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BOMA addresses potential impacts of code proposals: issues include accessibility, occupancy and Legionnaires' disease.

More than 1,300 proposed changes to the International Building Code (ICC) were considered at April's hearings in Memphis. The proposals involved the International Existing Building Code, International Mechanical Code, and International Plumbing Code.

Public testimony for the 2018 codes took place during two simultaneous hearing tracks, with one group hearing code changes related to plumbing, mechanical and fuel gas. The other heard existing buildings, fire safety and means of egress. Each proposed change was discussed, debated and voted upon by the appropriate committee.

BOMA International's codes advocacy team attended all of the sessions and testified where appropriate. BOMA had identified nearly 100 proposals that would have a significant impact on the industry. These issues ranged from proposals to reduce the risk of legionella bacteria in cooling towers, to those limiting the area and height of buildings in high-risk areas. While the team was successful in preventing approval of many of the more arduous code change proposals, all the changes are still subject to receiving public comments that could overturn the committee's action and would require additional action this fall, both at the upcoming public comment hearings and via the online governmental ballot.

Accessibility Requirements for Existing Buildings

One of the key discussions this cycle--and the biggest victory for BOMA and the commercial real estate industry--revolved around the committee approval of a proposal submitted by BOMA International, the American Institute of Architects, the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Association of Home Builders. This proposal established the 2009 edition of the A117.1 Accessible and Useable Buildings and Structures standard as the threshold for existing buildings.

BOMA and its partners addressed a growing concern over the significant changes being considered for the 2015 edition of the accessibility standard. These changes include substantial additions to the overall dimensions required for wheeled mobility devices. The increased dimensions would require more space to be allocated to corridors, bathroom stalls, vestibules and other areas along the accessible route where users turn around objects or corners.

While designers could incorporate the changes into the layout of new buildings, the impact of the changes would be onerous for existing buildings, particularly those with future renovation plans. The four organizations were able to convince the committee to approve this code change, but BOMA International and its industry partners will continue to defend the proposal at the public comment hearings in September.

Another success came from BOMA International's opposition to a proposal in the International Plumbing Code to set the hot water minimum temperature throughout buildings to 140 degrees F. to limit growth of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease. Other successful and more cost-effective methods of minimizing the growth of the legionella bacteria exist, thus BOMA International joined with industry partners to defeat this proposal.

BOMA International's codes team was also successful in keeping the following proposals from gaining approval.

Existing Buildings

* Eliminating the prescriptive compliance method (chapter 4) of the existing building code.

* Requiring anti-scalding protection to be installed on all existing plumbing fixtures, when replacing, repairing or altering any portion of an existing plumbing system.

* Requiring the installation of an accessible means of egress from the work area to level of exit discharge when work meets or exceeds the definition of a level III alteration.

Means of Egress

* Requiring a new standard for measuring the slip resistance of surfaces that are located in the means of egress.

* Limiting the length of egress travel and increasing the fire resistance rating of corridors for buildings located in seismic, high-wind or hurricane-prone regions.

* Creating a minimum number of automatic doors at public entrances based on the occupant load of the building or space.

* Prohibiting penetrations of the fire resistance wall protecting stairwell enclosures.

* Limiting the size of atriums and the number of connected floors.

Fire Safety

* Identifying the type of fire-stopping material used at every through penetration of a building with a label at each location providing the design and product information.

* Labeling the full length of fire and smoke partitions (in accessible concealed spaces) with continuous stenciling or markings at 24-inch intervals in 3-inch letters.

* Including a new standard and method for testing the joints between a rated and non-rated assembly.

* Limiting glazed opening in fire partitions to no more than 25% of the wall area.

General Construction

* Reducing the height, area and number of stories for buildings constructed in seismic zones, high-wind areas and hurricane-prone regions.

* Requiring additional fire apparatus access and increased open space around buildings constructed of materials other than concrete and masonry.

* Providing actual key locking systems on refrigerant line end caps.

* Eliminating the use of flexible ducting in nearly all applications.

Supporting Public Comment on Occupancy and Occupied Roofs

At the 2015 BOMA International Conference & Expo in July, BOMA International's Building Codes and Voluntary Standards Committee reviewed the proposed code changes from the spring hearings. In reviewing a handful of proposals not originally approved during the hearings but that would benefit the industry, the committee decided to move forward with public comments to support these proposals.

For example, the committee suggested that BOMA International clarify the definition of "occupied roofs" to include accessibility to the space, fire and life safety protection throughout the building and suitable egress from the occupied roof. They also saw the need to coordinate additional methods of determining the occupant load of conference rooms in business occupancies and reverse the committee's action that would require automatic suppression systems in existing buildings in certain conditions.

BOMA International is developing online voting guides on the most important issues under consideration for use by ICC voting members both at the upcoming Public Comment Hearings starting in September and during the online voting period. Those interested in obtaining this information should stay tuned to the Codes & Standards section of BOMA International's website at

Kevin Fry and Steve Orlowski lead BOMA International's codes advocacy efforts. They can be reached via e-mail at and For more information about building codes and other commercial real estate topics, visit
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Title Annotation:BOMA FILES; Building Owners and Managers Association
Comment:BOMA addresses potential impacts of code proposals: issues include accessibility, occupancy and Legionnaires' disease.(BOMA FILES)( Building Owners and Managers Association)
Author:Fry, Kevin; Orlowski, Steve
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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