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Engineers Week: Building codes updated in New Hampshire

February 17. 2013 6:37PM

Important developments to code compliance for existing buildings have occurred in New Hampshire within the last year.

While one-and two-family homes are rarely impacted by these changes, for many other existing buildings that need repairs, such as attaching new roofs, undergoing a renovation, adding an extension or changing the use, several changes apply.

It is fair to say that what is appropriate for new construction has come about as a result of various disasters and extensive studies. While this is especially true of the codes for new construction, the time has come to work this knowledge into the codes for existing buildings.

At the end of 2011, the N.H. Fire Prevention Code was updated to include the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101). The introduction of Chapter 43 in NFPA 1 details certain triggers in the process of renovating or altering an existing building that could require, or exempt, various features related to outlets and fire prevention, such as sprinklers.

In some cases, builders and designers will be directed to make improvements to the building, such as changing corridors, stairways and exits that make up the means of outlets. Once walls are moved around, the rooms to either side on the wall become part of the work area, and it is that work area that is going to trigger whether other life-safety features are needed.

Actions by the Legislature in 2012 initiated the incorporation of the 2009 edition of the International Existing Building Code into the N.H. Building Code. Recently, the State Building Code Review Board adopted an amendment to replace Chapter 34 on "Existing Buildings" with this new code.

Chapter 3 of the IEBC, referred to as the "Prescriptive Compliance Method," is identical to Chapter 34, making this change minimal. However, there are now other compliance methods being offered in the code which include the "Work Area Compliance Method," as discussed briefly above in regard to NFPA-101's Chapter 43.

It is imperative that design professionals and code and fire officials in the state get on board. Minor changes can have big implications to the plan development and overall cost to the building.

The article was written by Linda McNair-Perry, an engineer with SFC Engineering Partnership Inc., 66 Gold Ledge Ave., Auburn. She may be reached at 647-8700.

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