As outlined in previous Insights posts, the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations approved a new edition of 527 1.00 CMR, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code. This took effect on December 9, 2022. As a result of this update, code users must now refer to the 2022 Edition of NFPA 241 for construction fire safety requirements. This and subsequent Insights posts will discuss significant code changes that have been enacted, affecting pricing, schedule, and risk mitigation.
In recent years, wood frame construction has seen a resurgence in popularity, largely due to its affordability, availability, and the offsite prefabrication of panelized wood framing. These characteristics have led to the construction of numerous apartment communities using either conventional lumber construction or the “stick over podium” style construction. One trade-off for these aforementioned advantages is the increased fire risk in wood-frame buildings under construction, given the inherent combustible nature of the materials used.
The 2013 Edition of NFPA 241, previously applicable in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, did not provide dedicated construction fire safety requirements for wood frame construction. The 2019 Edition provided additional requirements for Tall Timber buildings. The 2022 Edition of NFPA 241 now provides additional requirements for both Large Wood Frame structures and Tall Mass Timber Buildings. One new requirement for both building types that could have a significant impact on project budgeting is the need for site security on all Mass Timber and Large Wood Frame construction sites. For Mass Timber projects, an off-hours manned security service is required once the building has exceeded three stories.
For Large Wood Frame projects, manned security is required at all times.
In addition, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can require security where combustible construction is exposed, where construction exceeds 40 feet in height, and when no crews are on site. This service is expected to consist of trained personnel who are aware of notification procedures for notifying the fire department of emergencies, capable of operation fire protection equipment, aware of site hazards, and capable of utilizing construction elevators, if applicable. As these new chapters provide some flexibility of “other methods as acceptable to the AHJ”, a dedicated security plan should be documented as to the projects approach for site security.
As usual, it’s important to be aware of local AHJ requirements when undertaking new projects. Up front coordination with your AHJ not only helps in proactively mitigating potential problems, but also fosters innovative solutions to achieving code requirements.