To: "INTERNET:seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org" <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Subject: RE: NFPA code (was ASCE 7-98 and 1/3 Increase for Wind Load)
From: Peter Higgins <JillHiggins(--nospam--at)compuserve.com>
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 00:27:30 -0400
The NFPA code effort appears to be real. At first, it appeared that NFPA
was upping the ante in a squabble with ICC over copyrights. It may remain a
ploy, but recent developments suggest NFPA is both serious and capable of
developing a code of its own.
Some view it as a most positive step borne from extreme frustration with
the IBC 2000 which has some really outrageous and draconian provisions. For
example, iit has a requirement for a 3 hour fire separation between some
stores in a shopping mall, yet allows huge openings in these walls for
shoppers to get in and out of the stores. Patently ridiculous, and a waste
of money with absolutely no demonstrated need or even proof that it might
One developer is threatening suit against ICC to prevent publication of IBC
2000. It may already have been filed.
Florida refuses to ever adopt IBC 2000. (At least for now.)
What should SE's do or think? Haven't a clue. Some thoughts:
Proliferation of codes is inherrently bad. However, IBC 2000 is so vile
that another code starts to look good.
NFPA also plays by a different set of rules. Gone is the assumption that
building officials are the sole repositories of wisdom regarding public
safety. Other people can vote in NFPA proceedings much like an ANSI
process. Indeed, balanced committees of regulators, designers, owners and
users are required, and must reach consensus.
The end result is that a much higher level of competence is brought to bear
on an issue. The cost is that these members have multiple agendas, not all
of them altruistic.
I wouldn't condemn it outright though. Personally, I would rather design to
ANSI/ASCE 7 supplemented by ANSI and other national standards, than have
ICC pontificate to me in all things structural, including some of the most
ridiculous, counterproductive, provisions imaginable. The ICC process has
become dominated by non practitioners, academics, and administrators. NFPA
is set up to prevent exactly that from happening, and historically they've
done a good job of it, just as ANSI has.
The unification of IBC came at a very high price. Some people are thinking
it was too high. There's good reason to think they're right. If so, the
answer lies elsewhere as ICC can never go back. We might need a different
And, to those who have heard me on this topic before, this is the way the
rest of the world works. And for the last 20 years or so, they've done a
much better job than ICBO/BOCA/SSBC and the like. Pretty soon, our code
follies are going to hurt us. I'll be retired then, but you younger
colleagues should pay attention to thinking along different paths
Peter Higgins, SE.