UL Future Built Forum- Combustible Facades

There has been a great deal of discussion about the exterior facades of buildings and sadly there have been stories of how detrimental facade choices can be. This prompted a discussion at a forum in January of last year that was sponsored by UL, NYPD and IAFF. The next three blog posts will be dedicated to the discussions from this forum.

This first one is from Jesse Beitel from Jensen Hughes. You can see it here.  Take some time to think about the projects in your area and how or if this could impact your community.

For those of you who think that a similar fire can’t happen in the US, here is an article that would disagree with that stance.

Enjoy!

 

 

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NJ DCA Firestop Classes

Hi everyone,

I wanted to share the 2020 New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Firestop class schedule with anyone who wants to join us for a little fun.

There are three classes where you can find me this semester and they are all new. I have completely reformatted the 1705.17 Firestop Special Inspection Class. We will have a class on Firestop Common Problems.  We will have a Learn and Burn, but you will only get one shot at this class.

1705.17- FIRESTOP SPECIAL INSPECTION

What does the class cover:

  • When is special inspection required and when is it not?
  • Who can do the work?
  • What does the special inspector look at?
  • What do they NOT look at?
  • We will take the codes and standards and pull them together so you can apply them on your next project
  • How do I know if the person on the site is capable and qualified?

We have completely revamped this class from the previous one, so it presents the information in a much more user friendly way. We hope you agree and we look forward to seeing you there.

Please know that this class is not designed to teach you HOW to do the work. That information can’t be jammed into a one day course. IMHO.  This class covers just the basics to determine if you have the right person doing firestop special inspection on your team, or not.

Who is the class designed for:

Building Inspectors: Special Inspection of firestop is not currently something you can get a state approval for. Here is the Special Inspector Certification Handbook.  As the document says, “There are eight separate types of Special Inspector certification each of which has its own requirements…”  You will notice that firestop is NOT one of the 8. That means each individual jurisdiction is responsible for approving a special inspector. This class will help you do that.

Building Owners & Architects: Did you know that the architect, is responsible for reviewing the inspector and approving them, as well as reviewing and approving the inspection reports. We will get into that for both the AOR and the AHJ.

The classes will be held on April 7th in Mays Landing and May 6 in Budd Lake 2020

FIRESTOP- COMMON ISSUES

What does the class cover:

Hold on to your hat if you come to this class, because we have a WHOLE LOT of information to throw at you and then we have to pull it all back together so it makes sense before we are done. We will start the class with the basics, vocabulary, building codes and standards so we make sure everyone is on the same page. I know that sounds BOOORING right?!?  It won’t be because in the middle of all this we will break into some magic tricks (I’m very serious about this!- MAGIC TRICKS that you will use on your job sites and people will wonder…”How’d they do that!”)

  • If you are on a concrete project, you will have a few new tricks to review firestop
  • If you have a hollow core concrete project, we are going to scare you a little (sorry…not sorry)
  • If you are on a wood framed project we will go over some of the most common issues you want to keep an eye out for
  • If you are on a Hambro style project (Concrete over metal deck with gypsum ceiling all part of the rated assembly), the magic trick will require more work, but I know you will be capable when we are done and you will be armed with a whole new way to look at firestop.
  • Any type of construction will have gypsum walls so we will throw a bit of that at you as well.

If you come to this class, get a good nights sleep and a big cup of coffee. We are going to go fast all day long and you will look at firestop differently when we are done.

Who is the class designed for:

This class is great for anyone who ever looks at firestop. Facilities Managers, Building Inspectors, Arson Investigators, GC’s, any sub involved in firestop whether they self perform firestop or not, Insurance Investigators, Architects & Engineers and more.  Don’t tell anyone but this is a fun class. Let’s just say, you won’t be in your seat the whole day.

The classes will be held on April 2 in Whippany, April 30 in Atlantic City Ballys,  and May 7th in Waretown 2020

LEARN AND BURN!

I  am so excited to bring this class to you and before I tell you about it I have to give a HUGE shout out to STI for hosting it for us.  We could not do this without them.  We can handle the learn part in any classroom or any job site, but the burn part we need their help. STI has a burn facility where they test their firestop through penetrations and rated joints and you get to see where it all happens, and how it happens. We have been talking about this for two years and we finally pulled all the pieces together.

I can’t wait to see you there!

What does the class cover:

You see this firestop smeared all over the place and some people wonder if it really works. This class you will get to see for yourself. We will put a gypsum wall on a furnace and BURN IT!!! Well, we will subject it to a mini burn. (Trust me you don’t want to sit there watching a wall for an hour…its almost like watching paint dry, but it smells worse!) So we will do an abbreviated burn test, complete with the hose stream test. (That part is impressive) We will talk codes and standards and a little about how to dig into a firestop submittal, because that is the key to getting the firestop right.

Who is the class designed for:

This is another class that would be great for anyone who ever looks at firestop. Are you a Facilities Manager, Building Inspector, Arson Investigator, GC, any sub involved in firestop, Insurance Investigator, Architect & Engineer and more.  Join us for our LEARN AND BURN at STI in Somerville NJ on May 13th 2020!

If you want to register for any of these classes or see the other classes offer by Rutgers and DCA go to this link for more information.

If you have questions about firestop before the class, feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to help if I am able.  SEE YOU IN CLASS THIS SPRING!

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Fire Meets It’s Match

So, the mail comes and my son is looking through a magazine that had come. Suddenly he says, “Hey, look! There’s MOM!”  I thought he was being funny, until my other son went over and they started talking about the article and, “Hey there’s another picture!”  Sure enough and here it is!

 

 

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New Industry Standard for Architects- Part Two

Last week we mentioned a new standard for firestop installers. Today we are going to talk about a new standard for Special Inspection of Firestop.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

We find that a number of special inspection firms who do an array of special inspection tasks are asked to do “this fire thing” and they comply with the clients request without complying with the actual requirements of the standards that are written into the building codes. This causes a liability for everyone- the owner, the builder, the community…. But it is a liability for the architect as well because they are responsible for reviewing the inspector as well as their reports.  It is written into the inspection standards as such and since those standards are part of the building code, there is a legal obligation to conform with the standards.

If you have questions about this and you are a building official or an architect, I am happy to send you a document that is designed to help you vet a special inspection firm so you can be sure they are qualified and competent according to the current codes. If you email me from an email address of a building or fire official or an architects office I will gladly forward you this document.

WHAT MIGHT AN ARCHITECT CHANGE IN THIER SPECIFICATIONS

Our discussion today is on relatively new standard that architects may want to consider writing into their specifications. ASTM E3038 is the “Standard Practice for Assessing and Qualifying Candidates as Inspectors of Firestop Systems and Fire-Resistive Joint Systems”. By including this in your project specifications you are asking for a way of confirming that whoever is conducting this scope of work has a certain level of training that enables them to complete this scope of work in accordance with the standards that are already written into the codes (ASTM E2174 and ASTM E2393 for inspection of firestop penetrations and rated joints respectively)

If you want to make your life easy, just throw this requirement into your quality segment of your firestop through penetrations specifications. If you want to know more about this, feel free to reach out to us for more details or purchase a copy of the standard at the ASTM website.

WHAT DOES THE STANDARD REQUIRE?

Here are just a few of the requirements. For all the information please visit ASTM and purchase the standard.

  • Two years in construction dealing with firestop under the direction of an inspector
  • Two years in firestop QC ( not just QC, but specifically related to the  firestop industry)
  • Four years working in the firestop industry compiling submittals or field installations
  • Be a registered design professional WITH experience in the firestop industry
  • Pass an exam covering firestop
  • Attend firestop training (the standard has more information on this requirement, but having a manufacturers training card is not sufficient to meet this requirement)

If you are a code official, remember that once you have approved a set of plans and specifications, then the build team is legally obligated to provide the level of quality in the construction documents, so even if you can enforce it per the building code, you can based on the approved specifications the owner and architect have agreed to for the project.

Keep learning and keep improving!  If we can help don’t hesitate to contact us!

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New Standard for Architects to Spec- Part One

Architects are always trying to cover all the bases when they write their specifications. I am not an architect, but occasionally I am asked to review a project specifications.  There is a new ASTM Standard that I would recommend for architects who want up to date specifications. The International Firestop Council has taken the time to write a piece on the topic so I wanted to share it with you all.

IFC FS Installer Guide ASTM E3157

If your specifications say that installations need to conform to ASTM E3157 then you cover all the bases for good installations such as following a firestop detail, cleaning the substrate, troweling the sealant, using the right backer material and much more.

If you would like more information on it check out the link for the article by the IFC. If you want more information about firestop, go to the IFC website.  Check back next week for another suggestion for architects specifications you might be interested in.

If you are a code official, remember that once you have approved a set of plans and specifications, then the build team is legally obligated to provide the level of quality in the construction documents, so even if you can enforce it per the building code, you can based on the approved specifications the owner and architect have agreed to for the project.

Keep learning and keep improving!  If we can help don’t hesitate to contact us!

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Fireproofing- Intumescent Coatings

NYC Center for Architecture does a lot of training for local architects. My buddy Dave came out to do this session on the topic. If you want to learn more about the topic have a look here. Its a two hour video so grab a cup of coffee before you start but he is a wealth of knowledge and its two hours well spent if you need to know more about fireproofing that looks good or is exposed to the elements.

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Dear Architect- Why are you asking for a W rating

I have seen so many project specifications requiring a W rating. If you don’t know what a W rating is, please read this first.  If you are already familiar with a W rating, do you know if it a requirement on your project?  I recently looked at a wood framed project and there were W rating requirements. Clearly the architect has stock specifications that don’t take into account the fact that a wood framed project is NOT going to be capable of mitigating water movement in the way a concrete floor might.

 

But lets say you are dealing with a concrete floor, then W ratings are a viable requirement…except, when they are not.

 

Remember the test for a W rating is a three foot column of water that prevents even a single drop of water for 72 hours.   If the specifications say as a blanket statement that a W rating is a requirement of floor penetration firestop systems, then what about a bundle of cables? What about MC cables? What about insulated pipes, the brackets to support the weight of multiple floors of pipes will break well below the three foot mark and how might one maintain the W rating with a break in the insulation, or with insulation that can’t hold back water such as fiberglass or other field installed insulations?

 

If you have been in construction for a while I am sure you can think of other examples when W rated firestop is not a reasonable requirement.

Im not saying stop asking for W ratings, because they are amazing. I could tell you some stories where they were a HUGE success. But be aware of the limitations and if you specify it, know what you are asking for. If you have a project that has W ratings specified and no one is asking questions, then my guess is they are not conforming with the specification.

 

If you have any questions feel free to contact us. We are happy to help if we are able.

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Dear Architect- Why don’t your specifications require L ratings?

One of my pet peeves is people who use code verbiage WRONG.  A fire wall is not the same as a fire RATED wall.  Watch this video and you will see what I mean. The FIRE WALL saved the lives of the fire fighters in that video, well, the fire wall and some damn good teamwork. A standard fire RATED wall would not be expected to perform the same way as a FIRE WALL which runs from the lowest level up to or through the roof. The fire fighters know that the parapet is a FIRE WALL and that it should be built such that there can be complete structural collapse on the one side and the other side of the wall is safe from fire or safe from collapse.

 

These FIRE WALLS are used by architects when they have a building with an area larger than what the code allows. This is effectively making one building into two or more buildings, or segments of a building that are connected by this rugged structural wall.

So what about fire barriers and smoke barriers?  These are NOT the same either.

Did you know that a fire barrier should have an F rating? more on that here.  Yeah, well a smoke barrier is required to have a one hour F rating too. That means that all the penetrations through a fire barrier or a smoke barrier are also required to have an F rating that matches the F rating of the wall?  This is hopefully no surprise to you at this point.  This however this next point might be.

Did you know that joint or a penetration in a smoke barrier has to pass one additional test that a fire barrier DOESN’T have to pass.  It is an L rating and Engineering Toolbox explains it here.  So this means when you are reviewing the firestop submittals you have to know where your smoke barriers are, what rated assemblies they connect to and what penetrates them. First you have to identify these items, then  you have to ensure that the firestop details you have received are capable of meeting this code required test.  When I say YOU, I am talking to all of you- the architect, building official, GC, firestop installer or special inspector. If the trades are self performing their own firestop, then I am talking to each of the trades as well.

Do you know, if you project has smoke barriers?  If you have them please check your firestop submittals to see if your details cover this code requirement.

If you are working in a hospital, pay particular attention because smoke barriers may be a requirement to help reduce the nosocomial infection rates.  You know the person who goes into the hospital with a broken arm and leaves with a cast and the worst flu of their life. That is a remedial explanation of nosocomial infection.  Before you think its not a big deal, you should know that nosocomial infections are linked to the death of  as many as 6 children and the subsequent 2019 closure of Seattle Children’s Hospital, so it is serious business.

L ratings are also important in clean room environments or rooms with FM200 or other similar fire suppression system where room volume is critical tot he life safety measures.

If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. We are happy to help if we are able.

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Membrane Penetration Firestop- Part Two

I hope you liked the last post, that was just a warm up as we bring you to this new document by the International Firestop Council. Its 7 pages and packed with great information and I will expound on it in the next blog series because this document does a great job of explaining what needs to be done, it doesn’t tel you the common things installers do wrong, or things they miss. So please start with a read of this document and then come back and we expound on this a bit further in the next few series of posts. IFC Membrane Penetrations

There are a few other membrane penetrations to consider depending on the type of construction you are looking at- so while this is not an exhaustive list it adds to the one in the article because you need to keep an eye out for any of these items that are not surface mounted. If they are recessed or semi-recessed in  a rated wall then they are membrane penetrations. Please pay attention when looking at the following-  fire hose cabinets, fire extinguisher cabinets, time clocks,  elevator call boxes, IT control panels, electrical panels, shower diverter valves or anything that punches through one side of a rated wall.  So have a read of the IFC document and check back for our next blog as we take the discussion a little further.

In the meantime,  let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

See you next time!

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Membrane Penetration Firestop Part One

Firestop applications that only breach one side of a rated assembly are called membrane penetrations. They are often poorly reviewed. This is true of wall penetrations but even more true of floor penetrations.   If you have been following this blog for a while, you know we are big on offering information in multi-part series and this topic will be NO DIFFERENT. We will start with two different documents one from UL and the other from the IFC and we will build on those documents in hopes of helping you see what to look for on job sites. This doesn’t matter if you are an AHJ part of a QA/QC team or a special inspector. You need to know the information in this series to help increase the level of life safety and reduce liability. So please read and challenge yourself to apply this information on your projects.

We will start you on this UL document.

Here are a few key takeaways-

Plastic Electrical outlets-

  • Look for the UL logo
    • be sure it is listed for use in a rated floor/wall/ceiling that it is installed in
    • if you don’t find it, the box is not tested to be used in a fire rated assembly. You can’t just throw a putty pad on the non-rated boxes to fix the problem. It’s not that simple.
  • Check the size of the boxes, because even if it is UL listed it can only be up to a certain size before it requires a putty pad, regardless of its proximity to any other boxes. Metal boxes cant exceed 16 sq in, plastic boxes may vary by manufacturer depending on what was tested (and what passes) so look at the paperwork
  • When you are reading the firestop detail (because that’s everyones favorite thing to do RIGHT?!) pay attention to whether or not the application requires
    • a metal cover plate
    • a ball of putty  inside the box (I have never seen anyone do this unless they get called out- and I rarely see people called out even when it is a requirement)

Metal Outlet Boxes-

  • don’t assume that you can throw a putty pad on any sized box. Refer to the CLIV (the tested detail) for the limitations
  • depth of box is a big deal. We will get into this in a future discussion, but if you recall our conversation about shaft wall assemblies it is related too that. If you didn’t see that you can review here. 
  • Again if you install a box in a wall/floor/ceiling you have to be sure it is rated for that use. If it is rated for use in a wall, it can automatically be used in a ceiling or floor.

I know the firestop details for putty pads are cumbersome and painfully boring so if you have any questions, ask your electrician or your firestop installer for the CLIV document, email it to me and then let’s have a chat. I can help get you on the right track to ensure these are done right.

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