Unforeseen Challenges In Meeting Fire Codes
This is the conclusion of our three-part series on How Qualified Fire Code Consultants Can Help You Avoid Fire Code Problems.
Several weeks after we submitted our report, thinking we were moving forward, our code consultants learned from the owner of the trampoline park that the fire marshal would not issue a certificate of occupancy unless the building sprinkler system was extended beneath the trampolines. He viewed the area below the trampoline as an unprotected concealed space in which miscellaneous materials could be stored.
In response, our code consultant visited the recently permitted trampoline park and observed the following:
- Steel barriers were placed along the perimeter of the trampolines to prevent anyone from trying to crawl under the trampolines. While this was done for personal safety, these barriers would also be an obstruction to storing materials and equipment below the trampoline.
- The very nature of the trampoline would prevent the storage of materials, as the space beneath must be free of obstructions to allow full motion of the apparatus.
- “No Entry” signs were posted around the perimeters of the trampolines.
Our code consultant took several pictures and forwarded them to the owner of the facility under consideration, as well as to the fire marshal. The fire marshal ultimately agreed to the certificate of occupancy, under the condition that the park owner provided a letter stating that the area beneath the trampolines would remain clear of stored materials.
Harrington Group has seen the following key lessons learned during this project time and time again:
- Approach the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), usually the building and/or fire officials, early in a project – well before completion of the design documents and permit submission.
- Invite the code officials to be part of the team to help find solutions that satisfy the code objectives while enabling the project to be constructed economically and function as the owner desires. It has been our experience that more often than not, AHJs welcome the opportunity to provide early input. It is sometimes necessary to involve outside expertise (in this case, a qualified fire protection engineer with code consulting expertise) early in the project development stage. Fire protection engineers can assist in the understanding of the AHJ’s positions and will collaboratively work towards a solution that is satisfactory to all parties.
At Harrington Group, our engineers imitate contact with the AHJ’s immediately to identify potential issues. Through proactively communicating with code officials, we seek to build trust and mutual respect, and find that most issues can be resolved in a way that all parties come away with a win.
The trampoline park was an unusual project for Harrington Group. Our code consultants connected the facts and helped the facility construction to continue as planned with only slight modifications to the building and trampoline system. Building a respectful and trusting relationship with the AHJ helped to ensure prompt approval so that progress was not further delayed.
By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.