Building codes and standards
Fire safety

Building Codes and Standards 101

Rick Roos - senior manager codes and standards, fire portfolio north america
Rick Roos
26 June 2019

A framework for the built environment and fire safety

Checking the blueprints - architects, designers, building owners. Building codes and standards in North America.

What is the purpose of building codes and standards?

Throughout North America, we take comfort in knowing that our homes and building stock are considered safe and resilient.

When we enter a building, we generally do it without concern or hesitation for our personal safety or wellbeing. 

We take it for granted that the design and construction are sound and will hold up to the rigors of nature and time.  People are right to expect that their homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals and other structures are safe.

This long-standing expectation is founded on the existence of building codes and standards—a comprehensive set of interconnected regulations that are designed to govern new construction, renovations/remodels, repairs and demolitions.

While building codes have several objectives, their primary goal is to protect public health, safety, and wellbeing as it relates to the construction and occupancy of buildings.

A brief history of building codes and standards

Prior to the creation of Model National Building Codes, the criteria and performance standards were left to each municipality to develop, which resulted in a multitude of different guidelines and regulations.

Sometimes similarities existed between the municipalities, although often codes and standards from one municipality to the other could be unique or even contradictory.

The vast array of variations in codes and standards across many municipalities made it difficult for architects, specifiers, and designers, as well as manufacturers and contractors to offer solutions to address diverse needs. 

This hampered their ability to conduct business effectively across larger geographic regions.  To address this, a more universal and standardized system developed, from which model codes emerged. 

While model codes can be adopted in whole or revised on the local level, codes and standards endeavor to form a mostly uniform regulatory framework across a region or nation.  

PART 1: WHAT ARE BUILDING CODES AND STANDARDS

What is a building code?

There are two types of codes – model and adopted. Model codes are a set of rules, suggested practices or recommendations for others to follow (i.e. what to do) pertaining to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures.  Model codes are not law, but they can become law when adopted by local, state, provincial, or national governments.  Adopted codes, often referred to simply as “codes”, are those that are developed by a jurisdiction themselves (either based on a combination of model codes or by other means permitted in local laws) that set out a minimum standard that must be adhered to. 

Different aspects of building performance can be addressed by multiple types of codes.  These include building code (covering many aspects of building design and construction), energy code (aimed at regulating energy conservation with a strong focus on the building envelope) and fire code (addressing life safety for protection against fire, hazardous materials, or other risks such as the threat of carbon monoxide even after the building is occupied).  In some cases, the model codes are amended and/or supplemented to suit regional needs before they are adopted into law as part of the official building, energy or fire code of that jurisdiction.

Once adopted, these codes become minimum requirements, and are enforceable by law, with established consequences for non-compliance.  Those who fail to meet code requirements, whether they are builders, designers, or owners, may be ordered to make necessary repairs, cease construction activity, have their building permit revoked, be required to demolish all or some portions of the work, face fines or have other consequences levied. 

Failure to meet code can result in serious legal and liability issues, cancellation of insurance, an inability to have utilities connected, or result in the building being declared unfit for occupation or even imprisonment.  Buildings that do not meet code may potentially pose serious safety risks, and today’s codes strive to ensure buildings are safe, resilient and efficient.  Therefore, code compliance is in the best interest of all parties.  

What is a standard?

Standards establish testing methodology, material specifications, guidance documents, practices and more.  Standards serve as a common language for defining quality and often establishing performance and safety criteria (i.e. International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ASTM or CAN/ULC).  A standard is more technical in nature when compared to a building code.  

How are codes and standards developed in North America?

In both the United States and Canada, the codes and standards development process is intended to be open and transparent, allowing the participation of interested individuals or stakeholders.  The processes are designed to weigh a balance of interests and provide due process.  The development of codes and standards considers evidence-based building science and engineering principles, as well as the experience and technical expertise of individuals and stakeholders, which may include experts, construction and design professionals, enforcement personnel and product manufacturers.

In some code development organizations, technical or standing committees are formed as part of the development process, and they, in turn, may rely on task groups, working groups or advisory groups to study specific issues and offer recommendations. Documents are typically publicly available, with a public comment period as part of the development process.

Who enforces building and construction codes?

The practice of developing, approving and enforcing building codes varies considerably by country. There is ample evidence that strong and well-enforced building codes can and do save lives and reduce property damage, with many being overseen by building inspectors or code officials to ensure safe construction.

PART 2: BUILDING CODES THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA

The United States

From residential to commercial, to fire, energy and green building codes and standards, we’ve provided a detailed overview of what you need to know in 2019 and beyond. Continue below for two sections – the first looking at codes, and the second, the standards that are referenced within the codes.

Building codes in the U.S.

Regardless of the scale of your project, when beginning a new project, it is important to ensure that you will meet all required building codes for your state and when applicable, city. Below is an overview of the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), two of the more instrumental sets of code requirements for advancing public safety in the built environment.

The International Code Council (ICC)

To address the patchwork of codes across the United States, the International Code Council (ICC) was founded in 1994.  It merged three existing model code organizations—the Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA), the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) and the Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. (SBCCI).  The ICC consolidation became final in 2003, resulting in a single organization with over 100 years of history and experience developing model building codes. 

The ICC publishes building codes applicable to commercial, institutional and residential structures.  These codes guide the compliance process to ensure safe, sustainable, and resilient construction.  The ICC is based on a set of 15 integrated and geographically-specific model codes, known collectively as the I-codes.  Below are a few of the most relevant energy and fire-related codes, all of which serve as living documents that are periodically reviewed to align with changing practices in the building industry:

  • International Building Code (IBC): The IBC is a model building code that addresses both health and safety concerns for buildings based upon prescriptive and performance-related requirements. The IBC has been widely adopted by jurisdictions across the United States as well as several other countries. The code provisions are intended to protect public health and safety while avoiding both unnecessary costs and preferential treatment of specific materials or methods of construction.
  • International Residential Code (IRC): The IRC is a comprehensive model code for residential buildings that establishes minimum regulations for dwellings of three stories or less. It combines provisions for many elements and systems pertaining to residential home construction including building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy and electrical.
  • International Existing Building Code (IEBC): The IEBC establishes minimum regulations for upgrades and improvements addressing the alteration, addition or change of occupancy in existing buildings.  It uses prescriptive and performance-based provision and is intended to ensure public health and safety pertaining to the existing building stock.
  • International Green Construction Code (IgCC): The IgCC provides the design and construction industry with an effective means of delivering more sustainable, resilient and high-performing buildings. Formed through a partnership between AIA, ASHRAE, ICC, IES, and USGBC, the IgCC represents a formula for green building codes that works toward a new era that includes environmental health and safety as code minimums.
  • International Energy Conservation Code (IECC): The IECC is designed to meet the needs of an up-to-date energy conservation code through model code regulations that will result in the optimal use of fossil fuel and renewable resources. The code contains separate provisions for commercial buildings and low-rise residential buildings (defined as being three stories or less in height above grade).
  • International Fire Code (IFC): The IFC was created to satisfy model code regulations for an up-to-date fire code addressing conditions hazardous to life and property from fire, explosion, and the handling or use of hazardous materials. The comprehensive fire code establishes minimum regulations for fire prevention and fire protection systems that safeguard public health and safety.
  • International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC): The IWUIC is a model code that is intended to be adopted and used supplemental to the adopted building and fire codes of a jurisdiction. The code has established minimum special regulations for the safeguarding of life and property from wildland fire exposures, fires from adjacent structures and to prevent structural fires from spreading. We expand on the wildland urban interface and its impact below.

Building on what was mentioned above with respect to a periodic review, the I-codes are updated every three years.  Individual jurisdictions (e.g. states or municipalities) then review the newly developed codes and decide if they can be phased in, typically within two years to allow for education and training for the building industry workforce and for building inspectors.  However, it should be noted that not all jurisdictions adopt or implement code updates as they are introduced.  For example, some U.S. states are still using 2009 or older code versions, this includes the following based reporting by the ICC as of April 2019:

  • International Building Code: older versions are still being used in Texas (2003) and New Hampshire (2009), while seven states had no statewide adoption of the IBC.
  • International Residential Code: older versions of the IRC are being used in Texas (2000), Indiana (2003), New Hampshire (2009), Ohio (2009) and Tennessee (2009). Twelve states had no statewide adoption of the IRC.
  • International Fire Code: previous versions are in place in New Mexico (2003) and Kansas (2006), with 20 states still having no statewide adoption of the IFC.
  • International Energy Conservation Code: most states that have adopted the 2009 version or a more current version.  The exceptions are Mississippi (2003) and Kansas (2006).  There are still eight states without statewide adoption of the IECC.

As discussed earlier, the International model codes can still be adopted or modified on a state or local level.  Most states have adopted some form of the IBC, although Chicago remains the only municipality in America that continues to use a building code the city developed on its own as part of the Municipal Code of Chicago. 

ROCKWOOL-IBC-International Building Code Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

International Building Code (IBC) Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

ROCKWOOL-IRC-International Residential Code Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

International Residential Code (IRC) Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

ROCKWOOL-IFC-International Fire Code Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

International Fire Code (IFC) Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

ROCKWOOL-IEBC-International Existing Code Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

International Existing Code (IEBC) Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

ROCKWOOL-IWUIC-International Wildland-urban interface Code Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC) Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

ROCKWOOL-IgCC-International Green Construction Code Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

International Green Construction Code (IgCC) Adoption by U.S. state as of December 2018

NFPA Codes and Standards

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) was the first to develop model codes. NFPA develops, publishes and disseminates more than 300 consensus codes and standards designed to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. The list reflects the changing industry needs and evolving technologies, and are periodically reviewed by more than 9,000 volunteer committee members with a wide range of professional expertise. Below are two of the most prominent fire safety codes, the NFPA 101 life safety, and the well-known NFPA 285 standard.

NFPA 101 life safety code

The NFPA life safety code is their most widely used source of information in the design and construction of new buildings, as well as renovations to existing structures, all with focus on protecting people and occupants from the effects of fire and related hazards.

In recognition of the challenges of applying new technologies and regulations to existing buildings, the code makes a distinction between new construction and existing buildings.  This allows for some level of ‘grandfathering’ provisions for existing buildings.

See below for a summary of the civilian injuries resulting from reported structural fires in the U.S. These figures show the importance of containing a fire to the building of origin and are an important input to for increasingly stringent fire safety building codes.

Civilian injuries resulting from reported structural fires in the U.S. per NFPA NFIRS 5.0 and fire experience survey. Fire confined to place of origin, floor, building, fire spread.

Building codes and standards are designed to help provide occupant safety through stringent fire containment regulations. Information provided in the "Residential structure fires originating on outer wall, spreading on exterior walls or trim, and beginning on an outer wall with plastic" report.

Building standards in the U.S.

Test Standards like NFPA 285 consist of technical definitions, procedures, and guidelines that specify minimum requirements to manufacturers and installers. 

NPFA 285 Standard 

Arguably the most common standard focused on fire-safe construction of exterior walls to reduce fire spread, NFPA 285 provides a test method for determining the fire propagation characteristics of exterior wall assemblies and panels used as components of exterior wall assemblies constructed using combustible materials or that incorporate combustible components. In more plain English, it’s a way of evaluating flame propagation of an exterior wall assembly exposed to standardized fire exposure.

Exterior fire provisions are among the least understood aspect for the architect, designer, and building owners community.  However, NFPA 285 (referenced by the IBC and all NFPA codes) serves as an important safeguard for modern buildings. Despite this, many building types in the U.S. still have no exterior fire provisions. 

There remains a need to ensure that advancements in building energy efficiency do not come at the cost of fire and life safety protection, as greater amounts of insulation—in many cases highly combustible—will undoubtedly be added to North America’s building stock to achieve better energy performance.  Non-combustible building materials can be an effective solution, with the added benefit that a façade constructed of non-combustible materials will not trigger NFPA 285 testing.

Canada

Whether you’re an architect, contractor, building owner, or another member of the construction business, if you are building new or fixing existing structures you need to understand the building codes and standards that are applicable for you. Below we provide an overview of the most influential codes across Canada with links to find local building codes and those that are relevant in your province or territory.

Building codes in Canada

Serving as a set of rules that establish minimum requirements to which a new home or building can be structured, building codes ensure that energy efficiency, public health, and safety are always top of mind. In Canada, jurisdiction over building codes is a provincial responsibility.

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) publishes five national model codes, in English and in French, which must be adopted by a regulatory authority to come into effect. In some cases, the Codes are amended and/or supplemented to suit regional needs, and then published as provincial codes.

Canada’s constitution empowers the provinces and territories to regulate the design and construction of new houses and buildings, as well as the maintenance and operation of fire safety systems in existing buildings. While the national model codes (Building, Fire, Plumbing, Energy Codes) are prepared centrally under the direction of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, adoption and enforcement of the codes are the responsibility of the provincial and territorial authorities. The National Model codes in Canada include the following:

National Building Code of Canada

The National Building Code of Canada (NBC)  addresses the design and construction of new buildings and the substantial renovation of existing buildings. This is the code on which provincial and territorial building codes are based.

Fire Code

The National Fire Code of Canada (NFC)  provides minimum fire safety codes and requirements for buildings, apartments, structures, and areas where hazardous materials are used, and addresses fire protection and fire prevention in the ongoing operation of buildings and facilities. The National Building Code in Canada is updated approximately every five years.

Other building codes for the Canadian market:

  • The National Plumbing Code (NPC) covers the design and installation of plumbing systems in buildings and facilities.
  • The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) provides minimum energy efficiency requirements for the design and construction of all new buildings and additions save farm buildings and those buildings falling under the scope of NBC Part 9.
  • The National Farm Building Code (NFBC) provides relaxations of the requirements in the NBC to address the particular needs of farm buildings.

Building standards in Canada

Standards establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies for the industry and are distinct from codes, although standards may be referenced in code requirements.

CAN/ULC S134 Standard

This standard test method determines the comparative burning characteristics of exterior wall assemblies by evaluating a fire spread over the exterior surface. 

CAN/ULC S134 (referenced in all provinces) in Canada serves as an important safeguard for modern buildings. Despite this, many housing and building types in Canada have little or no exterior fire testing provisions.  This continues to be of significant concern, particularly with C40 city targets across Canada as well as the Pan Canadian Framework for Climate Change aiming for net-zero ready buildings by 2032.

The regulatory bodies in Canada continue to focus on advancing building energy efficiency while balancing fire and life safety protection. Non-combustible elements in exterior walls represent the gold standard and can be an effective solution for North America’s building stock. 

Below you can see a map outlining adoption of national building codes by provinance and territory. Note that some provinces have developed their own building standards to reflect regional needs.

Did you know...

The National Building Code includes a set of objectives and functional statements that lay the groundwork to limit the probability of unacceptable risk of injury and the acceptable solutions in building design and construction.

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Technical Guide

Achieving the BC Energy Step Code Targets

In December 2017, the Province of British Columbia adopted the BC Energy Step Code as a voluntary energy efficiency compliance path. The new standard provides an incremental and consistent approach to achieving more energy-efficient buildings.

Using ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation products to build highly insulated enclosures is an effective method to achieve the building enclosure performance targets and provides for comfortable and durable buildings.

ROCKWOOL-NBC-National Building Code of Canada 2015 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

National Building Code (NBC) of Canada 2015 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

ROCKWOOL-NFC-National Fire Code of Canada 2015 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

National Fire Code (NFC) of Canada 2015 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

ROCKWOOL-NECB-National Energy Code for Buildings in Canada 2015 and 2017 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) in Canada 2015 and 2017 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

ROCKWOOL-NPC-National Plumbing Code of Canada 2015 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

National Plumbing Code (NPC) of Canada 2015 Adoption by Province/ Territory as of June 2019.

Building codes and standards in the U.S. and Canada

While many of the building industry’s codes and standards are unique to a given country or local market requirements, some standards are broadly adopted across North America. 

ASTM Standards

ASTM International, formerly known by its full name, the American Society for Testing and Materials, is an international standards organization that develops and publishes international voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems, and services.

There are more than 12,000 ASTM standards operating globally across more than 150 major industries and they can be classified into one of the following six types of ASTM international standards categories, which are explained below in greater detail with the volume of applicable standards in brackets:

  • Classification standards (170) are systemic arrangements or divisions of materials, products, systems or services into groups based on similar characteristics such as origin, composition, properties or use.
  • Test standards (5,500) are defined as procedures that produce a test result. These can include identification, measurement, and evaluation of one or more qualities, characteristics or properties.
  • Terminology standards (230) contain definitions of terms and explanations of symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms.
  • Guide standards (1,300) are a collection of information or a series of options that does not recommend a specific course of action.  They generally outline the knowledge and approaches being implemented in a given subject area.
  • Specification standards (3,200) are requirements that must be met by a material, product, system or service.  These requirements can include physical, mechanical, chemical safety, quality or performance criteria.
  • Practice standards (2,200) are instructions for performing one or more operations that does not generate test results.  This can include application, assessment, cleaning collection, inspection, preparation, sampling, and training.
List of ASTM standards including the categories: classification, terminology, test method, guide, specification, practice.

List of ASTM standards including the categories: classification, terminology, test method, guide, specification, and practice.

PART 3: ADDITIONAL FIRE REGULATIONS

Fire regulations are intended to prevent fire and/or limit its spread in homes and buildings, both during construction and throughout the structure’s operating life.  Fire regulations require active or passive fire safety measures incorporated into a new building during its construction or implemented in existing structures.

These regulations also outline building features, safeguards, equipment, materials and/or materials handling, etc., that are required or prohibited to ensure building and occupant safety.  Fire regulations are typically enforced locally.  Fire code violations are often identified and code enforced during construction by building officials or during fire safety inspections by fire marshals or fire prevention officers.  Depending on local fire regulations, a fire inspection may result in a notice of required action or a prohibition of occupancy until the required fire code regulations are met.

Below we outline several fire codes beginning with ASTM standards and their equivalent Canadian standards, before discussing NFPA 285 (CAN/ULC S-134) in tall wood construction, and the impact of wildland urban interface. We then complete this section by showcasing the work being done by ROCKWOOL to support codes and standards development for creating a fire-safe built environment.

ASTM and CAN/ULC Standards

Fire standards across North America help to ensure products, materials and assemblies are adequately tested and determine if they are shown to demonstrate characteristics and performance congruent with fire safety.  There are several ASTM standards and equivalent CAN/ULC standards that are relevant to insulation both as individual components or as part of an assembly.

There are two primary categories – reaction to fire/surface burning, and fire resistance – that help to classify four of the most frequently-used standards. These standards illustrate how codes regulate the materials used in construction to achieve compliance.

Reaction to Fire/ surface burning

Determining how materials react to fire exposure is important in establishing how building codes permit their use. Ascertaining the degree to which a fire is likely to start or develop is the purpose for test standards that gauge product behaviour when exposed heat and flames. A notable standard under this category are:

  • Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials:  This fire-test-response standard for the comparative surface burning behavior of building materials is applicable to exposed surfaces such as walls and ceilings. The purpose of this test method is to determine the relative burning behavior of the material by observing the flame spread along the specimen. Flame spread and smoke developed index are reported. However, there is not necessarily a relationship between these two measurements.  For example, high flame spread does not automatically correlate to high smoke development.  Likewise, a low flame spread does not automatically correlate to a low smoke development.

Fire Resistance

One of the fundamental aspects of fire safety in buildings is the notion of compartmentalizing fires to the place of origin, slowing or preventing its migration to other parts of the building. Fire resistance testing of walls, floor, roofs or other partitions, measures the transmission of heat and hot gases through the test specimen, and the load carrying capacity of the specimen during the test period. Building codes specify the minimum length of time that a partition assembly or structural element is required to carry the imposed load, resists the transmission of heat and hot gases during the test period. Notable standards under this category are:

  • Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials:  This test method is intended to evaluate the duration for which the types of building elements contain a fire, retain their structural integrity, or exhibit both properties during a predetermined test exposure.  For walls, partitions, and floor or roof test specimens, the measurement of the transmission of heat and the measurement of the transmission of hot gases through the test specimen are reported.
  • Standard Test Method for Fire Tests of Penetration Firestop Systems: This test method is used to determine the performance of a firestop system with respect to exposure to a standard time-temperature fire test and hose stream test. The performance of a firestop system is dependent upon the specific assembly of materials tested including the number, type, and size of penetrations and the floors or walls in which it is installed.  A firestop is a fire protection system made of various components used to seal openings and joints in fire-resistance-rated wall and/or floor assemblies. 
  • Standard Test Method for Determining Fire Resistance of Perimeter Fire Barriers Using Intermedia-Scale, Multi-Story Test Apparatus: This test method measures the performance of the perimeter fire barrier and its ability to maintain a seal to prevent fire spread during the deflection and deformation of the exterior wall assembly and floor assembly during the fire test, while resisting fire exposure from an interior compartment fire, as well as from the flame plume emitted from the window burner below. The end point of the fire-resistance test is the period of time elapsing before the first condition of compliance is reached as the perimeter fire barrier is subjected to a time-temperature fire exposure. This test method provides for the following measurements and evaluations: movement capacity of the perimeter fire barrier, loadbearing capacity of the perimeter joint protection is optional, ability of the perimeter fire barrier to resist the passage of flames and hot gases, transmission of heat through the perimeter fire barrier.

Protection of tall wool buildings with noncombustible materials

The move to allow tall wood mass timber buildings in Canada and the U.S. refocused the spotlight on fire safety.

Some in the building industry were skeptical that wood structures could meet fire safety expectations, however, extensive fire testing research has shown that some wood construction, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), in combination with non-combustible building materials like stone wool insulation can help a building meet or even exceed existing fire code requirements.  In fact, stone wool serves as an ideal material for “noncombustible protection” in the US and “encapsulation” in Canada, while offering excellent moisture resilience and drying potential to reduce the risk of mold growth if moisture enters the building envelope.

The National Building Code in Canada will require an encapsulation of tall wood floor and wall systems in the 2020 edition. The requirements for noncombustible protection will come into effect in the International Building Codes in 2021, although more progressive states in the U.S. are already heading in this direction.

Two-thirds of the fire resistance of walls and floors will need to be provided by non-combustible protection in the U.S., and most often, only a single layer of stone wool is needed to provide that protection.  While gypsum can add this protection, it does not provide significant thermal resistance and therefore wouldn’t satisfy energy code requirements.  In the US, all tall wood exterior walls will need to comply with NFPA 285 testing, have a 40-minute noncombustible protection requirement, and the insulation must be noncombustible.

Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)

WUI areas are those where the built environment and wildlife-prone vegetation/forested areas meet.  WUI zones are expanding due to ongoing population growth and urban sprawl.  These areas are known as wildfire “danger zones.” To reduce the risk to life and property, officials are introducing WUI codes with a focus primarily on new construction, such that homes and buildings and the people that occupy them might have greater chances of survival during a fire event.

Building products used to achieve compliance in the state of California with Chapter 7A whether or not they are part of an assembly can be listed as approved products in the WUI Building Materials Listing Program or have undergone testing to demonstrate the product/assembly meets WUI requirements.  Components covered by WUI code include exterior components such as roofs, walls and siding, decks, windows, doors, soffits and vents and other details considered to be vulnerable ignition points.  Local building codes or state building codes for WUI typically modeled after the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code and adopted in whole or in part, often with additions accounting for specific regional considerations.

That means that while WUI codes can be very similar across most jurisdictions, code requirements may vary depending on location and wildfire risk.  In the U.S., the WUI code provides important guidance to the design-build community.  Canada is at the beginning stages of developing a WUI guide.  See the full article

Mitigating Risk with Fire-Resilient Building Materials

Throughout North America, officials are sounding the alarm about the rising risk of major fire events and the real threat that exists to life and property in North America’s wildfire “danger zones,” known as the Wildland Urban Interface. They hope to apply lessons learned from previous wildfire activity to strengthen fire and building codes to reduce risk and prevent losses.

Given the direction of energy codes and the need to satisfy both energy and WUI requirements in Wildlife Urban Interface Areas, it seems inevitable that the residential built environment may be on the cusp of change—driven largely by code compliance. It’s undeniable that how we build, is in fact, changing.

Read the article

Collaborating for fire safety

In North America, we collaborate with several networks to advance fire safety provisions in building code development processes. We do this because we believe that the future of buildings should and will be at a much higher level of safety and quality than we’ve come to expect from buildings today and we’re working to drive codes and standards that help enhance modern living for generations to come.

We have partnered with several fire associations and councils to make sure that building codes, laws, regulations and practices promote strong methods of fire safety. Our North American fire safety partners include:

  • International Firestop Council (IFC)
  • Fire Safe North America (FSNA)
  • National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM)
  • North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA)

For more information about our partnerships and the impact, ROCKWOOL has made through our work in advocating for more robust regulations, download our fire safety association partnership fact sheet.

Rick Roos Milton ON fire safety manager codes and standards

Fire Safety, Codes and Standards at ROCKWOOL

Fire safety and prevention also gives the people inside valuable extra time to evacuate safely and firefighters more time to extinguish the fire. Homes, buildings (including schools, hospitals, and commercial offices), and industrial facilities are safer when made with fire-resilient stone wool insulation. We know our product can help prevent the spread of fire – but we also know that just making a good product is not enough.

Download fire safety fact sheet

Summary

The conversation around the importance of fire safety in buildings has never been more relevant, as fire and energy code requirements grow more stringent.  As a result, the way homes and buildings are constructed is changing as we seek to meet these new climatic and design challenges. 

Codes and standards are critical to establishing and maintaining a built environment that is safe, resilient, sustainable and efficient.  These key guidelines, provisions, and regulations serve to create a framework that is meant to ultimately protect structures and occupants.

Code provisions that pertain to insulation and insulation standards are expected to become increasingly important as fire, building and energy codes tighten.  Building envelope design is growing more complex, and as such, the understanding of applicable codes and standards in your local jurisdiction is paramount to achieving correct levels of insulation and proper install and detailing to achieve performance targets.

From thermal resistance requirements to fire safety and acoustical requirements, the myriad of codes and standards related to insulation and the broader built environment will continue to evolve.  The development of codes and standards remains an open, transparent and collaborative process to benefit from industry and stakeholder knowledge, innovations, advancement and best practices. 

An effective framework of codes and standards—and the ongoing revision process—also serve to create greater consistency allowing for a more competitive business and manufacturing landscape, important to the economic health and conducive to fostering further advancements in materials, products, building practices, and the built environment.  It ensures that we are continuing to move forward in a way that improves modern living – for the people and places that are an integral part of a thriving society.  Insulation is key to solutions that solve a diverse array of societal growth and development challenges.

It is for these reasons that ROCKWOOL strongly supports and is part of the collaborative process of advancing codes and standards in North America and internationally, as well.  As a forward-thinking company, we seek to innovate and drive change today that will result in a better tomorrow.  We’ve been actively doing so for more than 80 years, and our stone wool insulation products are part of solutions and progressive building practices that serve as a strong example of leading-edge developments globally.

ROCKWOOL’s research and development teams, our building scientists, our codes and standards professionals and our team of specification experts working with designers, architects and contractors in the field are continually putting forth key learnings and solutions that improve the safety and performance of buildings along with the wellbeing of their occupants in important areas that include fire safety, energy efficiency, sustainability, and comfort.

While the application of knowledge and innovation are variables driving change, there are also certain urgencies and realities that implore us to do better.  These include factors such as climate change and the advent of harsher and more extreme weather patterns that fuel our quest for more resilient, durable and sustainable, safe and efficient design and construction.

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