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As codes and standards specialists, building and fire safety is constantly at the forefront of our minds at the International Code Council, particularly this month as we observe Fire Prevention Week. This year, it has also been at the forefront of the public debate after the devastating fire at the Grenfell Tower in London. On Oct. 24, 2017, The Wall Street Journal released the article “Buildings Across U.S. Are Wrapped in Same Panels That Fueled Deadly London Fire.”
As indicated in the Wall Street Journal article, some believe that combustible exterior wall systems (also known as cladding) may have contributed to the fast-burning London fire. The Grenfell Tower is not in a country that uses the International Building Code and was not constructed in strict compliance with the IBC. The ICC cannot make comparisons between the design and construction of the Grenfell Tower or other non-IBC buildings relative to the provisions of the IBC as these buildings have not been built to our code provisions.
However, the ICC did develop a new resource regarding the use of combustible exterior wall systems for buildings constructed to the IBC. Download it here.
At this time, no deficiencies have been identified in the IBC regarding cladding, and fire experts agree that the ICC model code and process ensures a reasonable level of safety. In addition to stringent requirements for the use of combustible exterior wall systems, the IBC requires many safety features for all new high-rise buildings including noncombustible fire-resistance-rated construction, at least two ways of exiting the building via shafts of fire-rated construction, automatic sprinklers, fire alarm and smoke detection systems for early warning, and emergency voice/alarm communication systems. Also required are inspections by independent third parties to assure that the materials are installed in accordance with their product listing or label and the code.
The ICC recognizes that review and revisions may be necessary to respond to new research and technology. Through its open and transparent consensus-based code development process, the model codes are updated on a three-year cycle to reflect the most modern, energy-efficient, cost-effective safety measures and technology. Proposals for the 2021 Group A codes (which include the IBC and International Fire Code) are due on Jan. 8. In rare instances to address immediate threats to health and safety, the ICC also has an emergency action procedure, outlined in Council Policy 28, which governs ICC’s Code Development Process.
Please contact Mike Pfeiffer, senior vice president of technical services, at x4338 or firstname.lastname@example.org with further questions.