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Fire and Building Regulations

As a building owner, developer, architect or General Contractor, you might feel that certain US Building and Fire codes hurt your business. However, these mandates are very necessary. Every law enacted is a result of historic disasters that cost lives and devastated cities -- events which could have been prevented.

Beginning in the early 20th century, three model building codes prevailed as the basis for all building and fire codes in the United States. For nearly a century, these model codes had no actual authority, unless adopted in whole or part by a town, county, city, or state. 

These three models were adopted in the following territories:

  • East Coast and Midwest - Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA).
  • South and Southeast - Southern Building Code Congress International Standard Building Code (SBCCI). 
  • West Coast - International Conference of Building Officials Uniform Building Code (ICBO). 

International Code Council (ICC)

In the early 1990's these three model codes were unified by the International Code Council (ICC). By the 21st century, the ICC finished a two unified model codes that pertain to emergency lighting:

International Building Code®: covers fire prevention in connection with the construction & design of new buildings.

International Fire Code®: fire hazard regulations in existing buildings, including the installation, testing and maintenance of fire protection equipment. 

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)

Founded in 1896, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is recognized around the world for it's fire fighting and equipment standards. At one point in the early 2000's, the NFPA worked with the ICC to develop the International Fire Code®, but endless controversy led NFPA to disengage and create a competing set of codes known as the Comprehensive Consensus Codes (C3). C3 included the following NFPA documents into their wheelhouse: 

NFPA 5000®: the primary building code.

NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®: details minimum conditions to protect occupants against fire, smoke and toxic fumes in both new and existing construction.

All fifty states in the US, including the District of Columbia and every U.S. Territory, has adopted ICC model codes for their building or fire codes. Thirty-nine states have also included the NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®. These two sets of model codes are the 'bible' for Fire Code Officials (typically Fire Marshals) to ensure that building exits are accessible, alarm and extinguisher systems are operating properly, and that all backup systems are correctly maintained in order to provide maximum occupant safety and structural integrity.

Current Fire Codes in the United States

Chicago Fire Codes

International Building Code

International Fire Code

New York City Fire Code 

NFPA 101 Life Safety Code