated and egress doors. Those activities are too often viewed as an overhead item which doesn’t need to be funded, since in the eyes of the owner the doors “still work”. Often building inspectors do not really understand what they should be looking for. I do believe the building inspectors want to do a good and responsible job, but there is still a large knowledge gap. Plus, they’re not going to get to all the buildings which require inspection, many for multiple years. That leaves it up to the owner again. Unless they feel fire and egress doors are important life safety components to inspect and repair them annually, it doesn’t happen.

    It may in fact take the coroner or lawyers to force a shift in priorities. It seems like it always does. I do not understand how I can walk into multi-story college dorm stair towers and their maintenance people see that the doors have had major problems for years and will never function properly. They pass it on to the administrators, who then do nothing.

    Relating back to the OP, “…Some of our clients are squeemish about the possible costs and paperwork of fire door inspections. So knowing that it is not a requirement has been a relief to them.” When it starts to be important prior to occupancy, we will have begun to turn the corner for the long-term safety of building occupants. It sounds like you are well ahead of us!

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