Some builders and developers have had the local fire department insist that residential sprinkler systems be installed when a building site did not meet fire code standards for access or water supply. A Uniform Alternate Construction Standard issued by Building Codes Division has removed the decision for what to do when access and supply is not adequate from the fire department and placed the responsibility with the local building official and provided specific alternatives to be allowed.
This standard gives authority to the building official, not the fire official, to apply alternatives when the fire official has determined the water supply or emergency vehicle access is not adequate. The building official must consider the advice of the fire official, but the decision of which alternatives will be allowed rests solely with them. An example when this would apply is a lot with a narrow driveway or excessive slope so that fire equipment cannot access the building.
There are six options the building official can choose from. These are the only options available. The building official can require any one, or a combination of options which in his opinion will provide a reasonable alternative to proper access or water supply. A builder or developer can request a particular option, but the building official will determine whether or not to accept the requested option.
The options available are:
- Installing a NFPA 13D (residential) fire suppression system
- Installing a partial NFPA 13D (residential) fire suppression system
- Installing additional layers of 5/8” type-X gypsum board
- Compartmentalizing the dwelling with fire-resistant rated assemblies to limit spread of fire
- Installing fire-resistive exterior wall and roof coverings
- Providing fire separation that complies with the standards of the Oregon Department of Forestry Wildland-Urban Interface rules
It is not clear what may constitute a partial NFPA 13D fire suppression system, what areas need additional 5/8” type-X gypsum board or what needs to be compartmentalized to meet the intent of these options so it will be necessary to work out a plan with the building official. This should be done at the design phase to prevent problems at plan review.
The options are available for any lot of record created on or after January 1, 2002. The building official must also have provided notice that they intend to allow these Uniform Construction Standards and provide it in conjunction with any land use application. It may behoove you to contact the building official and encourage them to provide this notification if they have not already done so to allow use of the alternatives. If they have not, the building may be required to comply with fire code access and water supply requirements.